Sermon–June 10, 2018


3 Pentecost–June 10, 2018

William Bradbury

Genesis 3:8-15, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35

One day when I was ten, my parents told me not to ride my bike to an near-by neighborhood where some of my friends lived. But, of course, that’s exactly what I did and once I got back I heard my parents searching for me, surely to punish me for my transgression, so I slide under my bed determined to hide until this thing blows over. Turns out my parents didn’t even know I had ridden off, they only knew they couldn’t find me and that there was a big storm with tornadoes on its way. They wanted to find me to make sure I was safe!

As adults we don’t usually hide under the bed, but we are masters at hiding in plain sight. Depending on our personality type, we may feel the need to hide our anger, so we always appear calm, collected and in control. Or we feel the need to hide failure when we’ve messed up, so we will appear omni-competent and self-sufficient.

And, most of all, we hide our shame. Guilt is the feeling we get when we’ve broken something–a law, a glass, a promise, a relationship. Shame is the feeling that I am broken, that something is so bad wrong in the depth of my being that I need to keep this knowledge well-hidden.

We all hide—Adam and Eve are hiding. They are hiding because they know they did that one thing YHWH God told them not to do—to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They have disobeyed God. But also, as a consequence of their disobedience, they experience a new yet profound shame for their bodies, which means they are ashamed of their essential nature as embodied creatures, creatures of dust, as members of the animal kingdom.

As the story says: The Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

But then the story takes an unexpected turn: God does not attack them for their transgression nor does God turn away from them, because of their disobedience or their nakedness.

A god who hides because of our failure is a “contract god”, who only relates to us when we fulfill our end of the contract. Adam and Eve broke the contract; so we expect the contract god either to attack or hide from them.

Our story, however, reveals the Covenant God, who chooses to be in relationship with us in spite of our disobedience. YHWH God’s reaction to our disobedience is to come to us in healing and forgiveness, in order to liberate us from the oppression our actions have created and bring us back into fellowship with Godself and our neighbor.

This is the good news showing up in the third chapter of Genesis!

So the problem is not that God turns away from us, but that our disobedience creates in us the guilt and shame that drives us away from God and one another.

The consequences of their actions, according to the story, spin out of control in Genesis chapter 4 when Cain kills his brother Abel, and down we go.

God does not punish us for our sins, rather we are punished by our sins.

We are damaged creatures, like children who have gotten under the sink and drunk a bottle of rat poison and now need outside help to save them. The rest of the story reveals God’s willingness to accommodate our sinfulness, in order to bring us to wholeness and harmony within our souls, society, and creation.

This story of rescue and healing reaches its climax when it is embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who so fully enters our situation that he drinks our poison, carries our guilt, and embraces our shame in order to neutralize its power to kill us.

We are all connected, so that when God through Jesus takes our sin into himself he is bringing the possibility of health into all humanity, in the same way when the doctor gives us a shot in the arm and the medicine travels throughout the rest of our body.

Therefore, Jesus calls us to live WITH HIM in this new reality of a community anchored in the God of the universal covenant. Those outside polite society are overjoyed to be included in his circle of affection, while the educated and established have too much to protect to join a community of fishermen, tax-collectors, sex workers and the poor of the land.

Soon enough his family hears who Jesus is hanging with and they assume he is out of his mind, since he didn’t learn this growing up in Nazareth. They come to take him home where he can rest and come to his senses and stop breaking bread with those who have a lot to be ashamed about, and he can drop the novel idea that God is doing a new thing through him, inviting members of the Animal Kingdom into the Kingdom of God.

Mary expects Jesus to come home since the 10 Commandment say “you shall honor your father and your mother.” But Jesus’ allegiance is first and foremost not to his earthly mother and father, but to his heavenly Father. So Jesus says: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

N.T. Wright says if we don’t hear these words as utterly shocking we haven’t truly heard them.

In our time kids leave home and gather with a new set of friends and maybe only see their parents at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

I would suggest Jesus is creating a new family under God that after the resurrection includes his mother, Mary, and his brother, James, and both would have significant roles in the spread of the Jesus Movement. Yet, this new family is a universal community, a catholic community, that invites everyone to see that Jesus has overcome their guilt and shame that poisons their relationships. They can come out of the shadows for they no longer have a reason to hide from the grace and mercy of Christ.

Jesus’ beloved community is not based on what divides us—skin color, sexuality, or nationality—but based only on the love of God embodied in Jesus Christ.

I was deeply touched twice this week with intimations of God’s Kingdom. Yesterday walking with fourteen from All Saints and 40,000 from around the Commonwealth in the Pride Parade, with the eyes of faith you could see people coming together across all spectrums of the human community. One of the men semi-nude bicyclists in front of us kept repeated a mantra: “Everyone is beautiful.”

A woman standing alone in the crowd held a sign that simply said: We are all in this together.

On Wednesday I was also strangely moved at the Naturalization Ceremony at Lowell Memorial Hall, where 975 women and men, including my sister-in-law from Peru, took the oath of citizenship. But I didn’t start tearing up until the presiding judge asked those to stand as she read off the names of the countries represented.

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, and Canada…on and on all the way to Zimbabwe, maybe fifty countries in all. I felt like I was listening to the countries represented on the Day of Pentecost.

The Spirit is not just working in the church, but in every place, calling us out of hiding into the marvelous  light of the Kingdom of God!