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Naked vulnerability…

March 13, 2011

Lent 1
Scripture reading: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-2

One of our family’s favorite Shel Silverstein poems goes like this:

There’s too many kids in this tub
There’s too many elbows to scrub
I just washed a behind that I’m sure wasn’t mine
There’s too many kids in this tub.

There are not too many things cuter than a naked baby–especially one with rolls.  Anne Geddes has capatilized on this concept in her work.  Babies have no problem with nakedness.  In fact when you have damp, stinky diaper, having your legs set free can make a baby pretty happy.  There are giggles and playful kicking.  (I know I am remembering diaper changing through rose-colored glasses.  Of course there are the cranky times, the diaper rash times…).

You get a two-year old in a playful mood at bath-time and look out.  When we are innocent, we can unselfconsciously run buck naked through the house to avoid getting our PJs put on.

Somewhere along the way, we become aware of our nakedness.  Like when the group of missionary kids (boys and girls) decided to go skinny dipping.  For some reason the adults got pretty worked up about it.  That group of kids became more aware of their nakedness that day.

Our text from Genesis is a story about becoming aware of our nakedness as humans.  In the context of the garden, Adam and Eve are naked and without shame.  Nakedness is part of God’s good work in creation.  Nakedness, physicality and natural functions are part of what it means to be authentically human.

The Genesis account also portrays human existence as one that involves testing.  From the very beginning, human existence has involved choices…freedom.  We see that what we consume has consequences.  In our text inappropriate consumption has to do with a tree.

How does this story shape the way we live in the world?  What are the issues of consumption…of good and evil for us?

Alan Hirsch (quote in bulletin) reminds us that trillions of dollars are spent on advertising.  Advertising that offers scripts no less deceptive than the words of the serpent in Genesis.  It is the task of advertising to create desire.  Perhaps this story calls us not so much to avoid certain trees, but to be aware of the power of the market to deceptively manipulate our sense of self.

The serpent comes to us from a thousand trees every day—presenting alternative scripts.  The scripts come to us as we are sitting in our living room watching television.  The flickering pixels become an Old Navy commercial that has pulsing music as a backdrop for a bunch of teenage girls in sundresses who make way for a shirtless, athletic-looking guy walking between them.  The commercial is selling product, but the subtext is about bodies, sensuality, guys and girls.

It’s the same script that is behind the not so subtle marketing strategies of Abercrombie and Fitch and a thousand other commercials.  The script appeals to our passions and appetites—what looks good to our eyes.  The underlying script—consumption won’t hurt us.

As we grow into our bodies and the mystique of sexual discovery, we need to be aware of the false script that promises no consequences for sensuality without vulnerability.  It is the script that plays out on Friday nights on a college campus, spring break at a beach resort or senior week down at the shore.

There was an editorial in the Lancaster newspaper this week which cited a recent study done by two sociologists.  Their research, which looks at sexual behavior among contemporary young adults, finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness—and between promiscuity and depression.

Ultimately this is not just about sex.  This script applies to all our drives:  anger, lust, greed…  Drives that shape our patterns of consumption as we live in creation.  Our text calls us to discernment, to not be naive to the powerful scripts which influence our consumption.

When our consumption is without regard for limits—we get hurt…our planet gets hurt.  What might this mean as we think about the fracking of Marcellus shale?  What might this mean for the ways we grow and eat food?  What might this mean for our lifestyle choices which impact the energy demand on our planet?  What might this mean for the we way clothe and take care of our bodies?

The serpent was right:  when Eve and Adam ate the fruit, they did not die; instead they saw more clearly.  But it turned out that seeing more clearly wasn’t really a blessing.  When Eve and Adam saw more clearly, what they saw was they were naked.  Eve and Adam try to hide their nakedness from God (Gen. 3:8).  Adam and Eve were no longer at home in their bodies, at home with one another, at home in the garden and at home with God.

When we choose our own patterns of consumption—disregarding limits—our relationship with God is impacted.  We avoid God, or sometimes we remake God into One who blesses our excesses.

This is the temptation strategy presented to Jesus in the wilderness. Satan comes at  Jesus with this script saying essentially:  I have the resources you need to accomplish your mission. They are the resources of empire.  Military power.  Markets.  Miracles.  Jesus discerns the falseness of the script.

How can we, like Jesus, have eyes to see and strength to resist false scripts which deform our humanity?

The good news in the biblical story is that God seeks us out even when we have become captive to our consumer habits and deformed identities.  God seeks us out in the places we are hiding.  God’s question to us in these places is this:  Where are you?

Lent is a time to reflect on our appetites and desires.  It is a time to examine what we are consuming and the scripts behind our patterns of consumption.  It is a season of testing.  It is a season to reflect on Who we are? and What we really want?

The evening prayers in Common Prayer begin with these words:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked will I return.”  On this first Sunday of Lent we are invited to see the absurdity of trying to hide our nakedness from God.  God sees our nakedness.  God sees our vulnerability, our foolishness, our fragility.  God comes to us in our nakedness, wherever we are hiding, and offers a way back when we have become deformed by our consumer choices.

Lent begins with our nakedness, but ends with Christ’s on the cross.  Because of his naked vulnerability on the cross, we can come out of hiding.  This is the journey of becoming authentically human.  Of being at home in our bodies, in our relationships, in the garden, and with God.

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