Faithlife Sermons

Hiding in Plain Sight

RCL - Trinitytide (Ordinary Time)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  17:14
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This sermon is based on the collective readings from the 1979 Revised Common Lectionary. I explore the relationship that space, place, and environment play in our relational disfunction with God and others (cf. Murray Rae, Architecture and Theology). The good news is that God pursues us to come out of our hiding places.

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Hiding in Plain Sight

Since last Sunday my life has been in upheaval for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I’ve been running errands nearly every day now that its summer and the kids are out of school.
On top of that my computer had to be sent out for repair. Not only was I displaced from my peaceful office where I spend most of my time, but my place of work and productivity was gone.
And I had a sermon to prepare.
So, this past Saturday, after coming inside Amy asks me if I can help with dinner and getting the table set.
I say, “sure,” and then I noticed we were nearly an hour ahead of schedule, so I sit down at the computer to continue getting my life back to normal.
I’d like to think that I was only going to do “one more thing” and then hop right up to pitch in. But it was probably 30 min later when everything was nearly done that I finally unplugged.
Amy kept giving me “the look” and I knew something was up. Of course, I was guilty as charged.
Instead of mentioning to her that we were early and asking if it would be ok if I kept working given the extenuating circumstances, I hid behind my work in plain sight.
Why did I do that?
Didn’t I care about Amy?
Didn’t Amy care about me and my problem?
Was it a sin for me to do what I did?
Have you ever done this before with your spouse, a roommate, a coworker, a classmate?
How does this dynamic work here at Wilmore Anglican?

Place, Space, and Hiding

The Lord used a book I am reading by Murray Rae called Architecture and Theology to draw my attention to the role that our environment plays in our sin and relational dysfunction.
Since place and space play a fascinating role in all of the readings for this Sunday here’s a question I want you to mull during the rest of our time together:
how do you use place, space, and your environment to sin, to hurt others, to protect yourself, or to hide in plain sight?

No Safe Place to Hide (Gen 3:8-15)

In our Genesis reading, what disturbs me is that perfect creation was not immune to temptation and sin.
In fact, the first sin is the abuse of place, the abuse of creation. Humanity uses it as it was not intended when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
If that weren’t enough, much like me and my computer, Adam and Eve use their environment to hide. Adam and Eve find safety behind a tree, the One closest to them is now dangerous, and the place that they’ve abused becomes their safe haven.
Yet, sin does not just disrupt our relationship with God and with one another, it corrupts our peace with creation. We now struggle against our place for safety and survival. Rather than be driven from what we have abused, we are forced back to it in order to survive.
Finally, Adam and Even face the ultimate rupture of health and relationship. They are now homeless and displaced.
But here’s the good news Wilmore Anglican, God pursues us to come out of our hiding places. He calls to us as he does Adam,
“where are you?”
He doesn’t abandon Adam and Eve but makes a sacrifice for them in clothing them with animal skins.
We cannot escape the fact that our formation as people and as a body is bound up in our struggle with one another and our environment.
The question is, are we going to flee this place, literally or figuratively?
Are we going to hide in plain sight before one another here, with our families, or with our roommates?
Even when we can flee others, we bring ourselves wherever we go.

Becoming Homeless to Save the Homeless

There’s a certain irony in the fact that God uses homelessness to save us. Abraham becomes God’s wandering agent of hope. Along his journey, where he meets God, he builds altars.
One might expect him to stay put since the presence of God is finally experienced again on earth. But rather than stay, he leaves those sacred places.
As Rae explains it, Abraham expresses his faith by shaping his environment accordingly. These monuments demarcate
“the place where [covenant] relationality will be worked out.”
Our church, like all in Wilmore, has the hard blessing to welcome singles, couples, and families affiliated with Asbury who are often passing through.
Wilmore Anglican, let us be a place of God’s presence, where these wandering agents of hope, when they look back on their time with us can say that we were like an altar.

From the Depths I Cry Out (Psalm 130:1-8)

Place is not only physical, but also emotional and circumstantial.
Turning now to Psalm 130, where is the Psalmist? Remember that sin displaces us.
He writes,
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.”
And,
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
The ability to stand in one’s place before others is a basic human need.
The hope of redemption that the Psalmist expresses is based on God’s covenant and his ability to redeem Israel, which goes back to the promises made and actions taken on behalf of humanity despite our sin.
The Psalmist knows that God prepares a place for him to stand in his brokenness.
What about us, with one another?
It is safer and easier to hide in plain sight behind our trees.
It is safer and easier for us to take away the ability of others to stand as we withhold forgiveness.
But what kind of place is that? It is not a place where God dwells.
Like the Psalmist, we must wait on the Lord and the work He is doing in us and others. Formation, healing, and reconciliation, are often slow developments.

The Homeless Again (Mark 3:20-35)

In our Gospel reading, Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, is the ultimate homeless agent of hope, the promised seed of Eve who brings us back to God’s very presence.
As Satan infiltrated perfect creation, now Jesus infiltrates Satan’s domain.
Jesus causes so much disruption that Mark tells us that
“they could not even eat.”
The table, the most ordinary yet necessary place, which is central to nurturing relationships, cannot be set. Instead, place is disturbed; the home and meal become a battle ground.
Like the Father, who asked Adam,
“where are you?”
He calls the same to us. Only this time, he binds Satan, the strong man, to plunder his house. Jesus plunders by forgiving sin and freeing us to do his Father’s will.

From the Depths I Cry Out Again (2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1)

In our final reading, Paul is in the place of the Psalmist, crying out from the depths. He cites Psalm 116:10 when he says
“I believed, and so I spoke”
While the Hebrew and Greek versions of Psalm 116 differ, the important point not to miss is that the context of both involve deliverance from great trial and suffering, a theme shared by Psalm 130.
Of course, in the context of 2 Cor 4, Paul is recounting the sufferings he and his colleagues have suffered on account of their ministry of reconciliation.
Paul is another homeless agent of hope when he says,
Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
The word “grace” here means “gift.” From the context, the gift Paul has in mind is resurrection, unity, and ultimately being restored to God’s presence. Returning to the garden, if you will.
As this gift spreads to more and more people, the ministry of Jesus in plundering the strong man’s house continues through Paul.
This assurance of resurrection is not merely an otherworldly hope, however. For Paul, it is practically relevant to our relationships now.
We suffer with and for one another, and in doing so we perform the ministry of reconciliation that God started for us in the Garden.

Conclusion

To return to my opening example, of course, it isn’t wrong for Amy to ask me to pitch in. And, of course, it isn’t wrong for me to take care of my needs. It is wrong for us to hide in plain sight of one another, using our place against one another.
Most of the time you and I are not facing extreme decisions between ruining another person or lifting them up to heavenly glory. Rather, we struggle in the daily routine of just being with and for one another.
There is no magic pill or wand to fix our dysfunction. We must be patient with one another. We must call one another out from hiding,
“where are you?”
The good news, Wilmore Anglican, is that the Lord pursues us to come out of our places of hiding.
Will you come out from behind your tree and join me, broken, at the Table of the Lord?
Those who do his will are his family.
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