What we don’t share
Have I ever told you about my first sexual experience?
Now I bet there’s a sentence you never thought you would hear in a sermon.
Have I ever told you about my first sexual experience?
And the answer to that is NO, and there is a reason, it’s none of your business.
Now normally I am quite happy to share examples of my life as illustrations, often as how not to do things.
But I think there are all things that we would agree shouldn’t be shared.
I remember going to hear a minster in another church, he was preaching at that church for the very first time, preaching as sole nominee in fact. And somewhere in his sermon he disclosed that God heals today.
He talked about how we don't have enough faith in God, we don't ask God for things because we don't believe God will answer our prayers. But he had proof that God still healed today, because God healed his haemorrhoids. And he then went into a quite graphic description of the pain he had been in and how God had cured his haemorrhoids.
I have never been able to forget that moment. No matter how much I have wanted to, that image still comes back to haunt me. Think about it, that minister was in that congregation for about 8 years, that’s roughly 400 sermons, and for some people in his congregation, of the 400 sermons that he preached, the only thing they may remember is that he had haemorrhoids and God cured them.
Even I know there are some things that shouldn't be shared.
I think that’s a truth that we would all agree on...except that truth is killing us.
That truth is killing us because behind that truth is the truth that we all hide things. There are things that we don't share with others.
Secrets that we keep only with ourselves.
There is a dark place in all of our souls that we allow no one into.
Because some things are not meant to be shared, ever.
Adam and Eve.
There is so much controversy about them.
Did they exist?
Some say that this part of the Bible is pre-history. I don't even know what pre-history means, is that a posh word for ‘just a story’ or is it meant to be ‘fact, but un-provable’?
Are they not meant to be taken as fact, are they part of a parable, like the parable of the Prodigal Son? A story with a true meaning but not meant to be read as if they really existed.
All that stuff is meaningless distraction.
Like Donald trump with all his racism stuff. If people are up in arms about whether he thinks the Klu Klux Clan are OK they don't see the really serious problem of the economy struggling.
And the only question that matters about Adam and Eve is, ‘Why are they in the Bible at all?’
And they are there because they answer the most important question of all.
How come God feels distant?
If our God is a God of love, then how come I don't feel loved?
If our God is a God that truly cares for us, then how come I don't feel cared for?
If I was truly loved, truly cared for, then I would have such assurance round me, it wouldn’t matter what was happening in my life, because I would know God cared for me, God loved me...and I don't feel that assurance.
Why do I not feel that assurance?
And the answer is simple.
Because of Adam and Eve.
Not that I particularly believe in original sin.
The concept of original sin is that this sin of Eve was the first sin, the original sin, and with that sin she tainted Adam...and that made the two of them imperfect. So with their imperfection they had children and passed on that sinfulness to them.
Or to some the concept is that even if we are born perfect, because Adam and Eve were imperfect they brought up their children to be imperfect and so it goes on and on until our parents imperfectly bring us up and we become imperfect. And we, with all our flaws, taint our own children with our flaws so they end up with flaws.
I don't think that’s the message of Genesis 3.
Here’s how I read the passage.
At the start of the passage Adam and Eve have this great relationship with God and everything is wonderful. They have all they need, more than all they need. And the impression I get is that when I say they have all the need I mean that totally; emotionally, spiritually, physically. Everything is perfect.
By the end of the passage they have lost everything. They have lost their relationship with God. They will have a life of struggle and hardship.
At the start of the story they don't have a care in the world, by the end of the story they have all the worries of the world on their shoulders.
So what changed?
What changed was NOT that they committed a sin.
What changed is that they stopped trusting God.
God said to Adam and Eve, ‘Trust me, you have everything you need. Take any of the stuff, anything at all. Except the fruit from that tree over there. You don't need it.’
And effectively Adam and Eve said to themselves, ‘Maybe we do need it. Or maybe we will need it.’
Now who do they trust?
Do they trust God?
Or do they trust their own instincts?
That’s the eternity question.
That’s the biggest question of all.
That’s not the Adam and Eve question, that’s our question.
When push comes to shove, when everything is on the line...who do we ultimately trust? Do we trust in God to look after us, or do we think we need to look after ourselves?
And you know what?
I think if we are honest, when the chips are really down, our temptation is to hope in God, but to trust in ourselves.
Mother Teresa put it this way, ‘When God is all you have, you realise God is all you need.’ The trouble is that until that moment when everything else has failed and there is nothing else but God, then we will tend to trust everything else.
And there is the problem.
Because love is a relationship thing, love is a trust thing.
And where there is no trust, there is no love.
And where there is doubt, then the love is tainted.
We’ve all seen the movie. The couple that don't get on at the start. She loves him but can she trust him? The couple have gone through struggles, and the movie is nearly ended. But she is on one side of the chasm and he is on the other.
‘Just jump and I'll catch you.’ he says. But what if he is lying?
And she jumps and he catches her and she now knows that she can always trust him and they live happily ever after.
But we have also seen the other movie. She loves him and trusts him but he has his own agenda.
‘Just jump and I will catch you.’ he says, and she jumps and he pulls his hands away and she falls.
Now this isn't a movie
God is reaching out and says, ‘Trust me I will catch you and you will be safe for eternity. No matter what happens in this world and the next, I will look after you.’
Do you jump, do you stay where you are?
In the hustle and bustle of life, do you trust in your own strength, do you trust in God’s?
If we are honest I think most of the time we trust in our own wisdom, our own strength, our own instincts.
Because total love means total trust, and we struggle with total trust.
Total love means knowing everything about us, and we struggle with that level of honesty.
God says he loves us, but what if he knew about...
God says he loves us, but I know what I am truly like...
Let’s look at the passage again.
First of all let’s look at honesty.
I think God is very honest at all times.
He warns them that there are consequences to their actions.
And then when they take actions that undermine their place he tells them what will a happen next. Not as a punishment, as a fact.
Then there is Adam and Eve, here are two people that existed for each other, then one of them knows that the other one set him up. Eve made a mistake, but she could have left Adam alone, instead she set him up to fall as well.
Then the other ones knows that as soon as he is questioned he dobs her in. Adam could have admitted his own fault but instead the first thing he does is try to pass the blame onto her.
And now these two people are alone, looking at each other knowing what each did to the other. God isn't punishing them by telling them their relationship will be harder now, he is telling them the consequences of not standing up for each other.
Then there is their relationship with God, they know that they have let him down. How can they trust someone that knows that they have done the one thing he asked them not to do?
That’s why they hide.
But that is also our hope.
Because God hunts them out. God doesn't leave them to wallow in guilt and shame.
God looks after them. Even though they are no longer in his garden, he still looks after them, gives them what they need, gives them clothes, shows Adam how to cultivate the land so he can control his food supply.
So here’s the thing.
Love is a relational thing, a thing that needs trust.
When we struggle to feel love it’s not because we don't know God, it’s because we don't trust God.
And often we don't trust God because we aren't honest with him.
We try to hide things from him because we are scared that there are things that God will be angry with us about.
Maybe things we have done that we shouldn't have done.
Maybe things we haven’t done that we should have.
Maybe just our attitude; our selfishness, our self obsession, our greed, our shame.
Here’s the important part is this.
According to the Bible God is still there for us.
In fact the story of the Bible again and again and again is that faith is a journey of ever growing trust. Of people like Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and David and Ester and Daniel and Mary and how they started to trust, and in starting to trust started to understand God's love. And the more they trusted the more they felt the love, and the more they loved the more they trusted.
So where do we go from here?
We start a journey. We don't try to pretend that we can totally trust, totally love. That’s not the way we are wired up. But we begin by starting to trust in that love. Seeing where that takes us. And as we see God being there with us, starting to trust a bit more, and then a bit more.
I don't think God is disappointed that we don't totally trust him, I think God gets saddened when we don’t trust him at all.
I think he rejoices, when he sees us try, and he’s willing to journey with us, until we can trust completely. I think God hopes, he awaits the day that we can love him completely as he loves us completely.