Part of the Inspiration for Beloved Community Series: messages from Sunday services at Blackburn’s Chapel, encouraging us to seek beloved community. (to see other entries in this series click here.)
We’re beginning a new series with the other worshipping communities of Boone UMC. Here’s a paraphrase of Pastor Jason’s description of the series: If you had one question you could ask of God, what would it be? Probably something big—God, why did you let this awful thing happen? God, what do you want of me? God, how do I know you’re real? These are good questions. And we know that any answer has to be full of mystery, full of “I don’t know,” and has to include a glance at Jesus on his cross. God let the worst thing happen to the best of us. God wants each of us to carry a cross. God shows he’s real by suffering with and for us.
But saints, God has some questions for us in return. Today we begin a series entitled “Questions God Asks.” This series will address some of God’s questions to us in scripture. We will spend Lent and Easter looking at some of God’s questions for us. The question that God is asking us today: Where are you?
Let’s read together. Genesis 3: 1-13, 21
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[j] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[k] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[l] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[m] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.[p] 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
This is the Word of God for us the People of God. Thanks be to God!
Pray with me.
Many of us have heard this story so many times. We know that instructions were given and they were not followed. This seems to be the story of my life with an almost 2-year old. “Phillip, don’t put that on the floor. Phillip, pick that up off the floor. Phillip don’t put that in your mouth. Phillip take that out of your mouth.”
Our passage of scripture is meant for all humanity, for all creation. So when we read this very interesting narrative about Adam and Eve, it is important that we look at these two individuals sort of like mirrors. These two represent humanity—you, me, us. And it’s important not to get bogged down in the details because the actual story itself is the point. You heard it, I’ve heard it, we may have even said it, “Oh Adam and Eve, that story—Oh that’s about the fall, the entrance of sin in the world, that’s about death, or sex, or gender.” One Old Testament teacher explains it this way, “In the popular mind, [these issues of sin, the fall, death, sex, etc.] have taken on a life of their own separated from the faith issues that are properly in question. But this story really brings to light two issues, 1) “the principles of God and the lack of trust of humankind.” So Church, our concern when reading this narrative should be just this—that we have been called to be creatures of God, to live in his world, on his terms. Unfortunately we constantly fail to live into this calling.
This is exactly what happened to our fore parents—Adam and Eve. They had been given everything they needed: 1. work (caring for creation), 2. food to sustain themselves, and 3. clear boundaries for their own protection. God had indeed created them, their world and the terms on which they were to live in that world. But they disobeyed. They were deceived by the serpent. They became aware of their nakedness. They were ashamed and guilty. They hid themselves. And now God asks in verse nine of chapter 3, “Where are you?”
And let’s be clear that we understand exactly who the Lord was speaking to in the passage. It’s hard to accept that he was just speaking to one person—to Adam. He could not have only been speaking to Adam because Adam was not alone in creation and Adam was not the only one who had disobeyed. Creation was not complete with just the waters upon the deep. Why? Because the Lord kept creating. It wasn’t complete with the birds of the air and the creatures of the sea. It was not complete with the creation of a man. Scripture suggests that Eve marked the completion of creation. And so Adam, and Eve and all the creatures and the land—this was the complete creation that God intended from the moment he spoke “Let there be light.” Church I said all that to say that Adam and Eve were a community. They were always meant to be individuals who were intricately connected to each other and to all of creation in God’s world. So God’s question of “Where are you” demanded a collective response—a response from the whole. This question demanded a response from the community.
But the response was not communal at all. Adam and Eve both responded individualistically. Things all of a sudden become about I and me. The desire to be able to act autonomously, by one’s self; the desire to have knowledge so that there is no need for trust–church this is what this story is about. And friends, this story is speaking to us today.
Listen church, we have fallen victim—we have been deceived by desires shaped by our hyper-individualized society. We are so bent on making decisions without regard to the fact that we are God’s creatures, in God’s world, created to live on God’s terms. Everything is about me and mine: my life, my education, my job, my kids, my house, my time, my money, my political perspective, my religious affiliations, my denomination, my personal relationship, my future, my life. And God is asking, “Where are you?” Because here is the bottom line, when we allow our personal notions and opinions about anything to separate us from the very creation where God has placed us, we have turned completely inward and we fail to be the creatures that God created us to be. Church, God is asking us, “Where are you?”
It’s right here in the text church. Upon eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were immediately changed, the scripture says, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Adam and Eve were no longer concerned with the work that God had given them–caring for the creation. And we don’t hear anything else about them eating freely from the trees as God had given permission.
No, now they were hiding. They were ashamed. But even worse, the community was broken.
So it is with us church. Our community is broken. We live in our own bubbles, with our own agendas. We see hunger and do not feed; nakedness and do not clothe; homelessness and we do not provide shelter. We see injustice around us and have quick fleeting emotional responses. Our community is broken and divided. We are divided by colors—black and white folks, red and blue politicians, green environmentalist, multicolored gay advocates. We are divided by how much—how much money we have, how much education we have, how much life experience we have, how much English we know. We are divided by how many—how many times we go to church a week, how many books we’ve read, how many people we know. The fact is church, just as the community in the Garden of Eden was broken, so our communities are broken.
And who is our community, you ask? It’s not just the folks we agree with. It’s not only the people who look like us, sound like us or even live where we live. Jesus was asked this question about community and he gives the most significant answer in Mark 3:33-35 33 “…Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” And don’t be confused with the phrase “will of God” because “God has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Church, God is asking, “Where are you? Where is the community I created; the community I love; the community I have redeemed and called to share my love with the world. Where are you?”
Let me bring you into the Wrencher world for a moment. Phillip has recently discovered how to jump out of his crib. There is nothing inherently wrong with him getting out of his crib, EXCEPT that his parents have now given harsh repercussions for him doing this. And we can do that because Phillip is our son, living in our house, on our terms. (I suspect that sounds familiar to some of y’all). So all is well in Phillip’s world except the fact that now he must live with the knowledge that he COULD get out of the bed, BUT would get in trouble if he did this.
That’s got to bring a lot of anxiety for a VERY rambunctious 2 year old who runs from sun up to sun down, don’t you think? But he brought it on himself when he decided to jump out of his crib. So, because we care for his emotional well-being, we must now give him the possibility of one day having a “big boy bed”. We do this as sign of hope to hold on to and hopefully decrease the anxiety he will no doubt carry from having to restrain himself from jumping the crib. Ya’ll pray for him.
I shared that with you because 1) My primary occupation is a stay at home mom and it was the only illustration I could come up with at the moment, but more importantly 2) we’ve read the story of Adam and Eve so many times and left it with the conclusion of punishment and judgment. And make no mistake, punishment and judgment are here in the passage. But I want to encourage us that God has given us a message of hope in this story.
Verse 21 reads, 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Did you catch that friends? Adam and Eve had deliberately (and out of selfish ambition) disobeyed God’s law—a law that if broken, was supposed bring death to them. But saints, here in verse 21 we find God clothing them—clothing them because he does not want them to deal with the anxiety and internal turmoil from the knowledge of being naked. The anxiety that they had brought upon themselves! That sounds like grace to me. That sounds like mercy to me.
Another scholar put it this way, “This is not a simple story of human disobedience and divine displeasure. It is rather the story of God responding to the facts of human life.” When the facts warrant death, God insists on life for his creatures.”
God insists church. God insists on mercy instead justice, order instead of chaos, peace of mind instead of anxiety, life instead of death. This God—this God who joined the community of humanity, suffered at the hands of that community, shed his own innocent blood for the restoration of that broken community. This God who is STILL consistently interceding on behalf of that broken community—this God is asking us—that community, Where are you?
He’s not calling out to a hyper-individualized, “it’s all about me and mine” you. No friends, he’s asking where are you——where are you who will not be separated by skin color, class, gender, or any other difference? Where are you—where are you who will push past differences and remain during the tough times—even when we don’t agree? Where are you my redeemed and reconciled people who are determined to live out my kingdom on earth as it is in heaven? God is asking, where are you? And what better way to begin our collective response to God than with communion together. This table represents the community—the body of Jesus—to which we all belong. God continues to call to us from this table. Where are you? And church, we can have an honest and collective response, “Lord, here we are.” Amen.