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2nd Sunday after Pentecost, 06/07/2015

Sermon on Genesis 3:19-35, by Paula Murray

A staple of our very own late night comedy centers, the ones found inside our slumbering skulls, is the naked dream. People dream they forget to put on their pants before they walk to the school bus stop, forget to put on their wedding dress before they walk down the aisle, or forget to put clothes on entirely and show up buck naked for a job interview. These dreams fascinate us and amuse us and often bewilder us, but there is more behind them than our obvious need for humility and a laugh.

 

The naked dream is a reminder from our subconscious of our vulnerability to the world. The world is a frightening place, but no one likes to live scared. Just as clothing conceals those parts of our bodies we don’t want the rest of the world seeing, so our mental clothing conceals parts of our minds and spirits from the world and even from our very own selves. Most of us want to think of ourselves as good people, upright, moral, kind, and generous. None of us want to see the sin that tells us that we are not always good persons, that we can steal, lie, think mean things about other people and even, sometimes, say those mean things out loud, be stingy and a fussbudget. None of us want to acknowledge to our friends or family members that the world, or some parts of it, scares us, fills us with anxiety and distress. We don’t even want to be honest about our less than wonderful characteristics or the scary parts of life to ourselves. So we hide all that stuff behind big, sloppy mental sweat shirts and pants until something happens to show us we have good reason to be scared, or we up and sin in front of God and everyone, or we have the naked dream. For this reason, when Adam finally comes out from hiding and reveals himself to God, minus that part of his anatomy covered by scratchy fig leaves, we empathize with his response to God’s question, “Where are you?” Adam answers the question with, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.” The Old Adam (or Eve) in each of us of which Luther spoke quakes with fear at Adam’s confession, as our trespasses against God and neighbor are laid bare.

 

And confession it is, the absolution of which comes much later, when the Incarnate Son of God takes the Old Adam (and Eve) to the cross and puts him to death in his death. God’s mercy and Fatherly compassion have been evident over the ages, but are best revealed in Jesus’ death and resurrection. From this point on, life, for God’s children, is

a daily drowning of the Old Adam, that we might become more like the New Adam, Jesus our Lord and Savior.

 

The word “drowning” suggests a struggle for life, and the life of the baptized is a series of struggles, small and large. For all our joy in Christ, most of us still fight ourselves and circumstances to receive the gifts of faith - the peace, the hope, the love with which God daily blesses us - even as he blesses us with the roof over our head and the loved ones who gather under it. We hide our nakedness, our vulnerability to sin and brokenness, even in those places where we are most comfortable and most at home.

 

I started our Gospel lesson with verse 19b, and the words, “Then he went home.” Jesus had been up on the mountain, with the twelve men who would become the first disciples, men whom he commissioned and sent, to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of heaven, the forgiveness of sin, and to cast out demons. Now he has returned to Peter’s house, his home during the early part of his ministry, but not to rest and comfort as we might guess. Crowds of people desperate for help surround him, and he and the newly made apostles are so very busy there is no time even to eat. The desperate see the Spirit of God at work in the Son, but others, like Jesus’ mother and brothers and the scribes, a part of the professional religious establishment of Judea, see only the commotion. His family worries that he is mentally ill; the scribes accuse him of being in league with Satan.

 

Jesus confronts the scribes, forcing them to make their slander public, and responds with a parable. A kingdom, a household, even Satan himself, cannot stand if divided. Satan, called Beelzebub after the Canaanite god Baal, cannot cast out demons for it is not logically possible that Satan can cast out Satan. No, Jesus frees those possessed by sin by tying up Satan so he cannot win the struggle for a sinner’s spirit, just as you might tie up a burglar to save the home the burglar chooses to plunder. Therefore, to fail to see the Holy Spirit at work in Jesus is to deny the very will of God. For this reason, those who are brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ are those who see, and do, the will of God.

 

The Church has been from its beginning brothers and sisters in Christ called to help each other see God’s will and do it. None of us finds the way easy; it is always a struggle. But we stand together, not alone and naked with all our lamentable vulnerabilities exposed for all to see. We are one family in Christ dedicated to helping one another around the obstacles and to picking one another up when we fall.

Like those apps people buy and manipulate for their smartphones, apps that will help them finish some task necessary for their functioning, like finding restaurants in strange places, recording your mileage for work, or relaxing with a game of Candy Crush, the Church has developed a multitude of apps that help us overcome, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the obstacles put in the way of our faith. Think of the readings of God’s Word over the course of the summer and fall months as an opportunity to learn the “apps” of the Church, and to practice them, live them, that together we might do the will of God.  

 



Rev. Paula Murray
Shrewsbury, PA
E-Mail: smotly@comcast.net

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