Where Are You?
Dear friends in Christ,
Where are you? Those of us who are a bit older probably remember a TV comedy many years ago “Car 54, where are you?”
Where are you? Actually, that question pervaded the homes of our children this week inColoradoandMyrtle Beach. InColorado, our oldest granddaughter, Sarah, went back to school. Sarah is in the third grade already. She is an incredibly kind big sister to her two year old sibling, Catie. Catie follows Sarah around everywhere. Sarah plays with Catie. Sarah reads to Catie. Catie often hops into bed with Sarah. Whenever we call them, we often hear lots of giggling in the background. Sarah is such a good sister, teacher and babysitter to Catie. So when Sarah went off to school, our daughter informed us that she heard Catie asking all day, “Sarah, where are you?”
InMyrtle Beach, Noelle went to Kindergarten for the first time this week. Noelle just turned five. Caleb will turn three in December. Caleb lost his playmate during those school hours. So how did Caleb handle it? He followed mom around all day. Wherever Mom went Caleb went. Rumor has it that on Noelle’s first day of school about eleven thirty, Mom called out, “Noelle, where are you?”
Today we begin a series of sermons entitled, “That’s a Good Question.” There are a number of verses in the Bible that contain questions. They give us opportunity to reflect on our relationship to the Lord. Today’s question is a question that God asked Adam in Eden, “Where are You? 1) This was a question asked to uncover Adam’s sin; 2) This was a question that reveals God’s grace.
I wanted to find out what people think some of the most important events in the history of the world might be. Out of about ten, three involve the Christian faith – the life of Jesus Christ, the Reformation, and the Impact of Christianity. Others included the American Revolution, Mohammad, World War I and II, the invention of the printing press and others. Yet, that list is missing, in my opinion, one event that had such an impact that the world has been far from being the same - what happened in the Garden of Eden between Satan and Adam and Eve.
The secular world scoffs at this because they don’t think they happened, but as Christian we must include it because Jesus said these things happened. When Adam and Eve premeditatedly and rebelliously disobeyed God, they, the world and their children - the entire human race - would never be the same. To Eve God said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” To both he said, “You will return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Because of Adam’s sin the apostle Paul in Romans 8 says that “creation awaits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” That’s Judgment Day. Why? Because of Adam’s sin, “the creation was subjected to frustration.” Creation is frustrated because it experiences events that would never have happened in a perfect world. Hurricane Isaac is waiting to enter into the Gulf. That would never have occurred in Eden. Nothing like that would have happened that tears up lives and destroys property. Adam’s sin made creation subject to “the bondage of decay.” The sight and stench of dead squirrels and possums and deer in roadways would never have occurred inEden and will not take place in heaven. Get it out of your head that God is being petty over Adam’s sin. It’s a big deal. It changed everything.
But the downward spiral that comes from sin didn’t stop with nature. Look what Adam’s sin did to himself and to the human race! He and Eve experienced emotions that they had not known before, the kind of emotions and feelings that all would rather live without.
There is guilt that comes from doing something wrong and then to always be reminded of it by that inner voice inside. There is nothing is more wretched than the mind of a man conscious of guilt. Someone said that “guilt is anything you did and fear others to know about.” Erma Bombeck once said that “guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.” Most of all we don’t want God to know about it.
We aren’t done yet. Sin also did something to the IQ of Adam and Eve. It dropped like a rock. The Bible says that they hid in the garden. Hide from God? Who actually believes that they can hide from God? Yet, that’s what Jonah thought he could do when he fled west when God told him to go east toNineveh. That’s what happens when people caught in sin think by staying away from church they can keep themselves from having those ill- feelings. That’s what happens when people like us also try to rationalize pet sins and think somehow God allows them for me but not for anyone else. He wants me to be happy so it is all right for me to keep doing what is wrong for everyone else.
Adam and Eve also felt fear for the first time in their lives. Above all, they feared God; that’s why they hid. That’s what happens when the imperfect comes into the presence of the perfect. Isaiah was given a vision of heaven and saw the glorious and perfect God. Instead of doing cartwheels and laughing in joy because he was with the perfect and holy God, he cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” The apostle John experienced exactly the same thing when he was privileged to get a peek at the holy and majestic God. Yet Scripture says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” Understand this. If the Lord God Almighty showed up in the doors of this church in all of his amazing and splendid glory, you would be diving under your chair in fear. Why? Because he is holy; you are not. He is holy; I am not!
When the Lord called out to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” he was calling Adam and Eve to face the problem and deal with it. He was calling on Adam and Eve to deal with it, so they would see their personal responsibility and come to the realization that they needed a Savior. In this way the question is not only a question of accountability but also a call to grace.
Remember the parable of the Prodigal son. The son hit rock bottom. He came back to ask his father for position of a slave in his household. The father saw him in a distance. He didn’t wait for the son to grovel and get on his knees before his father and kiss his feet, the father ran to him and gave him a big loving, fatherly bear hug. The father went to his son. God went to Adam and his wife Eve. God comes to us to us too.
Jesus says he is the God Shepherd. The good shepherd goes after the lost sheep. He chooses us, he says, we don’t choose him. In fact, the Bible says he chose us before we were in the world; he chose us before there was a world. He has a plan to save us, not to harm us; he has a plan to give us hope and a future.
Where are you? He gives Adam and Eve an opportunity to ‘fess up. Adam, Eve, do you understand? I was always told as a teacher to ask a lot of questions. Make people think. God was making Adam and Eve think. Get your sins out in the open. Adam, however, wasn’t good at that. He skirted the issue. “I was afraid so I hid.” Foolish, wasn’t it? Adam, God knows all; God is present everywhere; God sees all. He felt shame and self-conscious. He was naked. Yet, the body parts came from God; they weren’t made inChina
Then comes the self-effacing question that needed nothing but transparency and honesty and forthrightness. “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Adam wasn’t good with answering it. Remember his spiritual IQ had taken a nosedive. “The woman you gave me!” She made me do it! You made me do it. You gave her to me. The blame game!
Was that enough for God to slam the door? Had Adam gone too far? Well, yeah, he went too far, but the love of our God goes father. God gave a promise that there would one day be an offspring. He would crush the devil and all his evil work. He would rid the world of the fear of God. He would bring forgiveness and life. He would rid the world of the fear of death. There is more life to come – perfect and holy in heaven.
“Where are you?” That’s a question we often like to ask God. It happens most when we are dealt what we consider a bad hand, when there is something that just doesn’t seem fair or it hurts. Where are you God? But just remember this. God was there for Adam and Eve. He asked the question. He got the path to healing and forgiving going. In fact he left nothing undone that needed to get done to save them and all people. “Where two or three gather together in my name, there am I in the middle of them.” “I am with you always even to the end of the ages.”
I am there in the promises made in the Word I have given you. “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow, though they be like Crimson they shall be as wool.”
Where are you, Lord? In the waters of baptism where he came to us and claims us as his own. He clothes us in his righteousness as baptism clothes us in him.
Where are you, Lord? In that mysterious and wonderful meal by which he so intimately and individually promises that the sins inherited from those first parents and committed by us ever since has been taken away.
Where are you, Lord? Maybe better said “Where isn’t he?”