Word of the Week

A sermon preached at The Federated Church, Weatherford, OK: Genesis 3:11-21

Do you remember the last time someone put clothes on you that you didn’t buy yourself?

clothing_transWhen we are little, it’s our parents who do all the shopping for us, don’t they? Our closets are full or not because someone provided the clothes to us. And usually for as long as our children will allow it, most parents want to dress their kids in the morning or at least supervise with tight control as to what goes on a child before they walk out the door on the way to school. Then the teen years come when the fights on about what our kids wear begin.

Then, we become adults. Part of what it means to be a grown up is to be able to provide the own shirt on our backs and wear whatever we want (within reason) whenever we want to, isn’t it? And our parents no longer give us clothes. We work hard in order to have the choice to wear the kind of clothes we like.

It a rarity as adults that anyone picks out clothes for us to wear.

But, several Christmases ago when Kevin and I had only been married a little while, we made plans to celebrate Christmas together on Christmas Eve morning before it was time to trek off to services at the church and then catching a late night flight home.

When I opened the big box with a big red bow with my name on it while sitting on the floor of our living room around the Christmas tree, I was shocked as to what I found inside. It was a complete outfit (jewelry included) to wear to church that night. My Kevin said, “It’s your Christmas dress. Don’t you like it?”

I did like it. The dress was beautiful. It was the kind of dress I’d never pick out on my own, but was something that fit me just right. And as I got ready for church that night and put the dress on was just in shock because 1) I didn’t know that Kevin actually knew what my size was or how to find his way around the women’s section of the department store 2) I couldn’t remember the last time that someone bought me a complete outfit to wear. It was a special moment in our marriage.

And maybe it’s just me, but to be given clothes or to be given someone else’s clothes is a really endearing moment.

Anyone have items in your closet from a deceased family member that you loved? I know I do. And even though the clothes I have in my closet that once belonged to my beloved grandmother don’t fit me like they used to, I love the idea that my skin could be touching same pieces of fabric that touched the skin of her and that she made sure upon her death that I got them.

And though while some may call clothes to be frivolous (and maybe only a female pastor would preach a sermon about clothes) the earliest chapters of the book of Genesis, have a lot to say about the first family’s relationship to the clothes they put on their bodies. So it’s important for all of us to pay attention too. For, God even is portrayed as the first great tailor!

Our take away from last Sunday was that when Adam and Eve knew that they had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil--- something they were asked by God not to do—they hid. They find a brush in the wilderness. They find a tree and they try to escape the presence of God coming to meet them in the cool of the day.

But, God found them. And would not let them be out of relationship. They needed to face the consequences of their poor choices. These consequences included the snake being an animal forced to crawl in its belly for the rest of its days, grief in childbearing for the woman and soil for that man that would be harder to plow.

And then after the verdict on all these things was spoken God does something very particular in verse 21—Look with me in your Bibles at this verse.

“And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and his wife, and clothed them.”

We aren’t told how. We aren’t told with what. This gives us many questions—was an animal killed? If so how? What did the skins look like? But regardless we are told that God makes coverings for Adam and Eve. God became their tailor.

The clothing was important to them because we remember from earlier in chapter 3 that after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree, both their eyes opened and they realized that they were naked.

I love the point that J. Ellsworth Kalas makes about the realization of nakedness at this juncture in the story from his book, Grace in a Tree Stump, “Adam and Eve’s new sense of nakedness was not so much an embarrassment at being seen by the other [as so many of think] as it was the uneasiness at seeing themselves. Adam wants to hide from Adam. [And Eve wants to hide from Eve.]” (9).

By not trusting God to be the Creator and the Sustainer of all of life, Adam and Eve now faced the harsh reality of what it meant to be in charge of their own lives. And they were ashamed. They couldn’t stand the sight of who they were. I can imagine that their self-esteem was deeply low. And Genesis 3:7 tells us that in response, Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths from themselves.”

They made their own clothes.

They were resourceful in find a material readily available to them leaves.

They were clever to figure out a way to sew fig leaves together.

For, fig leaves were good enough to hide the parts of themselves that they wanted to cover up. The fig leaves were good enough to make them feel safe. The fig leaves were another way of hiding from the reality of themselves that they didn’t really want to confront.

All of this was well and good. But the problem was that these clothes would not last.

It would only take a good rainfall, or long day out working the field or the change in temperature for these fig leaf outfits to crumble to worthlessness.

They could get by in the short term, sure. But long term, Adam and Eve’s configuration of clothing would not stand the test.

And isn’t this the human condition?

We know when we’ve made a mistake. And we know we need to fix it somehow. When faced with a crossroad of what to do, we go for the short-term solutions. We try to fix our lives by what we can create on our own and execute on our own.

Then, nobody needs to really know we’ve screwed up, right?

But we have screwed up and God wants to show us another way—the way of grace.

Let’s read verse 21 again, “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and his wife, and clothed them.”

The LORD GOD made garments of skin and clothed them. Do you get, church, how huge this act was?

Adam and Eve tried to fix their shame, fix their embarrassment all on their own, but God intervenes and says, “No. This is a problem too big for you to fix yourselves. Let me make you some clothes. And then here they are. Put them on.”

Do you see how lovingly tender this act of compassion was? Better than any new Christmas dress bought by a husband for his wife—God goes and picks out the best…. Better than Adam and Eve could have ever imagined or created on their own …. And clothes them with these skins.

These new clothes say to Adam and to Eve that God loves them with a deep and abiding love.

Rev. Kalas writes, “Once we get around our own defensiveness we are surprised to learn that God’s estimate of us is eternally better than our self-estimate.” (11).

It’s so true! And in community with God, we learn there is no problem or mistake we make too big for us to solve together with the Lord.

And just as we have been loved by God—we are to love one another. We become the church of God as we lavishly love and cloth one another.

Woods Chapel United Methodist Church in Lee’s Summitt, Kansas recently held it’s Prom boutique for the 10th straight year.

The church, you see, felt called to live out this good news by clothing under privileged teens in its community, so that no high school girl would go to the prom without a dress who wanted one.

Though many called this ministry frivolous or unnecessary—church leaders supported the idea because they knew how a new outfit could help a girl feel accepted.

"It's not like we're feeding the homeless or anything like that," said coordinator Fern Stuart. "We're not collecting food, but if you were ever a teenage girl, you know how important prom is. And it's just heartbreaking if you can't afford that dress."

One participant named Hannah said after receiving her new dress said, “It was amazing and made me so happy.” Church leaders talked about the light in her eyes as she left the church that day with her dress.

Another church, First Baptist Church of Oakland, Florida held last year the Saturday before Easter what it called, “Operation Dress-up.” Knowing that the Easter season is the time according to cultural tradition that many parents wish to buy their children new clothes but simply can’t afford it (and often stay away from church because of it), they wanted to do something to help.

The church took a collection and the ladies of the congregation went shopping. They filled the church’s social hall with rows and rows of NEW children’s outfits (not just the stuff you can get from Good Will) all new ranging in sizes from 4T to high school aged. They want to restore the dignity back to a population in their community who had lost it.

Rev. Parker, the organizing pastor said this about this clothing ministry, “To have something new just brings a self confidence, a self awareness to children and to people as a whole, and it's just a way we can reach out, help the children," he said.

And what beautiful colors of Sunday best filled the overflowing pews that next Easter Sunday morning at this Florida congregation.

Yet, it’s easy to say that what we wear doesn’t matter. It’s easy to say that faith in God is about what is in our heads, not on our backs. But, if anything the witnesses of these churches teach us that it does.

We all need the tactile experience of God’s grace.

Adam and Eve needed it.

We need it.

And there are hundreds in our community right now who are longing for it too.

They need to feel with their very hands and on their very shoulder and feet that the mistakes they’d made in their lives are not too great to keep them from God’s love.

This is the truth: we all have been given new spiritual clothes. We don’t have to wallow in our own. God has been a great tailor for us all. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

So, church, I ask you this morning, are you wearing the clothes God has given you? Or are you still hiding out in the mess of homemade fig leaf coverings? Are you still trying to piece together a life that you can create on your own with no help from your Creator? Or have you given God control to provide for you?

All of the most horrible things that you believe about yourself, all of those negative tapes in your head—that you aren’t worthy of any more than fig leaves coverings--- put that all to the side. Don’t wear these clothes a day longer!

You, my friends, are the sons and daughters of the most high. Only the finest of finest of gifts has God clothed you with! So put on forgiveness, in joy, in hope, in faithfulness and love! God’s great coverings for YOU!

And don’t hoard the blessing for yourself.

Be a bearer of good news, knowing that sometimes sharing this good news with others might come in the form of giving a girl a new prom dress or a boy a new pair of shoes for Easter or a million other ways that the Spirit might lead you toward. Clothe others just as God has clothed you.

Most of all know this church: you are clothed by the Most Holy One!

Thanks be to God for this great gift of grace! And the ability to wear new clothes.


A sermon preached at The Federated Church, Weatherford, OK: Genesis 3:1-9

Besides the common saying that “there are two things that you can be certain of in life death and taxes” I would add two more things. You can be certain that human beings like you and me will do stupid things from time to time and also not want to admit it.

And along these lines, today we’re continuing our Lenten sermon series —lessons that can be learned about who we really are as human beings from the first family.

Last week if you followed in the online snow church plan you saw that Genesis 1:28 calls us caretakers of all of creation. God wanted his image bearers—like you and me--- to rule over all of creation and ensure its success. We are invited into a relationship with the flowers of the earth and the birds of the air. We are invited to be good stewards of the creation we’re given by God.

But, by time we get to Genesis 3, times are changing though.

The trust that had upheld the role of God as Creator and woman and man as creations is questioned.

Genesis 3 is really such a familiar story not just for kids in Sunday School, but one we study in classical literature and find alluded to in modern movies.

And, culturally, interpretations of Genesis 3 have a lot to do with why relations between the male and female expressions of creation are pitted against one another. For scripture tells us that it is the woman who made the poor choice first.

Genesis 3 is a passage in New Testament gospel language is often referred to as “the fall” (though never in the Old Testament is this phrase actually used) for it’s the moment, we are told by scholars like the Apostle Paul that would spin in motion the need for Christ’ redemptive act. For as Adam and Eve sinned so would we. And a price would need to be paid.

The passage begins by telling us that the serpent was more crafty than the other animals and talks (No, this is not a Disney movie and so let’s just stop here and note that we just heard a reference to a talking snake—something that is so easily overlooked in our familiarity of the passage). The serpent says to Adam and Eve: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’”

If we go back to the 2nd account of creation in Genesis 2, we learn that indeed God did put Adam and Eve in a lovely place but he gave them one boundary. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”

And the serpent’s question brings this rule of by God’s into question. He asks Adam and Eve to reconsider WHY this rule was in place. Why did God NOT let them in on the whole story? Was that really fair?

Look with me at verse 4: “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

We are so quick, I think to blame the serpent or to call him the devil incarnate but one commentary says in this, “the serpent acts not as a deceiver but as truth-teller.”

Because it WAS true that God gave them a boundary and didn’t tell them why. And if they did trespass the boundary, their eyes would be opened to more of the world than previously known. But the question was, in context of God’s relationship with Adam and Eve was this ok? Could they not know everything and could God still be trusted?

The seed of doubt is planned in Eve’s and Adam’s minds. Through the serpent’s words, their doubt leads to temptation and then action.

Eve saw the delight that was the fruit.

She ate it.

She offered some to her husband. He ate it.

And just as the serpent eluded to, their eyes were open. The world suddenly looked completely different.

One commentator describes the aftermath in this way, Adam and Eve “realize that, now having to decide for themselves what is in their own best interest, everything looks somewhat different. Having decided to be on their own, they see the world entirely through their own eyes. They now operate totally out of their own resources.”

And there’s one word that sums it all up: shame.

Adam and Eve, after breaking the parental bond of trust with God, are ashamed of what they’ve done, what they look like, what their resources have left them with and most of all afraid of what might come next.

With depleted resources, they can’t face each other—scripture tells us that for first time they realize their own nakedness. And they can’t face God. When they hear Creator God walking among the earth to be with them at the end of the evening breeze, Adam and Eve panic.

Their next move is to hide.

And no, this wasn’t a fun game of hide-and-go seek. No, these grown-up adults ran and took cover among the greenery of a nearby bush or tree. They don’t want God to find them.

What a story this is! And I believe so easy to remove ourselves from it as if it’s just a metaphoric tale of something so out of touch with our identity and our own patterns of relationships with God and neighbor.

But the truth I have to offer you this morning about yourself is that you are an hider too. We all are hiders.

We are hiders—and sometimes it looks like lying.

Consider this: a lawyer friend of mine recently told me about a case he was working on at his firm.

Two guys were going out for drinks one Friday night to celebrate the promotion of another friend of theirs and went a little overboard. They both had one margarita too many. Instead of calling a cab or another friend to take them home when the night was over, the two friends got in the car and decided to find their way by themselves. They drove too fast on the freeway and begin to swerve all over the place putting other lives at danger.

Of course, you know how the story goes, flashing blue lights soon pull up behind them. At that moment, the two men made their choice. Would they tell the truth? Or would they hide?

Oh, they hid alright! They played fruit basket turn over in the car with the passenger coming to the backseat and the driver coming to the passenger side. They curled themselves into a ball like children and pretended to be asleep, just stuck on the side of the road with car trouble.

When the officers came to ask who was driving the car, both gentlemen had blank looks on their faces as if aliens had driven them to the side of the road.

Neither of them would admit they drove or knew who drove the car, even when they were handcuffed and taken to the station for questioning. It seemed that lying was just easier than telling the truth. Sad but true.

But even if we haven’t committed a DUI lately, I bet if you took a moment and thought over all the words that came out of your mouth over the last week, there were times when you didn’t tell the truth.

We lie to avoid consequences of being reprimanded at work or hurting the feelings of our wife when she asks us how she looks in her new outfit or we lie to get out of jury duty so we can go on vacation. We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, but it does.

We hide by lying more times, I believe than any of us could really count in a given week.

But, then sometimes hiding comes in the form of blaming someone else.

When is the last time you’ve been in a room full of children? I was visiting a friend of mine with several just this past week and remembered again that children are more sophisticated participants at the blame game than we might first give them credit for!

Invite a group of preschoolers to play together in your living room and let them have a it for a while and then ask, “Who make a mess of the toys?”

Or, “Who spit on the floor?”

Or, “Why is your sister crying?”

And, you probably won’t get a straight answer right away.

Even before children and utter complete sentences many of them learn the game of pointing fingers at others. “She did it.” “No, she did it.” “No, he did it.”

And such an exercise is not just for children. As adults, we blame others a lot.

We blame our parents or siblings for the emotional messes we uncover in our adult lives.

We blame our children for the anger we feel about why our lives didn’t turn out the way we wanted.

We blame our friends for not being present in times when we really thought they should show up and help us.

From the mouths of babes through our adult life, blaming other people is just easier than taking responsibility for our own actions.

It’s a lot easier to blame a third party as to why we lost our job or why we are in debt or why our daughter doesn’t speak to us anymore than to actually tell things like they are!

But then additionally, sometimes hiding takes the form of our avoiding the consequences of our actions altogether.

Several years ago this was headline news: “Fake death pilot, hiding alive in remote Florida.”

Marcus Schrenker, an Indiana businessman, married and father of three knew that his secret life was catching up with him.

He realized that state and national authorities had proof he embezzled millions from those who had trusted him as a financial advisor.

And, Marcus knew that his wife was on to his affair with another woman in the neighborhood.

And in all these things: here was no way that Marcus could face the facts. He did not have a “I’m sorry” in him nor did he want to go to jail.

So, Marcus made the choice to hide in the best way he knew how: stage his own death.

Though seemingly a little extreme, it worked for a while.

This trained pilot fell out of an airplane with get-a-way motorcycle nearby. And, he got himself situated at a campground, miles from anyone who might know him. He created a whole other identity and went about his day making new friends as if nothing strange had just happened.

(Though the police would be onto his plot in several days).

But hear me say this: it doesn’t take jumping out of an airplane and faking your death to avoid the consequences of your actions--- and all of us have been there in one way or another.

In one of my congregations, there was a lovely woman who was very involved in the parish, the kind of lady who did anything asked of her to help out from the kitchen, to the women’s group to any sorts of mission activities. We all loved her for her great gifts! Yet, this was until somebody re-arranged the dishes in the kitchen and did not ask her permission to do so.

The day she found out about what happened and that some of her favorite dishes had already been taken to Good Will—she exploded on the church council and stormed out in rage.

Even though I and several other members of the church tried to go and talk to her, she never came back. The lady knew she was in the wrong. It was easier to go start over at another church than it was to come back and apologize to her dear friends for her controlling behavior and angry outburst.

And this is the world, you and I live in, my friends—our inheritance from father Adam and Mother Eve is one of hiding by lying, by blaming others, by avoiding our punishment thinking that if we just cover up ourselves in some bushes it will all be ok.

But, the good news of this passage comes in the last verse. For the Lord found Adam and Eve and said, “Where are you?”

Remember that truth we landed on a couple of weeks ago that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Well, here we see it clearly portrayed again. For there was no amount of hiding that was going to keep Adam and Eve from relationship with God as far as God was concerned.

Sure, there’d be consequences (which we’ll get to next week), but NOTHING was going to keep God from the invitation of relationship. They could not hide forever. And when they came out, God would be there.

And the same is true of you and I my friends: no amount of hiding can keep our compassionate Creator from relationship with us.

So I ask you this morning? How are you hiding from God? What are trying to cover up about your life? What do you NOT want people to know about you?

Hear the good news today: you will be found.