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  • Writer's pictureMinister Jamie Seales

Who told you that you need to hide?

Excerpt from Minister Jamie's Sermon on June 9th

Genesis 3:8-15

Mark 3:20-35

"On June the third of this year, a German Theologian named Jurgen Moltmann passed away, at 98 years of age.  This Theologian wrote The Crucified God, Theology of Hope, and The Spirit of Life.  These texts have been very formative in the last part of the 20th century.  

When Jurgen was 16 years old, he was living in Hamburg while it was being bombed.  He knew too well the consequences and the realities of war. Under Operation Sodom, you have a 16 year old boy, a teen, who's growing up witnessing the destruction all around him.  He is likely feeling like he is just on the other side of the fence.  He's on the wrong side of the war.  

Fast forward.  Several years later there's a young lady named Kelly who is on death row in the state of Georgia.  Kelly decides to enroll in a theology class where she encounters Jurgen’s theology books.  Theology of Hope, in particular, was meaningful for her as well as The Crucified God.  Through reading these texts she decided to get a degree and do pastoral counseling.  She would talk to these inmates who had lost all hope, some with suicidal ideation, and help them find hope though they had done terrible things.  God's grace is big enough no matter how badly we've messed up.  But the sad truth is that our mistakes, or the things that we often associate ourselves with, teach us that we don't matter.  That our lives are little.  That we need to hide.  

There is a saying, “familiarity breeds contempt”.  You've heard it.  This expression is meant to convey the idea that the more we are exposed, or the more we come in contact with something, the less appealing that thing becomes.  The more familiar we are with something, the more we can embed our own prejudice into it.  This is true not only of people but it's also true of the text we read today - Genesis chapter 3.  Being one of the first stories that we hear in the Bible it is very easy to think we familiar with that story and that we know what it’s about.  But too often we speak our own our own stuff into the text and we don't even know it.   We might think, “well women really do tempt men”.  Or maybe we just think men are just dumb.  I'm just kidding.  Sort of.  We sneak these ideas we have about the text into the text and because we're so familiar, we don't even know that we've lost the sight of the forest for the trees.  

The story of Adam and Eve is astonishing to me because it bears so much truth that goes right to the heart of who we are as human beings.  The text begins with the man and his wife hiding themselves from the presence of the Lord.  It goes on to say, “I heard the sound of you in the garden and was afraid”.  Their fear led them to hide from God.  I think this is a very interesting connection, that from the very beginning of time the presence of God can be familiar.  Or we hear about the presence of God in such a way that we feel like we need to hide ourselves.  That we can't open ourselves and be real, and be genuine, and be human because of how people will judge us and reject us.  This becomes a deep-seated chain that teaches us to live not in our authentic self, not in the self that God has created us to be, but in some other self that we live into as a result. 

People often think they know who we are better than we know ourselves.  Have you known anyone like that?  I definitely have, and I'm going to tell you a story.  When I was in the third grade I went to my first concert - Randy Travis.  My grandmother took me to that first concert, and I could not wait to get back to school to go and tell my friend about my experience.  Of the joy I felt listening to those songs.  I get there and start to tell him of this experience, and he looks at me and he says, “that is hick music”.  (Not HIP.  HICK.).  “I cannot be your friend”.  I still talk about this story because it obviously made an impression on me at nine years old.  My first concert, and the person I shared with, didn't go exactly the way I planned. But what I learned is that I am what I am.  Like Popeye.  I might be a Hick.  I don't know… depends on who you ask, right?  But, I am what I am, and as I stand here today, I stand here trying to fully embrace the person that God has created me to be.  To not live in shame.  To not allow the opinion of others to co-opt what I believe God has told me to be and what God has put in my heart.  

I hope that whatever has happened in your life, whatever it is, whatever people have told you, however people have made you feel… remember God asked, “why are you hiding? Who told you that you were naked?”  So, I ask you that question.  Who told you that you need to hide?  That you can't accept yourself or live authentically where the Holy Spirit dwells?

This is where our gospel text connects Genesis - the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  You can blaspheme the Father.  You can blaspheme the Son.  But you can’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Why is that?  Well, where does the Holy Spirit reside?  The Holy Spirit resides inside of us, and it resides between us.  If we reject ourselves, if we live in a perpetual state of shame, self-sabotage, and self-rejection; we cannot accept where the Holy Spirit dwells, for we have rejected what God has made and who God has made you to be.  We need to recognize that the presence of God is with us all the time.  That no matter what mistakes we have made, no matter how we have felt in the past, God loves you.  

I know I've said that phrase a million times to you, and you will hear it a million more times.  This is why.  Just this week I saw some people who needed to be told that they are loved by God, and that they are valuable.  Not because they've never heard it before, but because somebody told them otherwise.  So, all the times we speak into people's lives and say, “you are a child of God.  God loves you.  It's OK that you are who you are”, we act as a brother or a sister.  We are doing the will of the Father.  When we open up space for people to worship, to love and care for each other, to walk together, and to help us heal from the things that have wounded us, we are sisters and brothers.  Just like Jurgen Moltmann, who did not allow his shame to make him small, but to write books that would influence someone on death row who would then go and influence others who were in that similar condition.  We might not reach that far, but it might be the neighbor across the street.  It might be the person sitting right behind you.  We get to speak life into others, and by doing so we are fulfilling the will of the Father.  

Know that you are loved and accepted exactly the way you came here, and there's nothing that can change that.  Don't hide.  Be proud of who you are and the things that you've been through, because it has made you who you are.

God loves you."

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