A Homily for the Second Sunday after Pentecost
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who searches for us even in our sin. Amen.
Put yourself in Eden, just for a moment. Imagine being our first parents in the Garden.
Up until just a few moments ago, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. All of creation was perfect, just as it was meant to be. The cosmos were very good.
Then the serpent came along and made some empty promises. It started out with a bite – it was only a bite! – how did it end up like this? Perfection is starting to unravel. You and your spouse had literally been made for each other – book ends of creation, crafted from soil and bone in the likeness of God. But now suspicion and blame is creeping in. And even though you’ve never covered your body before, you’re suddenly filled with a sense of shame and an urge to get dressed – if only someone would invent clothing!
Then – that feeling, that unbearable feeling! Like – well, like nothing you’ve ever felt before. Pain has entered the world, following closely behind mortality. The sun is no longer warm but searing. Every twig underfoot stabs upwards and every thorn cuts at the flesh.
But oh that is only the beginning. Because then you hear the footsteps, like thunder, and the whole world quakes at the advent of God – the perfect source of all being entering into this now-fallen world. A voice cries out, “Where are you?” And for the first time, humanity flees from God.
It’s here that the argument begins. You and your partner, so very good for each other, now start blaming one another. “It’s her fault.” “It’s the serpent’s fault.” Blame anyone but me. The guilty parties all begin pointing fingers at each other. And then comes the punishment – you’re banished from Paradise.
It’s that phrase – “Where are you?” – that rings out so harshly. What did it sound like to those first sinners? Like condemnation? Like anger? “WHERE ARE YOU?”
Lutheran theology talks about the uses of the Law – chief among which is that it reveals our sin, the “Thou shalt not’s” that we’ve done and the “Thou shalts” that we have failed to do. Perhaps that’s what Adam and Eve heard – “Where are you?” You have done wrong and now you must come forward and face your punishment.
They heard the voice of God anew that day. What once had been familiar to them is now foreign and strange, a source of fear for they have been alienated from God. That call of “Where are you?” revealed to them that they were not where they were supposed to be. It revealed to them that they were fugitives from the Law. Having transgressed the Lord’s command, certain that they would be found out, they fled from the Righteous Judge who was seeking them.
But there’s more to God’s question than that, more than just a revelation that something is now terribly amiss in the world. “Where are you?” Can you hear God’s heartbreak in the question? That the Lord created the world, shaped Adam out of the dirt and fashioned Eve from Adam’s rib – all of creation, all of God’s handywork, was good, and humanity was very good. And suddenly…it wasn’t. The very ones that the Lord fashioned in the image of God and enlivened with divine breath are now missing.
It’s in this searching that we see the Gospel – that from the first moments after the Fall, God was already searching out humanity. From the very first moment we fled from the Lord’s presence, God came to find us, crying out, “Where are you?”
It’s the question of the Good Shepherd searching for the lost sheep: “Where are you?”
It’s the frantic cry of the woman searching for the lost coin: “Where are you?”
It’s the tearful question asked by a father when one of his sons took his share of the inheritance and left home: “My child, where are you?”
It’s the fearful question of a parent who has lost their holy child in the crowd in Jerusalem for three days: “Where are you?”
Do you feel far-removed from the Lord?
Do you doubt God’s grace and mercy?
Is there some sin, something in your past, some burden you carry with you now that you fear puts you outside of God’s love?
Hear our Lord calling out, searching for you – yes, for all of humanity, but also for you – you in particular, as though the Lord has left ninety-nine others just to search for you – “Where are you?”
This is the call of a God who cares so desperately for you, loves you so deeply, is so eager to forgive you that they sent their only Son to search for you. “Where are you?” Christ asks as he takes on human flesh and is born into this fallen world to search for you.
“Where are you?” Jesus asks as he confronts temptations in the wilderness.
“Where are you?” he asks as he walks across the face of the water.
“Where are you?” our Lord asks as he argues with those who would oppress the poor and lowly.
“Where are you?” Jesus wonders as he confronts the religious leaders who would drive out sinners.
“Where are you?” Christ asks as he sets a feast and invites all to come.
“Where are you?” the Son of God asks as he’s handed over to Pilate.
“Where are you?” the Lord of all Creation asks as he is nailed to the cross.
“Where are you?” cries the Eternal Word of God as he crosses over from life to death and enters the grave, searching for you.
There’s a lovely Eastern Orthodox icon of Christ in hell on Holy Saturday, trampling the devil underfoot and pulling Adam and Eve from their graves to lead them into new life. This is the conclusion of God’s question in the Garden that day – not the logical conclusion, but the conclusion born out of God’s infinite love – as if to say, “Where are you? You have hidden yourself from me, and your descendants will flee from me time and time again. They will hang the only Son of God from a tree. And yet you, my children, cannot outrun my grace. I will search for you even if it means confronting Death itself, that I might find you. Even if I must kick down the gates of hell and drag you out of the grave, I will show you mercy.”
Our Lord is desperately searching for us still today. Hear God’s call: “Where are you?” And the very Son of God is still pursuing us, coming to us here at this very table, making himself present in these elements. Here is our Lord, searching for us that we might find forgiveness and grace.
Come to this feast, all who are carrying heavy burdens. Come out from hiding and embrace the God who has searched for you and called you by name.
Answer: “Here I am, Lord!”