I love the stories of the book of Genesis. They are thrilling, entertaining, and full of intrigue while all at the same speaking to the presence of God in the lives of humanity. Sometimes we wish we could hide ourselves from the face of God. Sometimes we wish we could hide from the realities of this world. Sometimes it is easier to not feel bared before the world.
My home church still struggles with this idea. For years, they have been steadily and rapidly declining. They have gone through a number of ministers in a very short period of time and they deny that there is anything in their past that they need to deal with. They deny that there is anything wrong as soon as someone suggests to them that they might need some help to deal with the events and factions of their past.
They live by the adage that we don’t air our dirty laundry for anyone to see. But in trying to hide their realities from others, they are in fact hiding their realities from themselves and are not seeking the type of help that they need to rebuild. They believe that if they just wait long enough this rough patch will pass. This is not just a rough patch. Yet they fear the vulnerability of facing their pain. They fear the nakedness of their experiences. Like Adam and Eve, they keep their real selves hidden from others, as Adam and Eve kept themselves hidden from God.
Sometimes we keep ourselves hidden from the world so we don’t have to feel ashamed of ourselves. But God still is present enough to know about all that we feel ashamed of, all that we don’t want the world to know about us and he accepts those vulnerabilities and looks to use the vulnerabilities to make us stronger people through him. Those vulnerabilities will allow for us to depend upon God more and allow for us to open ourselves to God’s possibilities if we allow them to and not sit frozen in fear of them. God wants to be present when we feel the most exposed. But we have to be willing to let him into that pain and not to cover ourselves up.
In my home community, when their vulnerability was addressed, spoken about or when some tried to deal with it. It can with very serious repercussions. I was in seminary with things really started to get bad. I tried to hold up a mirror for them to see what was happening and tried to offer them the encouragement they needed to work through their pain. They had proven that when someone saw their vulnerability that they would attack those people. But it had always been an outsider. So I thought perhaps they would listen to someone whose family had been ingrained in their community since the early 1800s. My great grandmother was the matriarch of the church and in her life acted as that mirror fearless of the repercussions.
Yet when I tried, I was attacked and my mother was too. They lashed out at us for warning them about what could happen if they don’t deal with their problems and their own prejudices. In those moments, I felt like Jesus, a prophet attacked in their home town. So I took my talents elsewhere. I left and have yet to return. But I still believe God is present in their pain though they no longer see him. God is still present in their problems yet they still don’t come before God. They try to cover themselves up, hiding themselves and trying to show people a falsity of who they are. The conflict never happened, the factions don’t exist and it is just the advent of sports of Sunday morning causing the drastic drop off of membership.
God reacted harshly to Adam and Eve, not only because they obviously disobeyed him and ate of the forbidden fruit. He was angry and reacted to their hiding themselves from him. This is not just something Adam and Eve do. We all hide ourselves from the eyes of God at some point. We all try to hide ourselves from reality when life gets hard and maintaining faith gets difficult to do. Adam and Eve reveals to us the tendencies of humanity that we need to battle against.
Humanity is uncomfortable with tough decisions. We are uncomfortable and would prefer to hide from reality, hiding ourselves to God’s possibilities. This is a very human thing to do. We see it in the world, in countries, in churches and in our personal lives. But when we give into the fear, then we lose the ability to connect with God. We lose the ability to feel and see God’s presence in the difficult times of life and that is when we need to feel his presence the most. That is when we need to be the most open to God’s leading. That is when we are most likely to hear God’s voice the clearest.
We are challenged this morning, to be open to God’s leading and presence amidst the most uncomfortable times of our lives, amongst those experiences that leave us feeling exposed. We are challenged to be open to God’s word even when it makes us uncomfortable. So as we go forth into the coming week let us be open to the presence of God and not hide ourselves from his guidance and help. We never know where he will lead us next and just how strong he will make us and what purpose he may have for us.
(Sermon based on Genesis 3: 8-15 and Mark 3: 20-35).