Sermon: “Natural Born Sinners”

Genesis 2:15-17 & 3:1-8 and Matthew 4:1-11
First Sunday in Lent
March 9, 2013
First Christian Church
Mahtomedi, MN

For about two or three years growing up, I took swimming lessons. Sometimes I too the lessons at the local YMCA and sometimes at the YWCA. I’m not a great swimmer, but I do credit these classes for helping me not be afraid of the water.

I remember once experience very vividly. It was the last class and I was excited. So my mother drops me off and I head into the dressing room. I got my street clothes off and got ready to head to the poor. I bounded out of the locker room and saw one of the instructors sitting poolside. “I’m ready for class!” I said.

The teacher smiled and said “No, you’re not.”

I was a bit perplexed. “Yes, I am” I answered back.

“No, you’re not” she said again and then nodded her head looking at my midsection as if she was giving me a secret message.

You might have noticed in this story that I left out something. I took off my street clothes, took a shower and then headed outside. I forgot the little thing of putting on a swimsuit. So here I am totally naked in front of my teacher, who thankfully was the only person in the room. Embarrassed, I scooted back to the locker room to put my swimsuit on. I don’t think I ever saw the young woman around, but I’m pretty sure she has shared the time an eight year old came out of the locker room nude and didn’t know it more than once since the 1970s.

It’s funny how embarassed we tend to be at our own naked bodies. We live in a cutlure that prizes the perfect body. It’s always fascinating to pass by a Victoria’s Secret store in a mall. The models that appear in the posters at the front of the store are all thin with ample bosoms. Now I’m pretty sure that not everyone that shops at Victoria’s Secret is a supermodel. Most of the people who purchase the lingerie there are not going to look like the poster. I wonder if the women who purchase items Victoria’s Secret feel embarrassed that their body isn’t anywhere close to the models on the poster.

The thing is, at least in American culture (but probably a number of others), we are made to feel embarrassed about our bodies and we cover them up. Being naked is so…naked. Having nothing on is leaving yourself vulnerable

In reading the text from Genesis, what has fascinated me recently is the fact that after eating the fruit, Adam and Eve realized they were naked. That never made sense to me. I think you would have noticed that you were naked. Adam even tells God that they were afraid because they were naked. And because they were naked, they hid from God.

What was it about being in the buff that made Adam and Eve so scared? Why did they rush to put on fig leaves to cover themselves? Why did they hide from God? And why would you ever listen to a talking serpent?

Okay, I’m not going to answr the last question, but I wonder if the reason nakedness plays a role in this story is because it signifies the problem that befalls creation. When humans realized they were defenseless, vulnerable, they decided to cover themselves for protection. They didn’t want to look like that in front of God, so instead of communing with God, they took to hiding. They don’t trust that God will love them for who they are. Best to cover up the naughty parts so that God didn’t have to see the things we are ashamed of.

This passage is usually the one that gives rise to the whole concept of Original Sin. I think the Original Sin isn’t sex or being naked. What Original Sin is all about is learning to not trust God; to not see ourselves as loevd by God and seeking to hid from God. We show God and others our best selves, and keep the not so nice parts tucked away and hidden. The gulf between humanity and God is because we started to not trust God. We start going our own ways because we God won’t love us if God knew the whole truth. We hide through power or drinking too much or using drugs. We start not trusting each other and the gulf builds not only between us and God, but between each other.

The story in Matthew where Jesus gets tempted shows us what God intended. Jesus is tempted, not by a serpent, but by the devil. Each time the devil tells Jesus to use his power to benefit himself. Each time Jesus responds saying that he would trust in God. He remembered he was God’s own Son and was loved. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is healing the gulf between God and man. Where we are reminded that God loves as we are, warts and all. We don’t have to hid from God with fig leaves or drugs or a big house.

As we enter lent and focus on our vulnerability and finiteness, remember that God loves you. Your baptisms are a reminder of that love. It doesn’t matter if you were sprikled, dunked or what have you, that baptism reminds you that God remembers you.

There is a reality TV show that I see from time to time called Naked and Afraid. The point of the show is to take two people, who have some skills in survival training and drop them off in the middle of nowhere with just one item and without clothing. The show has been in the plains of Africa, the jungles of Panama and the swamps of Louisiana. The two contestants have to try to build shelter and find food for 30 days. Because they are naked, they are susceptible to the elements. Their bodies take a beating in that month. They endure the cold of night and the heat of day. On more than one occasion, someone has become sick and to get well sans any medicine. It’s amazing because you can see how fragile human beings are. It seems like the only thing keeping these two alive is the fact that they can reason.

We cover ourselves up to protect ourselves. But I think God wants us to be naked, to be vulnerable as Jesus was while on earth. To not trust in clothing to hide us, but to trust in God, the one who passionately loves us.

Remember that you are loved. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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