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God Bless This Mess | Genesis 3:13-19

GOD BLESS THIS MESS

GENESIS 3:13-19

JULY 26, 2015

 

PERHAPS YOU KNOW THIS MORNING’S SERMON TITLE: GOD BLESS THIS MESS FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE.

 

IT MAY HAVE BEEN ON A SIGN IN YOUR MOTHER’S KITCHEN; OR CROCHETED ON A PILLOW YOUR GRANDMOTHER HAD SITTING ON A COUCH THAT WAS OLDER THAN HER.

 

MAYBE YOU KNOW IT FROM THE SHERYL CROW SONG BY THE SAME NAME, WHERE SHE SINGS OF A BROTHER WHO HAS COME HOME FROM WAR, NOT QUITE THE SAME;

 

OR HOW NO ONE HAS TIME TO LISTEN TO HER SPIEL AS A TELEMARKETER SELLING INSURANCE OVER THE PHONE;

 

OR AS SHE SINGS OF THE TRAGIC EVENTS OF 9/11 COMPOUNDED BY THE ILL-ADVISED DECISION OF GOING TO WAR IN IRAQ BASED UPON FAULTY INTELLIGENCE AND OUTRIGHT LIES.

 

WHEREVER YOU KNOW IT FROM – OR PERHAPS, YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD IT BEFORE, GOD BLESS THIS MESS, IS FIRST AND FOREMOST, A PRAYER.

 

“GOD, BLESS THIS MESS.  AMEN.”

 

OVER THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS – I DON’T KNOW IF I HAVE BEEN MORE UPSET AND DISAPPOINTED BY THE FACT THAT ATTICUS FINCH MIGHT BE A RACIST IN GO SET A WATCHMAN;

 

OR THAT BILL COSBY, WHOM I HAVE LOVED AND ADORED FROM WAY BACK TO HIS DAYS ON I SPY, TO HIS NOAH COMEDY BIT, TO THE COSBY SHOW AND JELL-O COMMERCIALS IS INDEED, A SERIAL RAPIST;

 

OR THAT A SEEMINGLY WELL-ADJUSTED, COLLEGE EDUCATED, WELL-LIKED YOUNG MAN WENT FROM BEING AN AVERAGE, EVERYDAY TWENTY-SOMETHING IN OUR PREVIOUS HOMETOWN OF CHATTANOOGA, TN TO A HOMEGROWN TERRORIST AND MURDERER.

 

GIVEN THE FACT THAT THE LAST TWO OF THESE ARE REAL LIFE EVENTS, AND ATTICUS FINCH IS BUT A CHARACTER IN THE MIND OF HARPER LEE, I’D HAVE TO GO WITH THE LAST TWO BEING MORE UPSETTING, AND UNSETTLING…

 

AND SO GOD, IF YOU ARE LISTENING, “PLEASE, BLESS THIS MESS.  AMEN”

 

THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS, THAT IT DOESN’T TAKE BUT TWO CHAPTERS IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS TO GO FROM GOD CREATING THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH AND PRONOUNCING ALL OF IT, INCLUDING GOD’S CREATION OF HUMAN BEINGS, AS “GOOD;”

 

TO ADAM AND EVE DISOBEYING GOD, BLAMING THE SERPENT, PASSING THE BUCK BY BLAMING EACH OTHER, AND GETTING KICKED OUT OF THE GARDEN WITH A CURSE UPON EACH OF THEIR HEADS.

 

AND ONE CHAPTER LATER, WE’VE GOT BROTHER KILLING BROTHER, AS CAIN MURDERS ABEL IN A JEALOUS RAGE OVER WHICH OF THEM IS GOD’S FAVORITE.

 

THAT DOESN’T SOUND ALL THAT MUCH DIFFERENT THAN WHAT’S STILL HAPPENING TODAY BETWEEN NATIONS, AND RELIGIONS, AND YES, EVEN AMONG BROTHERS TODAY.

 

AND QUITE HONESTLY, THE ONLY THING, AND YET PERHAPS THE BEST THING WE CAN DO IS TO SIMPLY PRAY: GOD, BLESS THIS MESS.

 

BUT WHAT MOM’S SIGN, AND GRANDMA’S PILLOW, AND SHERYL’S SONG, AND HARPER LEE, BILL COSBY, AND TOO MANY OF THESE MASS MURDERERS, AS WELL AS ADAM AND EVE, AND CAIN AND ABEL, ARE REMINDING US IS THAT WE ARE A COMPLICATED BUNCH;

 

A COMBINATION OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS; OF SAINT AND SINNER; CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE, YET DOING NEARLY EVERYTHING WE CAN TO BREAK AWAY FROM THAT IMAGE EVERY DAY.

 

A MAN ONCE ASKED HIS PASTOR, CARLYLE MARNEY, “WHERE IS THE GARDEN OF EDEN?”

 

“TWO-FIFTEEN ELM STREET, KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE,” MARNEY RESPONDED.

 

“YOU’RE LYING,” THE MAN SCOFFED.  “IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE SOMEPLACE IN ASIA.”

 

“WELL, YOU COULDN’T PROVE IT BY ME,” MARNEY SAID.

 

“FOR THERE ON ELM STREET, WHEN I WAS A BOY, I STOLE A QUARTER OUT OF MY MAMA’S PURSE AND WENT DOWN TO THE STORE AND BOUGHT SOME CANDY AND I ATE IT AND THEN I WAS SO ASHAMED THAT I CAME BACK AND HID IN THE CLOSET.

 

IT WAS THERE THAT SHE FOUND ME AND ASKED, “WHERE ARE YOU?  WHY ARE YOU HIDING? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”

THE APOSTLE PAUL TRIED TO WRAP HIS HEAD AROUND ALL OF THIS WHEN HE WROTE IN THE SEVENTH CHAPTER OF ROMANS:

 

“I DON’T REALLY UNDERSTAND MYSELF; I WANT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT, BUT I DON’T DO IT.  INSTEAD, I DO WHAT I HATE.”

 

THIS IS WHY, SO OFTEN IT SEEMS, THAT FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS ARE SHOCKED THAT THE BOY NEXT DOOR TURNS OUT TO BE A MASS MURDERER.

 

IT IS WHY BILL COSBY OR TIGER WOODS OR JOHN EDWARDS OR JIMMY SWAGGART…

 

OR YOU FILL IN THE BLANK ______________ WITH A POLITICIAN, SPORTS FIGURE, MINISTER, ENTERTAINER, ETC. WHOSE BEEN LIVING A DOUBLE LIFE; OFTEN, ALL THE WHILE, RAILING AGAINST OTHERS FOR THE SINS AND INDISCRETIONS IN THEIR LIVES!

 

WHAT WAS IT JESUS SAID ABOUT “REMOVING THE LOG IN OUR OWN EYE, BEFORE TRYING TO REMOVE THE SPLINTER FROM OUR BROTHER’S EYE”?

 

BECAUSE, YOU SEE, WHILE IT IS OFTEN THE RICH AND FAMOUS WHOSE LIVES ARE LIVED OUT IN THE SPOTLIGHT AND UNDER RATHER EXACTING SCRUTINY WHO SEEM TO SO EPICALLY FAIL;

 

WE KNOW, IN OUR HEART OF HEARTS, THAT WE ARE REALLY NO DIFFERENT THAN THEY.

 

“ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD.”

 

OH, OUR SINS MAY BE TO A LESSER DEGREE;

PERHAPS ONLY CARRIED OUT IN OUR THOUGHTS AND NOT IN OUR ACTIONS;

AND QUITE A BIT LESS SENSATIONALLY WE MIGHT ADD;

 

BUT THEY ARE STILL THERE – THE SHADOWS MINGLING WITH THE LIGHT; THE IMAGE OF GOD IN US, SINGED AROUND THE EDGES; THE HOT MESS THAT IS OUR LIFE SO IN NEED OF GOD’S BLESSING.

 

WE ARE AS QUICK TO PASS THE BUCK AS ADAM AND EVE; AS LIKELY TO HATE ON OUR BROTHER (LITERAL AND FIGURATIVE BROTHERS) AS CAIN AND ABEL;

 

AND JUST AS LIKELY TO ESPOUSE RACIAL EQUALITY AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE OUT OF ONE SIDE OF OUR MOUTHS, WHILE SECRETLY SPEWING RACIST, SEXIST, AND XENOPHOBIC RANTS OUT OF THE OTHER.

 

IN A SLIGHTLY ALTERED VERSION OF “YOU-KISS-YOUR-MOTHER-WITH-THAT-MOUTH-?” – WE MIGHT ASK: “YOU-SING-PRAISES-TO-GOD-WITH-THAT-MOUTH-?”

“I DON’T REALLY UNDERSTAND MYSELF, FOR I WANT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT, BUT I DON’T DO IT.  INSTEAD, I DO WHAT I HATE.”

 

AND SO, SERPENTS CRAWL ON THEIR BELLIES; AND WOMEN SUFFER PAIN IN CHILDBIRTH; AND MEN MUST SWEAT AND TOIL OVER THEIR WORK; AND THE WHOLE LOT OF US WILL RETURN TO DUST WHEN IT’S ALL SAID AND DONE.

 

I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH I BELIEVE IN THE LITERAL CURSE OF GOD FROM THE GARDEN OF EDEN, BUT IT DOES PRETTY MUCH DESCRIBE LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.

 

BUT THERE IS ANOTHER REALITY AS WELL.  FOR AS MUCH AS OUR LIVES ARE A MESS, THERE IS GOD’S DESIRE TO BLESS.

 

THIS OTHER REALITY OF GOD IS THAT STARTING RIGHT THERE IN GENESIS, AND CARRYING ALL THE WAY THROUGH SCRIPTURE AND INTO OUR LIVES IN THE WORLD IS THE FACT THAT GOD WANTS US BACK.

 

GOD – FOREVER SEEKING US; FOREVER FORGIVING US; FOREVER RECONCILING US; FOREVER REDEEMING US; FOREVER WANTING THE BEST FOR US.

 

IT BEGINS WITH GOD KICKING ADAM AND EVE OUT OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN FOR THEIR OWN GOOD – BEFORE THEY COULD EAT OF THAT OTHER TREE IN THE GARDEN – THE TREE OF ETERNAL LIFE, THUS DOOMING THEMSELVES TO FOREVER LIVING IN A STATE OF SIN AND SEPARATION FROM GOD.

 

IT CONTINUES AS GOD SEWS THEM CLOTHES OF FIG LEAVES TO COVER THEIR NAKEDNESS AND SUPPOSED SHAME;

 

IT FOLLOWS THROUGH AS GOD MARKS CAIN FOR LIFE, SENDING HIM INTO EXILE RATHER THAN SMOTE-ING HIM ON THE SPOT FOR KILLING HIS BROTHER ABEL;

 

AND THEN, FOR THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, AND ALL OF THE NEW, INCLUDING SENDING HIS ONLY SON TO GET THE JOB DONE, GOD SEEKS TO REDEEM HUMANKIND, RESTORING US TO THE IMAGE IN WHICH WE WERE FIRST CREATED.

 

AND IT STILL HAPPENS TODAY – EVERY TIME GOD BLESSES OUR MESSES.

 

I WISH I COULD TELL YOU THAT WHEN THAT HAPPENS, WHEN GOD BLESSES OUR MESSES:

 

OUR LIVES ARE ALL BETTER, AND EVERYTHING IS PERFECTLY WONDERFUL, AND ALL WE NEED DO IS WALK AROUND WITH TOOTHSOME CHRISTIAN GRINS ON OUR FACES.

 

BUT SUCH IS NOT THE CASE.  INSTEAD, I THINK WHAT AUTHOR DAN WAKEFIELD WRITES, PERHAPS DESCRIBE IT BEST:

 

“AFTER YEARS OF SEEKING SALVATION THROUGH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, AND PROMISCUITY, I BEGAN IN THE EARLY 1980’S TO EXPERIENCE A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING.”

 

HE SAYS THAT HE DEVELOPED WHAT COULD BE BEST DESCRIBED AS A “THIRST FOR SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING AND CONTACT; TO PUT IT BLUNTLY, I GUESS, FOR GOD.”

 

WAKEFIELD, AS WITH MANY PILGRIMS, FOUND THE JOURNEY TO GOD EXHILARATING BUT ALSO FILLED WITH PERILS, SELF-DOUBTS, AND UNEXPECTED SETBACKS.

 

HE SAID HE SOMETIMES FELT LIKE AN UNFORTUNATE PASSENGER IN AN OLD PROP AIRPLANE, THE KIND YOU SEE IN THE 1930’S ADVENTURE MOVIES:

 

“CAUGHT IN A THUNDERSTORM, BOBBING THROUGH THE NIGHT SKY, OVER JAGGED MOUNTAINS, WITHOUT A COMPASS.”

 

THAT’S HOW IT FEELS SOMETIMES, DOESN’T IT?

 

YOU SEE, WE’D LIKE TO BELIEVE THAT LIFE IS FAIR AND EVEN;

 

THAT THE GOOD GUYS ARE ALWAYS BLESSED AND THE EVIL ONES ALWAYS CURSED, BUT WE KNOW THAT’S NOT HOW IT HAPPENS;

 

AND THAT SOMETIMES IT’S EVEN HARD TO TELL WHICH IS WHICH, AND WHO IS WHO.

 

WE’D LIKE TO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING, AND EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS IN ITS PLACE, BUT LIFE IS SELDOM THAT NEAT AND TIDY.

 

CHAOS ABOUNDS, AND LIFE GETS ALL CATTYWUMPUS AT TIMES, AND NOTHING SEEMS TO FIT TOGETHER LIKE WE THINK IT SHOULD;

 

AND THE KID NEXT DOOR ISN’T WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS, OR MAYBE HE IS, BUT HE’S SOMETHING ELSE TOO;

 

AND SO IS THE BELOVED STAR, THE NOVEL’S HERO, THE TEACHER, PREACHER, BUTCHER, BAKER, AND CANDLE STICK MAKER.

 

YEARS AGO OUR HOME WAS BROKEN INTO.  IT WAS SHORTLY AFTER HALLOWEEN, AND AMONG SOME LOOSE CASH, JEWELRY, AND SMALL ELECTRONICS, THE BURGLAR ALSO STOLE OUR CHILDREN’S LEFTOVER HALLOWEEN CANDY.

 

THE POLICE CAUGHT HIM IN PRETTY SHORT ORDER, IN PART, BECAUSE HE WAS STILL IN POSSESSION OF MY HIGH SCHOOL CLASS RING THAT HAD MY NAME IT.

 

ANYWAY, WHEN WE WENT TO TRIAL, LO AND BEHOLD, THE BURGLAR WAS THE SON OF THE GUY I HAD BEEN BUYING DUNKIN DONUTS FROM FOR YEARS, AND OF COURSE, WE RECOGNIZED EACH OTHER RIGHT OFF.

 

YOU JUST NEVER KNOW.

 

LIFE IS MESSY; AND SOMETIMES THE PLACES THAT SEEM MOST PUT TOGETHER, AND THE FAMILIES THAT SEEM PICTURE PERFECT, ARE ANYTHING BUT.

 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO SCRATCH VERY DEEP AT TIMES TO FIND THAT THE THIN VENEER OF SUPPOSED PERFECTION IS ACTUALLY COVERING A MULTITUDE OF SINS;

 

AND THAT THOSE WHO SEEM TO HAVE PLENTY, SUFFER GREAT WANT AS WELL.

 

IT’S NOT SO MUCH A MATTER OF POINTING FINGERS AND SAYING, “SEE, I WAS RIGHT ABOUT THEM;” AS IT IS A MATTER OF US ALL BEING IN THE SAME BOAT.

 

I STARTED OUT BY SAYING THAT FIRST AND FOREMOST, GOD BLESS THIS MESS IS A PRAYER – AND THAT IS TRUE – BUT IT’S ALSO AN AFFIRMATION OF FAITH AND OF LIFE.

 

LIFE CAN INDEED BE MESSY AT TIMES, BUT GOD CAN ALSO BLESS OUR MESSES INTO SOMETHING MORE, SOMETHING BETTER, AND SOMETHING REDEMPTIVE, RESTORATIVE, AND HEALING.

 

THE BIBLE IS FULL OF STORIES LIKE THIS; AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, SO IS LIFE.

 

GOD BLESS THIS MESS – A PRAYER; AN AFFIRMATION; A PLEA.

 

AND LET’S REMEMBER THAT PEOPLE (INCLUDING US) ARE PROBABLY GOING THROUGH FAR MORE THAN WE’LL EVER KNOW, OR COULD GUESS; SO LET’S BE A LITTLE KINDER THEN WE NEED TO BE; A LITTLE MORE PATIENT; A LITTLE MORE UNDERSTANDING.

 

WHEN POSSIBLE, LET US BE PART OF THE WAY GOD BLESSES OTHER PEOPLE’S MESSES BY BRINGING COMFORT AND CARE; ENCOURAGEMENT AND REASSURANCE; HEALING, HELP, AND WHOLENESS TO THEIR LIVES.

 

AND GOD, IF YOU’RE STILL LISTENING, “PLEASE, BLESS THIS MESS.  AMEN.”

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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