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A place to be known…

June 13, 2010

SMC (Dwelling in the Word meditation)
Text:  Genesis 3

On my way into Target the other week, I passed a man, a woman and a young child in the parking lot.  The woman was not happy with the man.  Her face was a picture of frustration and anger.  Don’t know what the conflict was about, but as I walked by I heard the woman say:  “All men are stupid.”

Even under the best conditions, people cannot live together without conflict.  It is what happens when we risk being known.  And sometimes we do foolish things that damage self and others.  This is our lot outside the Garden.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove tells about how arguments are handled in the neighborhood where he lives in Durham, North Carolina.  When you live in Walltown, front porches make good places for fighting.   It’s often on front porches that feuds between neighbors get settled.  The tradition of fighting in public helps make sure both sides fight fair.  Sometimes voices get loud as both parties weave humor with criticism.  It is a dance that is half about winning the argument.  Half about performing to entertain the crowd.

In the reading from Genesis, we hear the story of where we are from.  The Adam and Eve story is our common story.  The serpent comes to Adam and Eve with a false story.  What the serpent told Eve—that she and Adam shall be as gods—is what human beings have been telling themselves ever since.  It is a story which invites us to be consumers of creation without regard for limits.  It is a story which invites us to make up our own rules—to write our own script.  The serpent’s story is alive and well.

We see this story when a governor of South Carolina suddenly chucks it all for a love voyage south of the equator.  Or when a smart, family-values congressman from Indiana risks everything for an in-office affair.

We see this story when self-destructive overconfidence overtakes oil engineers in the gulf, when blind enthusiasm intoxicates investment bankers or when distrust grips politics.

It is a story that promises freedom and independence.  But that freedom comes with a high price.  When we choose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—when choose to determine what is good and evil for ourselves—we end up in a story of shame and blame.  We see ourselves as victims who are not responsible for our status.  We run and hide.

The Genesis story frames the plot for the human drama.  Choosing to answer only to ourselves—we become alienated from God, each other and creation itself.  We are displaced from community.  How do we come home to life with God in community with other people?  How do we stop running and settle into our true home.  Settling isn’t easy.  We want community, but we do not want to be known.  At least, we do not want to give up control.  We are not very patient.

Will relocated his family to be a part of a church that takes community seriously.  After a year in the new location, he met with one of his pastors to talk about how things were going.  Life was good, Will reflected, and he was grateful for the welcome that he and his family had received at the new church.  But he wasn’t sure that he was experiencing the community he had expected.  Frankly, Will had hoped for more.

The pastor listened to his misgivings, then asked how long Will and his family had been there.  “About a year,” he replied.

“Then I guess you’ve got about a year’s worth of community,” his pastor said matter-of-factly.  “Stay another year and you’ll have two years’ worth.  Stay thirty and you might find some of what you’re looking for.”

“True stability can never be a product for individuals to consume.  Rather, it is an invitation to shared life with particular people in a specific place.”  (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Wisdom of Stability)  A place to be known.

The Garden of Eden story is the story of the iWorld we live in.  The iWorld preserves self-definition as the right of every person.  You can be whatever you want to be.  It is your unalienable right to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The ultimate authority in the iWorld is the authority of individual choice.  So what is the implication and invitation of this story to we who live in the iWorld?

The Brueggeman prayer for today reminds us that we worship and live before a God from whom no secrets are hid.  We have two options—to run and hide or to stay and be known.  The good news in the story we are from is this.  Even when we choose our own way, God does not abandon us.  God comes to us where we are hiding in shame, loneliness and insecurity.  God invites us into conversation.  Where are you?  What have you done? We are invited into confession.  Naming the truth about our lives without fear of rejection.  We are invited back home to community—to the place of being known.

No matter the old secrets we carry too painful to utter, too shameful to acknowledge, to burdensome to bear.  No matter the failures we cannot undo, the alienations we regret but cannot fix.

We are invited back into communion with God and each other.  We are invited again and again to take a deep sigh in that presence, no longer needing to pretend and cover up and deny.

No matter where we are from, or where we find ourselves this morning—this is Good News.

Responding to the Word:

Wonderfully made (video)

Silent reflection…

1.  “We find the stability we were made for as we come home to life with God in community with other people.  This is our true home.  But settling in isn’t easy.”  Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (The Wisdom of Stability, 2010)

2.  When have you chosen to run and hide (denial)?  What would it look like for you to stay and be known?

3.  Where are you this morning?  What is God’s invitation?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. mycall adesina permalink
    July 18, 2010 1:54 pm

    Thank you so much for such an eloquently written article. Having read this, i feel there are many a question that i am asking myself, such as how much of each of my day, have i dictated in my iworld. I have always heard that saying, “Let go, Let God”, it is certainly not an easy pattern to settle in to.

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