3rd Sunday after Pentecost
June 10, 2018
“Hide and Seek…With God”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the First Lesson read from Genesis chapter 3.
My dear friends,
What was your favorite board game growing up? I may depend on what decade you grew up in, although some games are timeless. For me, my favorite games were “Stratego” or “Risk”. “Sorry” and “Life” were close seconds. How about your favorite outdoor game as a kid? Again, for me…too easy. “Kick the Can.” It’s been a LONG time since I’ve played “Kick the Can.” It isn’t often that we think of our relationship with God in terms of a game. Indeed, to say that someone is trying to play games with God would almost sound blasphemous. And yet today we will think of our relationship with God in terms of the most basic of games…hide-and-seek. Doesn’t get any more simple than that.
In the Genesis 3 text we find Adam in the Garden of Eden hiding from God in fear because of his sin. Uhm, yeah…wouldn’t you? Adam, the first man, becomes representative of all mankind, in trying to hide from God. Just imagine if God Almighty Himself came strolling in here today looking for YOU, wanting to talk to YOU about that secret sin that only you and God know about. Where are you going to hide? Under the pew? Under the pew cushion? Good luck with that! There is nowhere – NOWHERE – to hide from God and His knowledge of your sin, even though we want to hide in recognition of the sinful things we’ve done and our unworthiness and shame.
One of my favorite books (I have 3 copies for some reason) is “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis. The book is a series of letters from one demon – Screwtape – to his nephew demon Wormwood. Wormwood is working on a young man to turn him away from God, and the idea of holy fear is a favorite weapon of Screwtape. Screwtape writes to teach his nephew that a certain kind of guilt is healthy and beneficial in making mankind aware of the need for God’s grace and forgiveness. The trick, however, was for Wormwood to take this guilt and make it debilitating for “the patient’s” relationship to God, making the guilty patient feel completely unworthy and that the situation is hopeless and therefore permanently turn from God. The good news in The Screwtape Letters is that their tactics don’t work on the patient. God still finds the “creature” and they are found in a faith relationship much to the disappointment of Screwtape.
Adam hides from God because of his nakedness and the shame that goes with it. Before the fall into sin, nakedness symbolized human innocence. Adam and Eve had nothing to hide, either from God or from one another. Nakedness was not an issue…for anyone because there was no fear, no shame. But after the fall into sin, fear and shame took over and nakedness came to symbolize human rebellion and alienation from God. Would you want to stand naked before God? Allow Him to see all…know all? Talk about guilt and shame!
But before we throw in the towel and try to stay hidden in our own guilt and shame, we remember that in His grace, God seeks Adam. God calls out, “Where are you?” Wait…what? Why would God ask where Adam is? Doesn’t God know? Of course God knows…He’s God. God wants Adam to know that He wants to find Adam; God doesn’t desire that Adam stay lost forever, but that he knows God is seeking for him. Thankfully, God does not abandon us in our sin and guilt any more than he abandoned Adam in the Garden. In our sin we want to hide; He seeks us out in love. Like the Good Shepherd that He is, God came searching for his lost sheep, Adam. What God did for Adam did not depend on Adam’s worth, merit, works, accomplishments, or conduct, but solely by grace.
Remember how I said at the start of the sermon that the most basic of games is hide-and-seek? If you’re it, you’re not hiding. You’re seeking. The opposite is true as well. If you’re not seeking, then you’re hiding. It is as simple as that, but it does take both. In the same way, God’s grace is hidden under its opposite and it takes both. Divine grace is hidden under our sinful sorrow. Divine compassion is hidden under our sinful grief. Divine goodness is hidden under our sinful misfortune. Divine, holy, steadfast love is hidden under our earthly fears. Divine mercy is hidden under our daily troubles. Divine peace is hidden under our sin-laden anxiety. It’s no wonder that Martin Luther once said, “God is known in suffering.”
Today’s First Lesson from Genesis 3 has its own first – the first Gospel proclamation. The first Gospel promise is hidden in the veiled promise of verse 15: “I will put enmity (hostility/animosity) between you (serpent/Satan) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall (crush) your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The battle lines are drawn between the offspring of the woman – Jesus – and the offspring of the serpent – the devil. The devil will strike the heel of Jesus when Jesus dies on the cross – a painful but temporary wound. In the April 2018 edition of the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, researchers found a 2,000 year old skeleton in northern Italy who had lesions that passed through the ‘entire width’ of the heel bone, suggesting death by crucifixion – a process that literally “bruised the heel.” By His crucifixion, Christ crushes the devil’s head, symbolizing his power. As a result, there is no reason to hide in our naked shame any longer. The cross is the symbol of Christ’s victory over sin and death, which is OUR victory. Our clothing before God is no longer a flimsy fig leaf, it’s the blood-soaked wood of the cross and unoccupied grave clothes. What a glorious garment!
And so the game of hide-and-seek with God continues. God wants us to come seeking him in his Word. What is more, God wants to be found where He promises to be…in His Word and the Sacraments!
I can remember playing hide-and-seek with both my young daughters and now my granddaughters who, when I took too long to find them, would make little squeaking noises to give themselves away. If you were playing hide-and-seek competitively (which IS a thing), you might wonder “what’s wrong with these kids? Don’t they know that the idea of the game is to remain hidden?”
But…is it really? The joy in hide-and-seek is not in staying endlessly hidden, but instead comes in being found! A hiding child wants to be found! And so does God! God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding making it so obvious that He is found in His Word and in, with, and under the bread and wine – and so gives Himself away. God simply can’t resist clearing His throat to bring us more quickly unto Himself! And oh my friends, what joy there is to be had being found by and with God!
And so, ready or not…here we come!