Come home to Calvary
The Invitation to Experience Fullness
The period between Pentecost and Pride is an unofficial season for Christians everywhere. I call it Pridetide. Make no mistake, at Calvary you are welcome. In the PC(USA), we offer full membership to LGBTQ people. It’s great to join a church you don’t have to convince! So, this is an invitation to membership. We need you, and, above all, we want to accompany you toward experiencing the unconditional love of God. The remainder of this sermon is an invitation to celebrate communion. We don’t restrict that either.
Contrary to what the Bible’s table of contents might indicate, Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were written down before the gospels, and all four of them echo what Paul writes to us today, the words of institution received, Paul claims, “from the Lord.”
The next reading started as oral tradition, finally recorded a thousand years before Paul’s letter. It’s 3000 years old. The story of the first humans and the “forbidden fruit.” It’s always been ubiquitous, referenced in great works of art and literature, in jokes and ad campaigns. Sadly, this story has been weaponized by people who use it to exclude. They Genesis 3 is literal history. That’s incorrect. It’s bigger than history. It transcends every strident voice.
Old Testament scholar Samuel Terrien says Genesis 3 illustrates “the religious situation of humankind.” It is a “true myth” in the sense that “it never happened, but it happens every day.”
The Original Relational Harmony
Can you imagine the sound of God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day?
Last week, Lou and I showed some dear Michigan friends Yosemite. We drove them up to Glacier Point several thousand feet above the valley floor. While taking in the view. “There’s Vernal Falls, there’s the Ahwahnee, look there…” Then, a bit overcome by the vista, we sat and listened. From miles away the gentle thunder of waterfalls, wind whishing through the trees, birds calling in the distance, dudes making FaceTime calls nearby, a living symphony.
We heard God walk through the garden. What might God sound like for you? The roaring ocean? A baby’s cry? The Calvary choir? A grandfather’s voice? Perhaps a doctor’s voice saying “I think we got it all this time.”? Or the woman who sits in front of Safeway repeating, “I’m hungry, I’m hungry”? What does God sound like? Genesis 3 is about more than primordial ancestry. Genesis 3 happens every time we hear God walking in the garden.
In verse 9, God’s very first words to humans: “Where are you?” If only Hebrew came with emojis or stage directions that describe God’s tone! “Where are you?” I hear it as longing, God’s yearning for us. Where are you?
The dialogue that follows sets in motion the human custom of blaming other people for stuff we know we did. The man says, “It was that woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit, and of course I ate it.” Not only does he blame her, he blames God for her. “I mean you made her for me. And that snake, I mean, it talks. It convinced her that we deserve more. Maybe we want more than tending this garden.” Walter Bruggeman says that the serpent was the world’s first theologian.
Please notice that the woman owns up. She says, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” She does not impugn her dissembling so-and-so of a mate.
This happens all the time, the lack of integrity, humans bent on hiding from all that is truthful and beautiful, the sin that rears its head in every age, the doublespeak that tries to explain away slavery or Black massacres, for example, or the sin of depriving people of their voice in a democracy—like Adam, playing the victim rather than owning up to reality.
Here’s the rub. First Corinthians renames us the Body of Christ. If one part suffers, we all suffer. So, it’s just wrong to say to anyone, “We don’t need you.” Out of many parts, we are one body, and that body must enjoy health. E pluribus unum is right on the money and resonates with biblical principles. Those who seek to divide the people are not only harm the world, they desecrate the very Body of Christ.
I’m the first to admit that while on some days I hear God walking, on other days, the serpent sounds pretty good. On those days, the downward spiral isn’t far off. We hide from right relationship in the fleeting security of more money, more stuff, more power, more attention.
In his book, A Secular Age, Charles Taylor searches for language to express the condition Genesis 3 “before the fall.” Taylor lands on the word “fullness” to describe ultimate transcendent goodness, a state of peace, completeness and relational harmony.
The Remembering of Relational Harmony
Such relationships are experiential things, much like eating food. They are embodied and can leave us full. Now, there is a food we should eat, says our Bibles, a cup we ought to drink, and in doing so, “oh what a foretaste of glory divine.” Rip off a little bread, dip it in a cup…fullness.
A year ago, I asked my church-going Facebook friends: “when we get to the part in the communion liturgy, ‘Eat this bread, Drink this cup and REMEMBER ME’ — what do you think of, what do you ‘remember’? Do you ‘see’ anything in your mind when you remember Jesus?” So now, hear how the Body of Christ interprets today’s passage from Corinthians, the institution of holy communion. I promised to keep them anonymous in this sermon. Out of eighty something responses, here are a couple dozen.
Thank you to all my Facebook commenters. And wow.
They heard God walking through the garden in the cool of the day, but this time they ran toward God, warts and all, naked as jaybirds, to know fullness—to taste, to smell, to savor, to live.
1 Corinthians 11:23-28
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
[The woman and the man] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
[The man] said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
[The Lord God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”