Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

Text: Genesis 3:8-10
That evening they 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?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; I was afraid and hid from you, because I was naked.”

Healing the brokenness

Our world is broken.  You don’t have to be a pessimist or a killjoy to realise that we live in a broken world. You see signs of this brokenness everywhere.
Walk the streets and sooner or later you will come across discarded rubbish on the footpath or in the gutter;
you will see unkempt yards with old cars, broken toys and grass that is out of control.

We see the effect this brokenness has on our rivers, our land, our wild life, our seas and even places beyond this planet.

Look at people and you see the brokenness of the world.
The disheartened who say, “What's the use? I can't get a job no matter how hard I try...”
A young mother standing at the grave of her husband who took his own life, saying, “Where do I go from here?”
A cancer patient who says, “I just can't take it anymore.  I can't see any hope for the future...”
The young husband who says, “I thought we had a great life together but she just up and left me for someone else”.
A young person suffering a nervous breakdown saying, “I want to end it all”.

If you want to sum up the daily news reports you can do it with just one word – “brokenness”.  That’s all that gets reported.  Everything that’s newsworthy is how broken our world is.

And with just a little reflection and honesty we can see that this brokenness isn’t something that affects everyone except us.  Whether we are a Christian or not we are all part of this brokenness ourselves.  We share in this brokenness in some way; we are all wounded by this brokenness and we are part of the hurt that this brokenness causes others. 

As you know this wasn't the way God had planned things to be.  When God created the world and everything in it, everything was good and perfect; there wasn't any sign of brokenness and disharmony.  The first people were even completely at one with God, but things changed and a sad series of events caused God to come looking for Adam and Eve.  They had never hidden from God before.  Something had happened that caused them to be anxious and upset about coming into the presence of God.

They had sinned; they had disobeyed God.  They had broken their relationship with God.  And they knew it.  They were anxious about God's response to their disobedience and so they hid.  The bad feelings they had about what they had done wrong made them want to run away from God and hide.  We can all understand that.  When we have done something that causes us to feel guilty, we either wish we could hide, we might stop going to church, avoid meeting other people, especially those people who know about what we've done.

The beautiful harmony that God had created was suddenly shattered.  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 - instead they ran to hide. 

It is at this point that we see just what kind of God we have –
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, like a Father who travels the length and breadth of the country looking for a lost son. 

There is an old movie Shenandoah, set during the American Civil war, that describes a father looking for his son throughout the war torn country.  The father’s determination leads him to all kinds of dangers, from one anxious moment to the next, he grieves the loss of another son who is killed along the way, he puts himself at extreme risk, his other sons want him to give up and he is almost a wreck himself but he won’t give up until he finds his lost son.  Such is a father’s love.

Likewise, the Father of all fathers came into the garden looking for Adam and Eve.  He came with nothing but a loving heart; he came to help them in their predicament.  He is prepared to 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 loving father this is a reflex action.  Just like any parent, when a child is hurting or in danger, love demands that something be done about it.  That day in the garden, the reflex action of God urged him to call out to his children in trouble, Where are you?”

God still calls out to you and me, Where are you?”  He wants to heal all those who are affected by the brokenness that sin his brought into their lives and to restore us to a happy and peace-filled life.  But it cost him dearly.  It cost him the life of his only Son, Jesus.

Jesus Christ is God reaching out to heal the brokenness of our world and our lives and to make us one again with him.  You can see it again and again in his life.  One minute he is healing a crippled and broken man beside a pool in Bethesda, the next it's a few quiet words with a woman whose life is broken by her immorality;
one minute he's talking with a broken-hearted father whose son is dying ... and the next he's comforting a broken spirited thief beside him on the cross.

And that's where he is broken himself – on a cross – he gave his life to heal all the brokenness that's there in your life and mine, in the life of anyone who is prepared to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the healing he is able to give.

Broken people need brand new lives ... they need lives that are brand new harmonious lives, in Jesus Christ.  He reaches out to you, with his love and forgiveness... and he offers to repair whatever is broken in your life, and make you new and whole again.

Can you imagine what this healing that Jesus gives us means for our everyday lives?  Let me look at just one aspect that crops up in our text and that is the whole problem of anxiety.  When Adam and Eve had sinned they were worried.  They hid because they were anxious about God's response to what they had done.  They knew they had disobeyed and they were stressed out worrying about God's reaction. 

Stress was a new experience for them and they didn’t like it. Their own relationship with one another became stressful as they realised that they were naked, and so they sewed leaves together to make clothing.

This brought the stress of how they looked to the other person, especially since they were naked.  Their sudden realisation of shame caused them anxiety.  The addition of clothes to their lives brought new stresses – “Do these fig leaves make me look fat?”

Adam and Eve were people just like you and me and it's not hard to imagine what was going on inside them as they heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.  They were really stressed as they heard God's approaching footsteps.  This stress is a whole new thing for them to deal with and already they don’t like it.

We, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, get anxious and stressed because we live in a broken world, in fact, we live in a world that exploits our anxiety.  Just watch the ads on TV and see how they use our anxiety to sell their products.

Our text tells us of a God who comes calling, Where are you?”  And it doesn't matter whether we are stressed out about our sin, our relationships with other people, or how we see ourselves, God is calling you, and like a loving Father is ready to heal the brokenness that is at the back of our anxiety and to assure you that everything is all right because of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

It’s good that we have this reading from Genesis at the beginning of Lent because it reminds us straight away that sin is an ever-present problem in our lives that it shames us in the same way it shamed Adam and Eve.  It makes us to want to hide and lurk in the shadows because we feel as if we have let God down badly.  We aren’t proud of what we have done, we have let ourselves and we have let Jesus down – the one who has given so much for us and we have given only him disappointment in return.

Every day and every time we come here to worship God calls to us, “Where are you?”  It’s his invitation to come to him and in repentance give to him all that is stressing us and let him renew us.  He wants us as his own; he wants us to remain as his people; and he wants to be our God.

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.  We are given a new start.

As we come here to worship and to Communion today we hear the words, “given for you for the forgiveness of your sins” 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.

In his Son, Jesus, he offers each of healing for the brokenness in our lives.  We praise God for his grace.


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
9th March 2014

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