Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost
That evening they (Adam and Eve) heard the Lord God walking in the garden, and they hid from him among the trees. But the Lord God called out to the man, “Where are you?”
A passenger jet was making its way through high winds, poor visibility and extremely stormy conditions towards the airport. The jet never made it. About 50 kilometres from the airport it smashed into a mountain, killing all on board.
The recording from the wreckage pieced together with the recordings of the radar ground control operator's instructions, exposed a sad story of misunderstanding, confusion and even doubt. At the special hearings it was revealed that a number of things were certain: the crew on board and the ground controller had performed well. The crash was the result of confusing circumstances, including two different maps, misunderstanding of the directions over the radio, unfamiliarity with the terrain, the poor visibility and a malfunction in the plane’s instruments. To put it plainly the pilots had no idea where they were – they were lost – flying blind – and so the jet flew into the side of a mountain.
I can imagine those in the control tower frantically leaning over their instruments and calling into their headsets, “Come in BL4509. Where are you? BL4509 please respond. Where are you?” And waiting, praying and hoping for some kind of response.
This question, “Where are you?” is not a new question. It was voiced in the Garden of Eden. In fact, it’s the first question the Scriptures record as having been spoken by God.
As you know Eve had been challenged by the serpent with the question, “Did God really tell you that you would die if you ate the fruit from that tree?” Eve fumbled her answer to that question badly and the next moment she found she had disobeyed God's clear command, and had encouraged her husband Adam to do the same. That evening, as they heard God approaching, they hid from God among the trees.
When we do something to harm a relationship with another person, whatever we have said or done, destroys the special connection we have with that person. It is no different with our relationships with God. Sin separates us from God and in the case of Adam and Eve it destroyed the special relationship they had with God. They knew that their action of eating that fruit had been in direct contradiction to what God had commanded. They had dared to think that they were above God and could decide for themselves if they would obey his commands for their life or not.
They had walked with God; they had talked with him. He had given them a good song to sing in the opening chorus of the song of creation and they had joyfully played this role. They had named the animals, shared in the care of God's world, knew the Lord as no one since. Hiding, fear and shame were unknown to them.
But now it was different. An oppressive darkness had settled over them. They fled from God like frightened mice. No longer did they run out to meet him; no longer did they feel comfortable with God – instead they ran to hide.
And it is at this point that we see
something of the uniqueness of God –
he is a loving Father in search of his children,
a loving Father who calls out with a great deal of longing and anxiety for those who are lost and who then goes after them.
God came looking not to punish them; he came looking to help them in their predicament. Think of God as a devoted father who would do anything for his children. He knows what has happened. He knows that the action of his children has hurt them and he wants to help.
For the father this is a reflex action. Just like any father, when any of his children is hurting or in danger, love demands that he do something about it. If his son is playing out on the road and a truck is heading down the street, the father doesn't stop and wonder, “Will I do something?” Because of his love he will swing into action. That day in the garden, the reflex action of God urged him to call out to his children in trouble, “Where are you?”
God has not given up calling. As we read the Scriptures we see just how far he was prepared to go to call all people back out of their hiding into a friendly relationship with him. One thing is for sure, God is not happy that people are hiding from him and that their relationship with him is anything but friendly and harmonious.
God keeps calling because people of the twenty-first century have developed very devious abilities in hiding from God.
People hide in their business and their work, their children and their homes. People hide in their own cleverness - they don't need God, they can look after themselves.
Some people hide saying that what God and the church have to offer is irrelevant to them, it doesn’t ‘do anything for them’, it doesn’t give them a buzz so it’s not worth wasting time on God and the church.
Even we, who have been in the church all or most of our lives, and who know God well, have this constant urge within us to want to run away from God.
It is guilt that makes us want to hide.
Immediately Isaiah found himself in the presence of God sitting on his throne, high and exalted with angels and heavenly creatures shouting God’s praises, his immediate response was an awareness of his guilt and unworthiness and a desire to sink through the floor.
After doubting Jesus, Peter became deeply aware of his guilt and fell to his knees.
Paul said that he did the things that he knew he shouldn’t do and stated how miserable that made him.
We find ourselves in the same situation.
We realise how badly we have handled a disagreement, we regret the words we have said and the action we have taken, we are filled with so much shame and if we don’t physically hide, we withdraw, go quiet, lock ourselves away.
Or we have been challenged to do something
that maybe we haven’t done before and we make up all kinds of excuses that we
know all too well are simply a way of taking the easy way out.
Let’s say you see someone who is cold and wet and on the street and asks you for a jumper to keep warm. You have a cupboard full of old ones that you never use but you have all kinds of reasons why you can’t help. When you reflect on this and Jesus’ words about giving a coat to those in need, shame fills you and you feel you have let Jesus and yourself down so badly. We are not proud of this moment – it’s one we prefer to hide. At this precise moment we join Adam and Eve full of shame hiding in the bushes.
When sin causes us to feel so separate from God; as if there is a barrier between God and us, God comes calling to us, just as he did in the Garden of Eden. He doesn't want to let go of a single soul. He doesn’t mind how many times he has to come calling to us. He wants to give us as many second chances as we need to receive his grace and forgiveness. And so he keeps coming back again and again, calling, “Where are you? Where are you?” He wants us as his own, he wants us to remain as his people and he wants to be our God.
The Son of God left heaven and came calling after the people of this world, calling them back to the Father's love. It is at the foot of the cross where we meet the gracious God who forgives. There at the cross our lives previously hidden in sin become hidden in Christ, lives full and free, free from sin and death, free to live in Christ.
Paul says, “Through Christ (God) changed us from enemies into his friends ... Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. ... We plead on Christ's behalf: let God change you from enemies in his friends! (2 Cor 5:18,19a, 20b). Notice the emphasis that Paul gives to the results of Jesus’ death – we are changed from God's enemies into friends.
Our heavenly Father doesn't want us to lurk and sulk in the shadows, hiding from him because we have sinned. Because of Jesus, God happily changes us from enemies into his friends, reassuring us of forgiveness and of his continual love and support in our daily lives.
As we come here to worship and to celebrate Holy Communion we hear the words, “Yours sins are forgiven” and we take in our hands the body of Christ and drink from cup in Holy Communion. We stand in awe of what our God has done for us to break down the walls of sin and hostility and enabled God and us to be friends again. Nothing can compare to the drama that took place that Friday on Calvary Hill when God's Son was forsaken by the whole world and the heavenly Father as the full force of the weight of humanity’s sin fell on the one dying on the cross.
As we come here to this place of worship our loving God comes seeking us out, just as he went out looking for Adam and Eve, ready to forgive the repentant and ready to give us the Holy Spirit to help us make a fresh start.
We have been sought out by a loving God – the questions that need to be asked now are – how have we responded to God's call, "Where are you?" Have we ignored it or have we replied, "Here I am. I'm sorry, Lord for the way I've been. Forgive me. Give me a fresh start". Christ has changed us from God's enemies into God's friends - how has this been evident in our every day living? Since we have a God who has pursued us with love and compassion and kindness and forgiveness, similarly how well have we pursued those around us with the same kind of love and compassion and kindness and forgiveness?
© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
10th June 2012