Who Told You?

Texts: Genesis 3:8 – 15 & Mark 3:20 – 35

During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?”

The man said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit[c] from the tree, and I ate.”

The Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?!”

And the woman said, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”

The Lord God said to the snake,

“Because you did this,
    you are the one cursed
        out of all the farm animals,
        out of all the wild animals.
    On your belly you will crawl,
        and dust you will eat
        every day of your life.

I will put contempt

    between you and the woman,
    between your offspring and hers.
They will strike your head,
        but you will strike at their heels.”

 

Good morning St. Luke’s. For those of y’all who don’t know, my name is lizzie, and I am an Aspirant for Holy Orders supported by all of you and this parish. And we, my spouse and I, are preparing to move to Austin, Texas, in August, so this will be my last sermon for you all for a little while.

And I really wanted this, my last sermon, at least for now, here with you to be about God’s love, about God’s tenderness, you know, I was just so inspired by the buoyancy of Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding sermon but, uh, the text for this week is Genesis 3 so… here we go: original sin!

If the Bible were a series of movies, this story – the story of the first people God made, the story of  “Adam” and “Eve” – this story would FOR SURE be in the “Top 40 Classics.” This is a story taught in Sunday School classrooms from wee ages, a story illustrated in stained glass windows of churches around the globe. This is a story we all know

… Or do we?

Sometimes, stories in the Bible take on a life of their own. This is kind of the point of Scripture: this is why we call it the “LIVING Word.” These stories – stories of Eve and Adam, of Mary and Jesus – these stories are not just dried-up old tales. They are alive. This is, by and large I think, a good thing. When the stories really “live” we know we are working to know the LIVING God through a LIVING Word wherein God still has something to say to us.

But this also means that, sometimes, the retelling – and retelling, and retelling, and retelling –  of the story starts to overshadow the original story.

For example: it was not until I was in college that I had a critical revelation about this story of “Eve and Adam.” My whole life, I was told that Eve was a TEMPTRESS. That she, with long luscious Renaissance locks lured Adam into eating the forbidden fruit.

And you know what Genesis 3 actually says?

The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”

The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees  but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’”

The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves.

… And this is where our reading for today picks up. They have BOTH chosen to eat; they BOTH listened to the serpent and they have both decided: it would be good to be like God.

They decided it would be good to be like God.

Have you ever been tempted? I don’t mean by a Renaissance Eve with her well-placed long hair because, good riddance, can we give that trope a break?

I mean to be tempted be lured by your own cunning, your own insight, your own intelligence or beauty or power, to think you knew better than God?

There are times, certainly, when we do know what is best for someone else. I think of every parent who has ever rushed to stop a child’s hand from touching the stove, of every child who explains, again, to their aging parent why the nurses are here.

That is not the kind of “knowing better” that I’m talking about. I’m talking about the temptation to play God. I’m talking about thinking we know who deserves to be in the garden, who most certainly must be cast out.

I’m talking about lust for power. I’m talking about a greed. I’m talking about envy. I’m talking about desire to be in control.

I’m, well, I’m talking about sin.

Here it is: the moment of original sin. Eve and Adam have eaten of the forbidden fruit and – immediately – they see that they are naked.

And then they hear God approaching in the time of the cool, evening breeze.

So they hide – they hide themselves in the trees, hidden in the very foliage of their folly. It strikes me that the snake told Adam and Eve the fruit would help them know good from evil, but what they see is that they are naked. They decide to cover themselves because they have decided their vulnerability is evil even though they have been naked the whole time.

And God calls: “where are you?”

Does God know? Does God know what is about to happen? I mean, surely, yes? God is all-knowing. God has a vision to cast the universe into place, and yet – what happens next feels like a shock. The man emerges, sheepish, from behind a tree and confesses: “I heard your sound in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.”

It’s like he is saying: “I knew you would see me as I now see me. Flaws, bumps, lumps, bruises, scars, stretch marks and all. I knew you would see me, vulnerable. So I hid myself.”

And God aks: “how did you know?

“How did you know? And why did you hide, when I have made you just the same in that body before you ate and after?”

And then, the man, not only wanting to hide himself from God – he decides to shift the blame. “The WOMAN, whom you gave me, she gave me some fruit and I ate!” The woman is not much better; she admits that the snake tricked her. But she doesn’t speak of her desire to be like God, too.

Sin is choosing to hide from our own vulnerability. And sin is blaming someone else – anyone else – our spouse, God, the snakes in the grass – for our decision to hide.

Sin is choosing to turn away from God. Sin is choosing our anger, our fear, and our shame, instead of facing God.

And yet, God does blame the snake, in part. God tells the serpent there will forever be enmity between its offspring and the woman’s. Take note: God specifies the offspring of the woman; Gods claims all humanity as coming from Eve.

I don’t think the “point” of this story (if such a thing can be sussed out) is that these two people were factually the first people who lived, and I certainly don’t think the “point” of this story is that women must forever suffer the fate of Eve who was clever enough to talk to snakes and foolish enough to believe them. I don’t even think this is a story of how humanity was always doomed to fail.

I think perhaps this story asks us to dare to believe that God believes in us.

Do you hear that shock, that pain, in God’s voice when God realizes what they’ve done?

And don’t you remember what God does for us? God comes into the world through another mother, Mary. Mary who is fully one of Eve’s offspring, and Jesus who is Mary’s child – and Jesus Christ as fully human and fully divine stands today in our Gospel lesson, in the thick crowd of hungry, irritable, sick, pushy people and says: you are my mothers.

You, who were told by my own self that there would be pain, and suffering – you are my mothers, and my brothers and my sisters. You are my family. No matter what.

I said at the beginning I wanted this to be a sermon about God’s love. And, actually, I think it is. I think this story of sin and sadness is ultimately a story about God’s love for us. God’s ridiculous belief that we can be good, and God’s shock and hurt when we choose otherwise.

We are God’s family. No matter what.

 

The Opposite of Fear is Faith, a Sermon on 1 Peter 3:13-22

All readings from the day can be read here. Preached at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

1 Peter 3:13-22 Common English Bible (CEB)

13 Who will harm you if you are zealous for good? 14 But happy are you, even if you suffer because of righteousness! Don’t be terrified or upset by them. 15 Instead, regard Christ as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it. 16 Yet do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience. Act in this way so that those who malign your good lifestyle in Christ may be ashamed when they slander you. 17 It is better to suffer for doing good (if this could possibly be God’s will) than for doing evil.

18 Christ himself suffered on account of sins, once for all, the righteous one on behalf of the unrighteous. He did this in order to bring you into the presence of God. Christ was put to death as a human, but made alive by the Spirit. 19 And it was by the Spirit that he went to preach to the spirits in prison. 20 In the past, these spirits were disobedient—when God patiently waited during the time of Noah. Noah built an ark in which a few (that is, eight) lives were rescued through water. 21 Baptism is like that. It saves you now—not because it removes dirt from your body but because it is the mark of a good conscience toward God. Your salvation comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at God’s right side. Now that he has gone into heaven, he rules over all angels, authorities, and powers.

“Now who will harm you if you are eager to do good?”

So opens our reading from 1 Peter today.

“Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?”

While this letter is attributed to Peter, the Apostle famous for denying Jesus and then walking on water with wobbly feet, this letter is from the first century – some fifty years, or so, after Jesus’ resurrection. Continue reading

A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

A few qualifiers: this sermon was delivered in a Methodist church on both Trinity Sunday and the Sunday following the grueling two weeks of General Conference – a once-every-four-years gathering of the worldwide leaders of the United Methodist Church. At this Conference, there were powerful disruptions wherein the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQIA clergy and laity joined forces to confront the church’s racism and homophobia. The church nearly split in half over whether or not to eradicate harmful language towards “homosexuals” in the Book of Discipline – the Methodist rule book, essentially. As a guest preacher in a church that I know well – it is my mother’s church, a church i attended while still Methodist, i wanted to be sensitive to my position. They, too, are facing their own transition: my mother is taking a new parish and in a matter of weeks, this congregation will have anew pastor.

I also left the Methodist church because i could not handle the heartbreak of continually being told being queer meant i was not “compatible with Christian teaching.” And yet, i wanted to offer words of encouragement for those brave leaders who had joined forces confront racism and homophobia. And i wanted to care for the people, equally loved by God, who choose not to love the LGBTQIA community and radically confront racism. Because being a priest means loving your enemies and recognizing when you are the pharisee and when you are the outcast. I know it is not a perfect offering. But it was from my heart.

Reading: Romans 5:1-5

Transcript:

Today is Trinity Sunday, a Sunday for recognizing and specifically discussing what it means to worship a triune God – a God who is Holy Spirit, Son, and Parent, and a God who is all of this as one Being.

Continue reading

Resurrection is Nonsense: A Sermon for Easter

 

A few weeks ago i wrote why the sadness of holy week matters to me;  here is why the resurrection matters to me, as it interrupts and subverts all that grief. (And while Easter is past, the good liturginerd in me assures you: Easter is a season! So indulge me?)

Luke 24:1 – 14 

24 Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Human One[a] must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words. When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. 12 But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened.

“Their words struck the apostles as nonsense.”

Resurrection is nonsense.

I don’t mean resurrection is not real – or even that resurrection did not happen – no, the resurrection is real, it happened, but it is nonsense.

Non-sense, non-sensical, non-sensible – resurrection does not make sense.

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Girl Hate & Wild Worth: A Sermon on 1 Samuel 1:4 – 17

[TW: fertility grief]

1 Samuel 1:4 – 17

On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” [continue reading…


I want to talk about girl hate.

Girl hate is when a woman gets a promotion and instead of her fellow womyn and gender minorities celebrating her hard work, they see her as a threat.

Girl hate is when facebook is plastered with womyn making a mockery of all those ‘dumb girls’ who just got engaged because instead of celebrating another’s happiness, pseudo-feminist bitterness is seen is clever and cool.

Girl hate is tearing down other womyn so that we can buffer our own insecurities and jealousies with a line of fire sure to hurt other womyn worse than their success scares us.

Girl hate is (at least partially to blame) when mothers say a child deserves to be body slammed at school for speaking her mind. 

Girl hate is not the only expression of patriarchy, or racism, or injustice – but it is an engine that drives patriarchy forward. And girl hate is not solely perpetuated by womyn. Girl hate reinforces the idea that womyn are each other’s competition, girl hate instantiates that a woman’s worth is in relation to men or to masculine power, and girl hate keeps us fighting each other instead of standing in solidarity.

In the text today I see a classic example of girl hate.

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A Sermon on Judges 19

[TW: rape, murder]

This semester, i am enrolled in my first Preaching class. This sermon was delivered on the 24th of September, 2015.

Text: Judges 19: 1 – 30 CEB 


I am a lectionary preacher.

I love the rhythm of my Episcopal services where we have ordered texts, something from each part of the ordered Bible – an Old Testament, an Epistle, a sung psalm if we’re feeling extra high on the church ladder and a Gospel.

I love the lectionary. I love that we go through the whole Bible every three years – years of completion, years spent with the texts in a waltz with one another – how Paul is speaking to Moses, how Hagar is drawing water with the Samaritan woman – i love that the lectionary weaves all our stories together.

Except.

Except that the lectionary – my beloved, ordered, sensible lectionary – is not the whole story. There are pieces of the Bible missing from the lectionary.

I knew i had never heard a sermon in church on the infamous rape and dismemberment of the concubine in Judges. I had asked a lot of questions about why these horrifying texts of terror were in the Bible.

But i had not thought to ask why they were not in the pulpit.

I wonder what our silence is saying.

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Mother Wisdom: A Sermon for Epiphany

Nativity, Loreta, Prague.

Nativity, Loreta, Prague.

Texts: Matthew 2:1 – 12 & Book of Wisdom 10: 15-21

Our texts this morning are drawn from two sources: one I imagine is familiar to you all: the Gospel of Matthew. The other, however, is a little less known – The Book of Wisdom, or Wisdom of Solomon, which is from the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is comprised of biblical texts that are included in the original catholic canon but have not always been used by Protestants. I, however, think the Book of Wisdom can richly inform our faith and as it was suggested in the lectionary for this week thought to share it with all of you.

The Book of Wisdom, along with other Apocryphal literature, tells us that Wisdom has been with God since the very beginning of time. The Book of Wisdom itself retells many stories of the Old Testament explaining how it was She, Wisdom, who moved with famous patriarchs to fulfill God’s will. Our text today comes from the retelling of the Exodus, explaining how it was She, Wisdom, who dwelt in Moses’ heart as much as She split the Red Sea.

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Sermon: Resurrection in the Dark

Sermon, April 27th, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, South Hadley, MA.

Text: John 20: 19 – 31

Resurrection happens while it is still dark.*

Our text this morning picks up immediately after last week. It is evening of the same day, the same day when earlier that morning Mary Magdalene had found the empty tomb. She had run to tell the disciples – and though Peter and the Beloved Disciple saw the tomb, they returned home. Jesus appeared to Mary, calling her by name. But the disciples, we are told as this story unfurls, are gathered in a locked room, afraid.

Resurrection happens while it is still dark.

Even though the disciples have heard the good news, even though some have seen for themselves the miracle of the empty tomb – they are gathered in a locked room, filled with fear. Fear of what has happened to Jesus, fear of the Pharisees, yes.

But what if the disciples were also afraid of the empty tomb? What if they were afraid of what the resurrection meant?

Continue reading

The Choice in the Valley

Sermon, March 30th, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, South Hadley, MA.

Readings: John 9: 1 – 41, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8 – 14, and 1 Samuel 16:1 – 13

10152680_2252741083333_490793048_nIt was only after my own grandmother passed away, almost exactly a year ago, that i began to really appreciate MaMa.

MaMa is as vibrant and as strong as the red North Carolina clay she was raised on. I remember when we first met: i had gone to my now-fiancé’s hometown to meet his extended family. I was immediately grateful then for how easily she beckoned me into their family, her matter-of-fact country sensibility making me feel right at home.

I had loved MaMa from the moment we met, but in that sad irony of not knowing what you have until it is gone, it was only really after the loss of my own grandmother that i began to deeply appreciate her presence and gift in my life.

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