Where Are You? – A Sermon On Genesis 3:8-15

Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year B – Genesis 3:8-15

Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

About a week and a half ago I was sitting at the kitchen counter with my wife, Cyndy, supper was cooking, and we were talking. Somewhere in our conversation she asked, “Where are you?” She could see that I was sitting no more than three feet from here. But that’s not what she was asking about. I had slipped away and become quiet. Maybe I was distracted or preoccupied, I really don’t remember where I went. My body was there but I had left the room. 

I have to tell you, and so would Cyndy, that wasn’t the first time she has asked me that question. But this time I heard it differently. It wasn’t an angry question. And it wasn’t an accusation. What I heard was, “I miss you.”

Cyndy was calling me back not just to her but to myself. She was inviting me to be self-reflective and to look inside at what was going on with me. She was asking me to be vulnerable, to risk self-disclosure, and to speak from a deep place. She wanted me to share myself with her, to be present to her, and to let her in. 

And I wonder if that’s exactly what’s going on in today’s reading from Genesis when God said to Adam, “Where are you?”

It’s the very first question God asks Adam. In fact, it’s the first question God asks in scripture. That suggests to me that it’s a pretty important question. 

I wonder if we need to re-hear that question from God. I think we are so familiar with the Adam and Eve stories and so sure that they are about disobedience, original sin, failure, and being bad that we can’t hear anything new or different. But what if there is another way to hear God’s question.

How we understand that question has a lot to do with tone. If we hear a loud angry accusing voice yell, “Where the ___ are you?!” we know what’s coming next. If we hear the concerned and worried voice of a parent looking for his or her child call, “Where are you?” that question has a different meaning. And if we hear the soft, sultry, sensuous voice of a lover calling his or her beloved, “Where are you?” it has another meaning. 

Maybe God is simply looking for and desiring Adam’s presence. Maybe it’s not an angry accusing question. Maybe it’s not about disobedience, punishment, or being bad. Maybe it’s simply God wanting to be with Adam and Eve.

What if God is calling Adam and Eve back to themselves? What if the question is more for Adam and Eve’s benefit than God’s? And what if it’s the kind of question we are to ponder and follow rather than answer? “Where are you?” 

That’s what I want us to do. I want us to follow and ponder that question in three ways.

Where are you in your life today?

Here’s the first way. Where are you? Where are you in your life today? What’s it look like? What’s going on?

Where are you in your life of prayer and spirituality? Where are you in your friendships and relationships, in your marriage, parenting? Where are you in your work? Where are you in those things that have left you brokenhearted and grieving? Where are you in those things you regret and wish you hadn’t said or done, in your disappointments, failures? Where are you in your joys and thanksgivings?

That question – Where are you? – is the invitation to be self-reflective, to look at your life, to observe what’s going on. But don’t take the next step and turn it into a conclusion or a judgment. It’s just information. It’s about honestly looking at ourselves and saying, “This is where I am.” And maybe it’s also saying, “And this is where I’d like to be,” or “This is where I am not,” or “This is where I never want to go again.” “Where are you?” asks us to simply notice what’s going on, for better or worse.

I wonder what you see when you follow and ponder that question, “Where are you in your life today?”

Where are you hiding today? 

Here’s the second way I want to think about that question. Where are you hiding today? What parts of your life are you hiding and why are you hiding? In what ways do you hide? Do you hide through busyness, work, taking care of the kids, distractions, the things that get you high – shopping, alcohol, drugs, sex, the internet? 

Do you hide in your preoccupations, dreams and fantasies. Do you hide because you are afraid, embarrassed, because you feel some guilt or shame? Are you hiding from the hard decisions in life you just don’t want to deal with or from those difficult relationships and circumstances you just don’t know how to deal with? Are you hiding from your past or maybe your future?

That’s where Adam and Eve are today. They are naked and afraid. They are hiding among the trees of the garden. They’re trying to protect themselves, eliminate vulnerability and risk. They’re trying to cover up in such a way that they won’t be seen or noticed. 

They think they are hiding from God but my experience of hiding, and maybe this is true for you too, is that I’m not really hiding from God or other people. I’m hiding from myself. Every time I hide from myself I live, to use an image from today’s gospel (Mark 3:20-35), as a divided house. The house of my life is divided. I live with a part of me here and a part of me there, but there’s not the whole of me anywhere. 

I wonder what hiding looks like in your life today. And, once again, as you ponder that don’t make it a conclusion or a judgment. It’s just information. Let it inform you, offer you new opportunities and possibilities. Let it teach and guide you.

Olly olly oxen free

Here’s the third way I want to think about that question. It’s a theological term that you already know. You probably first learned it in your childhood. Olly olly oxen free. It really is theological. Olly olly oxen free.

Regardless of who you are, what you’ve done or left undone, what has or has not happened in your life; regardless of what you are hiding, where you are hiding, or why you are hiding – “Where are you?” Olly olly oxen free!

It’s the promise that you can come out and you’ll be safe. You won’t lose the game. It’s going to be ok. 

What would it mean and take for you to come out today, to no longer hide? It’s not about coming out and hanging your head in shame, or making excuses, or worrying about what will happen. But just to come out, to be more authentically yourself, to be more fully alive, to trust that it really is ok and so are you.

And God called to God’s people, “Where are you? Olly olly oxen free. Olly olly oxen free.”

9 thoughts on “Where Are You? – A Sermon On Genesis 3:8-15

  1. Wonderful Sermon, Father. I never tire of depths found in Genesis 1 and 2. Some incredible psychology and of course, Theology. Reminds me of this part of the Dialogues of St. Gregory on the life of St. Benedict:
    “When he had thus discharged himself, he returned to the wilderness which so much he loved, and dwelt alone with himself, in the sight of his Creator, who beholds the hearts of all men.

    PETER: I do not understand very well what you mean, when you say that he dwelt with himself.

    GREGORY: If the holy man had longer, contrary to his own mind, continued his government over those monks, who had all conspired against him, and were far unlike him in life and conversation, perhaps he should have diminished his own devotion, and somewhat withdrawn the eyes of his soul from the light of contemplation. Being wearied daily with correcting of their faults, he would have had the less care of himself, and so it might have fallen out that he should have both lost himself, and yet not found them.

    For so often as by infectious motion we are carried too far from ourselves, we remain the same men that we were before, and yet not with ourselves as we were before: because we are wandering about other men’s affairs, little considering and looking into the state of our own soul.

    For shall we say that he was with himself, who went into a far country, and after he had, as we read in the Gospel, prodigally spent that portion which he received of his father, was glad to serve a citizen, to keep his hogs, and would willingly have filled his hungry belly with the husks which they ate? When he remembered those goods which he had lost, it is written that, returning into himself, he said: “How many hired men in my father’s house do abound with bread?” [Luke 15]

    If then, before he was with himself, from where did he return home to himself? Therefore I said that this venerable man dwelt with himself, because carrying himself circumspectly and carefully in the sight of his Creator, always considering his own actions, always examining himself, he never turned the eyes of his soul from himself, to behold whatsoever else.

    PETER: Why, then, is it written of the Apostle, St. Peter, after he was by the Angel delivered out of prison, that, returning to himself, he said: “Now I know verily, that our Lord sent his Angel, and delivered me from the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.” [Acts 12:11]

    GREGORY: We are two manner of ways, Peter, carried out of ourselves: for either we fall under ourselves by sinful cogitation, or else we are, by the grace of contemplation, lifted above ourselves. He that kept hogs, through wanderings of his mind and unclean thoughts, fell under himself, He whom the Angel delivered out of prison, being also rapt by the Angel into an ecstasy, was in truth out of himself, but yet above himself. Both of them, therefore, returned to themselves; the one when he recollected himself, and forsook his lewd kind of life; and the other from the top of contemplation, to have that usual judgment and understanding, which before he had.

    Therefore, venerable Benedict in that solitary wilderness dwelt with himself, because he kept himself, and retired his cogitations within the closet of his own soul: for when the greatness of contemplation rapt him up aloft, out of all question he then left himself under himself.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is so good to hear such a reflective sermon! Our pastor is a horrible homilist, a wonderful and kind man, but a lousy preacher, so I look forward to your words with great anticipation. The further I read, the more it spoke to me. My life is always full, not always good or healthy, but always brimming with needs, wants, giving aid, and taking nearly nothing for myself, which is when I hide. Reading this just brought all of that to the fore and I see it clearer now. I guess I have some work to do! Thank you for making me look in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jeri. That a good insight about yourself. I suspect we are always learning how to come out from hiding. I know I am. It’s good to hear from you. I hope you all are well.

      God’s peace be with you,
      Mike+

      Like

  3. Where am I?? I am sitting here marveling at your interpretation of this passage. Thank you for taking a passage we could easily just skim over as we know it like the back of our Bible-versed hand – and providing a deeper look at just how simply wonderful our God is! And how very much He wants us to ourselves – really see ourselves as His beloved – no matter how far we wander or get stuck wondering about our place in this world – God is looking for and looking out for us so that we will come into His. Here I am, Lord!! I so want to be free.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.