Saturday, February 09, 2013

Sewing Fig Leaves

I spent yesterday with ten clergywomen who gathered to learn more about preaching from Anna Carter Florence. It was a remarkable day in every way and one that was centered on a well-known text, Genesis 3.

We know the story well enough to have pictures in our head of an apple tree, a man, a woman and a serpent. But yesterday the story came to life on a variety of levels as we used this text to testify about who God really is - and how God worked in this one dysfunctional family.

My mind and heart are returning to a million different places in the text. But as we approach the season of Lent, the one verse that keeps coming back to me is verse 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."

Have you ever sewed fig leaves? I'm not much into sewing with fabric let alone using a material that could crumble at the touch with a surface that is far from smooth.

We are tempted to think that somehow Adam and Eve covered themselves in the garden with whatever was close by. But the text says they sewed fig leaves together. They had to go and get a bunch of leaves, some string and a needle. They sewed together things that don't easily hold together. The process would not have been quick. It could have taken them hours - or even a full day.

Later, with their underwear made of fig leaves hiding parts of their body, they also hide from God. When they hear God walking in the garden, they hide. Adam says in verse 10, "'I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.'"

What are the efforts we go to in order to hide from God?

Why do we work so hard to hide our shortcomings, our failures, our mistakes from those who love us most?

What ridiculous things do we do in hopes of covering our mistakes from God?

Where have we taken time to sew together fig leaves instead of presenting the naked truth to God who sees us, searches us and knows everything about us?

One of the gifts of the season of Lent is that we get to spend time practicing repentance - rehearsing our return to God. For forty days our focus becomes letting go of our sin - those things that separate us from God - and coming clean - baring it all to God.

We will gather in sanctuaries on Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent with smudges on our forehead in the shape of the cross as we hear the words "from dust you came and from dust you shall return." When you hear these words, I invite you to embrace them. Allow the words to be an invitation to stop your futile efforts of trying to sew fig leaves together against all odds and instead embrace the one who loves you, adores you and longs for you to come clean. Stop hiding. Come out. Accept the gift of forgiveness, redemption and new life.

Holy God, as the season of Lent stands on the horizon, I pray you would start searching my heart and examining my life. Enable me to see the places where all is not well, where sin has crept in like a thief in the night - in large ways that are abundantly known to me and in subtle ways that I tend to forget or ignore. Show me where I need to realign my life around you and your ways. Help me to get back on track. Encourage me to stop hiding from you but instead to come before you with my naked truth, knowing that you love me far too much to leave me where I am. Allow this season to be one of letting go so new life can come. Amen.

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