St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-05-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-05-2017

Naked before God

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I’ve mentioned before that I can’t say I have a “favorite” Bible story. There are so many wonderful choices: those that lift my spirit and those that induce deep thought; even the heavy, almost repulsive, stories can have such awesome intensity and move my heart ever nearer to God.

Of them all, I can’t declare a favorite, but I will say that among the most calming, comforting stories, in my mind, are those of the creation found in the very beginning of Genesis. In fact, I often use the imagery of these stories for a catalyst in meditation. Perhaps I can best explain this by guiding you in such a meditation.

So, take a moment, if you will, and close your eyes… clear your mind… and just imagine what a wonderful life our original ancestors enjoyed. Pretend that you are Adam or Eve… living on God’s newly created earth… wandering about the garden God planted just for you… perfectly care-free in your childlike innocence. Imagine the thrill of discovery… when everything you see is something you’ve never seen before… every sound never heard before… every smell, every texture. Take a few steps forward… feel the soft moss under your feet… hear the babbling of the nearby stream… and the birds chirping in the trees… pluck some berries from the bush and taste their sweetness… feel their juice flow smoothly over your tongue… feel the warm sun and the most gentle breeze caressing your skin… By-the-way, you’re completely naked.

Well! I’m glad we all don’t have a habit of sipping coffee during worship; otherwise Sharon would have a lot of extra cleaning to do. And… knowing where each of you like to sit each Sunday, I would know who was or was not paying attention to my sermon.

Anyway, you’re naked, but that’s OK, there is no one around to see you but God and God just made you, as you are, with his own bare hands. Body and soul God made you perfect and you should be just as happy with them as their Maker is. God certainly knows what you look like “for it was God who formed your inward parts; your frame was not hidden from God, when you were being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” (From Psalm 139)

There are so many levels to this beautiful story. Among them, there’s the literal sense of God’s wonderful work in creating all that we can perceive: the heavens and the earth; the land and the sea; the plants and animals; and, especially, human beings who have the capacity to marvel at, and wonder about, all the intricacies of it.

And, there’s the level, bordering between the literal and the metaphorical, of recognizing human life as God intended it to be where all we had to concern ourselves with is tending the garden and feasting on its yield.

And, of course, there is the metaphorical and that is what I want to focus on today; looking closely at what the literal, earthly reality of our physical selves says about the reality of our spiritual selves.

Starting at the beginning; when we are born we have few physical needs; only food, warmth and love. Beyond that we don’t care if anyone sees us naked; we don’t think about any flaws we might have and we have no sense of how we measure up to those around us.

Metaphorically, our spirits are the same; they need to be fed, warmed and loved in order to grow but we aren’t born with a sense of shame, guilt, or inferiority.

As we grow our bodies need exercise to develop and we become aware of its abilities and its limitations. In this new awareness we also learn that pushing our limits makes us stronger and less limited.

Metaphorically, our spirits are the same; they have limitations but they can be pushed farther and farther with challenged use.

Then, we get a bit older and our bodies begin to show some ware and tare; scares from those times we pushed too far too fast; bruises from encounters with less peaceable people; maybe a part or two missing from illness or accident.

Metaphorically, our spirits are the same; they ware, sometimes they’re torn by being stretched in multiple directions; they get cut and bruised by life situations; and, they too, can suffer illnesses and other harsh encounters.

And then… old age comes along. Our bodies begin to wrinkle; by slowing down they begin to bulge where they didn’t before as well as not bulge where they used to; they ache; we come to the awareness that we’re just not as agile as we once were; and, by reality or perception, they seem much heavier than before.

Metaphorically, our spirits are the same; yes, our spirits age with the rest of us; they slow down; regardless of our desires they just can’t move like they used to or accomplish what we want them to; and, by reality or perception, the weight of sin makes them heavier than they should be.

Following this thread of body / spirit metaphor I found one more parallel. It’s not as explicit in the text but it’s there; it shows up in the last verse read today where we hear “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves”.

You see, we are all born with absolutely no self-consciousness about our bodies. But, as we grow we learn to be self-conscious; (it is learned, not instinctive) and so we cover ourselves with apparel, hiding the parts we believe no one should see. And we get those scars and bruises and we cover them too. And when the wrinkles and sags and bulges begin to show we wear even more concealment. As we do this, in each step, we convince ourselves that we are the only ones with parts, bruises, wrinkles, and bulges to hide and everyone else thinks the same of themselves.

And with our spirits we do the same thing. We start out clean, without guilt or shame. But as we become self-aware we try to hide the parts we don’t want anyone else to see. As we take our bumps and bruises we try to hide the scars. And when we get weak and weighed down we try to hide that too. Thinking that others don’t know what’s underneath we convince ourselves that we’re the only ones with flaws and, we allow everyone else to think the same of themselves.

It wasn’t their naked bodies that Adam and Eve were ashamed of; that is metaphor. It was their faulty spirits that they tried to hide from God, obviously to no avail. Now this is where Jesus Christ comes into the story.

Christ came to reconcile and offer salvation; showing us that not only are we not able to hide our broken, bruised, and scared spirits from God, but also teaching us that we don’t have to; because through him, there is reconciliation and salvation; God still loves us in spite of it all. And, Christ teaches us to confess; to bare our spirits before God and others, not to show God what he can already see and not to show others what they can already assume, but to acknowledge to ourselves that we are flawed and to allow others to realize that they aren’t the only ones. And we can still love ourselves as God loves us.


We all have our “private parts” that we take great care and effort to cover up; not allowing others to see what’s deep inside; often even thinking that we can hide them from God as well But that’s not the way it has to be, nor is it the way it should be. We are called to be as accepting of ourselves and others, in spite of the flaws, as God and Christ are who know all our shortcomings no matter how hard we try to hide them.

Today, I want to challenge you by asking you to challenge yourselves. I won’t expect an answer from you, but I would engage with further discussion, and I certainly won’t ask you to act out your conclusion one way or the other, I just want you to give it serious thought and deep reflection in hopes of raising self awareness.

My challenge is this: imagining everything that would be exposed, ask yourself what would be harder for you to do; stand before God and this congregation and bare your body, or stand before God and this congregation and bare your spirit?

When you’ve found your answer ask yourself “is this the way it’s supposed to be?”



Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;
2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
3:3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”
3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die;
3:5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.


Romans 5:12-19
5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned-
5:13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.
5:14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.
5:16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.
5:17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
5:18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
5:19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.


Matthew 4:1-11
4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
4:2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.
4:3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
4:4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,
4:6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”
4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;
4:9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”
4:11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.