Crazy as a Serpent?

Sermon for June 10th, 2012 ||  Proper 5, Year B ||  Genesis 3: 8 – 15; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1; Mark 3: 20 -35 ||

The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield

“For people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”  Mark 3:21

Well, yes.  If you didn’t know he was the human embodiment of God’s perfect will, you might reasonably think Jesus had indeed gone out of his mind:  Running around forgiving sinners, breaking the Sabbath, exorcising demons, calling disciples, and now this:  rejecting his family for a bunch of near-total strangers.  Why couldn’t he just go home and live a normal life like everybody else? But no.  Instead he says things like, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” and “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  No wonder they thought he was crazy!

Doing God’s will often looks that way.  Surely if Adam and Eve had done God’s will instead of listening to the seductive suggestion of the serpent, the serpent would’ve called them crazy, too. You’d have to be crazy to pass up a chance to be God-like, wouldn’t you?  Why would anyone not want to partake of a path so powerful and promising—even if God had forbidden it?

But of course, the serpent had no cause to call Adam and Eve crazy.  Seduced by his suggestion, they readily defied God’s will.  And just as soon as they did, they knew:  They knew they felt somehow separate from God now.  They knew they had chosen kinship with the serpent over kinship with God. They knew they were naked and vulnerable. And for the first time in their lives, they knew fear.  So what did they do? They heard God coming, and they hid themselves among the trees in the garden.

Now, you know how when you play peek-a-boo with babies, they cover their eyes and think that since they can’t see you, you can’t possibly see them? Or how when you play hide and seek with four-year-olds, they’ll crouch behind a wooden chair or a potted plant to hide, and you walk around pretending you have no idea where they are?  That’s how I picture this scene:  Adam and Eve, crouching behind a tree in full sight, imagining they can hide from God’s presence.  And God in the role of the one who’s “It,” walking around in the evening breeze as if he has no idea where they are, calling, “Oh, Adam! Where are you?”

Talk about crazy! Can you imagine trying to hide from God?

It’s a good thing we never do anything like that, right?

You know, the German novelist Thomas Mann once wrote that, “…a myth is the story of the way things never were, but always are.”  Well, this cautionary tale of Adam and Eve is just such a myth—a story of the way things never were in the literal sense, but of how they always are, in the reality of our lives.  Have you ever noticed your own serpents?

We all have them:  Those inner voices that seduce us into defying God’s will– like the one that tells us our lives are far too busy and over committed to commit to God, or prayer, or reading scripture, or any other spiritual discipline that might deepen our relationship with Christ; or the one that tells us only fanatics talk about Jesus in public, or that only left-wing radicals fight for social justice, or that being a good Christian means going to church on Sunday but can’t possibly mean living like that the rest of the week; the inner voice that tells us that giving money to church and charity is a nice thing to do but that tithing would be totally crazy; or the one that tells us that loving our neighbors as ourselves is a nice ideal, but that good guys always finish last so watching out for number one is a lot more realistic. Or how about that crafty voice that tells us we need to be self-reliant, and independent, and trust no one with our deepest fears or wildest dreams, because heaven forbid what other people might think?

We all have our serpents— those deceptive, seductive voices that separate us from the One who created us and loves us and yearns for us.  The One whose voice always calls us out of our comfort zone and into an ever-deeper and more profound relationship with Him, with each other, and with all of His creation.  God’s Presence, calling us—always calling us– and we hide from it!  Isn’t that crazy? Even those of us who long to know God better hide from him!  Even those of us who love God with all of our hearts hide from him!

Because we are afraid.  We are so afraid.

So like Adam and Eve we try to hide ourselves among the trees of our gardens:  Trees with names like “work” and “responsibility”, “social engagement” and “financial security”, “entertainment” and “addiction”, “family obligation” and “civic duty”.  Like four-year-olds playing hide and seek, we crouch behind the wooden chairs and potted plants of our choosing—thinking God doesn’t notice or care.

And God, in the form of Christ now, plays the role of “It”– strolling through the garden in the evening breeze, pretending He doesn’t see us, and calling, “Where are you, my brother and my sister and my mother? It’s me, the One for whom you long with all your heart.  Ollie-ollie–in-come-free! Come out now, it’s safe!”

I wonder what we’ll do.  And I wonder what difference it would make if we made time in our lives for deepening our relationship with Christ; if we learned to talk about Jesus intelligently; if we joined forces across political parties to advocate for social justice; and if we practiced living into our baptismal vows intentionally.

How might our lives be transformed if we risked giving more to church and charity, dared coming in last by putting others first, laid ourselves bare by asking each other for help, and chanced to trust one another with our deepest fears and wildest dreams?

Sound crazy? Well, maybe….

But then, doing God’s will often does.  Amen.

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