This sermon was preached by Pastor Kyle Seibert at Our Savior Lutheran Church and Campus Ministry in Hanover, New Hampshire on Sunday, June 10, 2018. The readings for the day were Genesis 3:8-15, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, and Mark 3:20-35. Pastor Kyle is available for pastoral conversation, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Grace and peace to you from the Triune God.
38,000. 38,000 people die by suicide in the United States every year. This means that every 12 minutes, somebody will die by suicide. During this worship service, we will lose 5 people in our country. It is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages, is the 3rd leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds and is the 2nd leading cause of death for 24 to 35 year olds. LGBTQ children are four times more likely to make a medically serious suicide attempt than their cis-straight allies. Just this past week, we have seen suicide in the news, but suicide is hard to talk about. There is often shame associated with talking about it. It is often taboo. Maybe, just maybe, you are already uncomfortable sitting in your seats right now- and maybe for good reason. But folks, we can’t continue to ignore it. We must join our voices with the psalmist, who we echoed just a few minutes ago: “Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord. O Lord, hear our voices. Let your ears be attentive to the voices of our supplication.”
Because we are talking about life and death, it makes sense to start at the beginning- the very beginning, when God first created life. We go back to the Garden of Eden, when the Triune God was busy hovering over the chaos, calling forth life in which God took delight. Think back to your Sunday school days, I’m sure you know the story. God created humankind – we call them Adam and Eve. And Genesis 2:25 says that right after God created them, they “were both naked, and they were not ashamed.” God’s creation of bodies was good. And Adam and Eve enjoyed a brief period of life in the garden, before eating of the forbidden fruit- what we often refer to as “the fall.” And it is right after this moment that our reading from Genesis starts today.
This might be one of my favorite passages in all of scripture. It has fed me and sustained me during hard times, and yet it is also kind of strange. We hear that Adam and Eve heard God walking in the garden and went to hide themselves from God. So they ran and hid behind some bushes. Surely the creator of the whole universe would never be able to find them there! So Adam and Eve are hiding in the bushes, and God is walking around looking for them, and calls out, “Where are you?” Now, in my head, I don’t think this is really a question of God’s- I think God already knew the answer.
Has anybody ever babysat for a 2 year old? They LOVE this game. They go and hide in a terribly obvious place and we, the adults, have to go and find them. We playfully call out, “Adam… Eve… where are youuuu?!” Meanwhile, almost their entire bodies are sticking out from behind the couch, or you can see their legs behind the curtain, or you can hear their giggling from inside the closet. In this case, I think God knew exactly where Adam and Eve were hiding, but God had deeper plans. So God calls out, “Adam… where are you?!” And Adams knows he is busted. So he calls back to God, “God, I’m hiding from you. I heard you coming and I was ashamed because I was naked, so I hid myself.” For many of us, this makes perfect sense. If you are going to meet God, you don’t want to have to do so with your pants down! But that is what happened to Adam. Now, just a few verses ago, the last time God was with Adam and Eve, they were naked and not ashamed. But now, after the fall, Adam is ashamed.
And this next verse is one of my all-time favorites. Genesis 3:11 – “Who told you that you were naked?” Again, I think God knew the answer. God knew about the fall and the fruit and the serpent. God knew that Adam was going to blame Eve, and Eve the serpent. That isn’t why God asked the question. Instead, God asked the question to invite Adam to reflect upon the question. “Who told you that you were naked? Who told you to feel shame? Who told you to hide yourself from me? Surely, it wasn’t I!” says God.
Who told you that you were naked? In this one question, God invites us into deeper reflection about the truths that we hold. It was not the voice of God that told Adam that he was naked, but rather the Great Deceiver. Have you ever felt like Adam? Naked and full of shame? Like you were not good enough to be in the presence of God? Like you needed to hide yourself?
Who told you that you were naked? Who told you that you are not enough? Who told you that you don’t have gifts to share with others in the church and in the world? Who told you that you are not courageous enough? Who told you that you are not skinny enough? Or not muscular enough? Or not pretty enough? Or not charming enough? Who told you that you don’t have a thought worth sharing? Who told you others don’t want you around? Who told you that you are not lovable? Who told you that you are not valuable? Who told you that you are not important? Who told you that you are beyond redemption? Who told you that you are naked?
I remember when I was in college writing in a prayer journal- something that my spiritual director had encouraged me to do. And then I remember finding it some years later and rereading one of my entries. I had written the following: “Sometimes, I feel as if I am broken beyond repair. Can you fix me, God? Don’t bother, I’m not worth it.” Who told me that I was broken beyond repair? Who told me that I wasn’t worth redemption? Who told me that I was naked?
In this world, as I preached on Pentecost, there are many voices. These voices will tell us anything to get us to believe them. And yet, these voices are not Truth. And yet, these lies that we come to believe have us running for cover and hiding ourselves from God and from one another. We hide in isolation, hoping nobody will find us and our brokenness. And this becomes incredibly crippling. The lies that we have come to believe suck the life right out of us. Within ourselves, we are a house divided. We can feel as if we have been possessed by a demon of lies. And slowly, we start to die. For some of us it is a metaphorical death, for others, it is much, much more real. But the voices that have power over us are loud and convincing and we believe them. We don’t offer our gifts for the sake of others. We don’t offer ourselves for God’s work in the world. Instead, we are so trapped by our shame.
Those lies that we have come to believe traps us and holds us captive in a web of shameful sin. But God calls to us, “Who told you that you were naked? Surely it wasn’t I. I call you my child. I call you beloved.” God calls us out from our hiding and into the open, along with Adam and Eve. Just a few verses later in Genesis, God doesn’t punish Adam for his shame, but rather makes clothes for Adam and Eve, so that they need not be held back by their shame. God doesn’t smash them down for hiding, but rather invites them into the open and gives them what they need to have life, and have life abundantly. For Adam and Eve, it was clothing. What might it be for you? God invites us out of the places that hold us captive to be with God. God actually wants to be with you!
God loves you and speaks that truth to us time and time again. But in the noise of the world, inadequacy can be much louder than God’s compassion and mercy. But folks, I am here to ask you, along with God, “Who told you that you were naked?” And we as the church, must be God’s voice in the world asking others the same thing, inviting them to hear about this God who is madly in love with them. Inviting them out from their hiding spots of isolation into the light where we can love and support them, and foster the gifts God has given them that have been hidden. Church- we believe, so we must speak. We must speak of the love of God. We must invite others to believe. By the grace of God, we just might save a life by doing so.
*Please note: this sermon manuscript was prepared to be preached. Please forgive any grammatical or typographical errors in written form.