Hiding from God
I. “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD” (Genesis 3:8).
You may remember that wonderful game, hide and seek. The child hides behind the sofa. A hand or leg is usually jutting out clear as day, but you pretend you can’t see. So you call, “Where are you?” A similar thing takes place in our own lives, in our relationships with God, but it’s not merely as playful. Instead, when God calls, we prefer to stay hiding.
Adam and Eve sinned. Instantly, they felt ashamed. So they hid. First, they covered up in fig leaves. Then they burrowed into the bushes. On one level, this sounds like a fairytale too fantastic to take seriously. But on a deeper level, this is my story, and yours. We’ve all felt ashamed. We can all remember moments when we chose to do something we knew was wrong and instantly felt regret. Adam and Eve could have repented. They might have ran to God and asked for His forgiveness, but instead, they built a wall. And so do we. We hide from God.
II. The Holy Scriptures use a veil to symbolize the gulf between God and humanity.
When the Jews constructed their temple, they placed a huge veil over the altar. The veil was a visible reminder to them of the distance between their hearts and God’s. It was a symbol of Adam’s decision to hide from God, all the masks we wear, and the barriers we create in our hearts.
III. Today’s gospel is also about a veil.
Jesus Christ is meeting with a group of Jews. Imagine that you were an observer. You’re standing in that room, back against the wall, simply watching. At first, you don’t notice anything special – one man talking among many. He looks the same as the others – dark hair, olive skin, a Jewish face in Jewish clothes.
But in an instant everything is different. Christ reveals Himself.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
The scene changes. The Jews find themselves face to face with God, and how do they respond? They take up stones to throw at Him.
God is a challenge.
Truth be told, most of us are cozy on this side of the curtain. The Jews preferred their moral religion as it was. They didn’t want God to mess things up.We aren’t so different either. We like it over here, in our safe hiding places, in the bushes with Adam and Eve.
As a result, we never really live.
IV. Carl Marx once said, “Religion is the opium of the people.”
But another man borrowed this phrase and changed it, saying, “Today, atheism is the opium of the people.” There might be some truth here. Atheism, agnosticism, secularism, materialism and all the other lifestyles that run contrary to Christianity offer wonderful opportunities for ignoring God and living the alternative lifestyles we choose. Truthfully, anything can fill in the blank. Alcoholism can become one’s opium, as well as television, careers, or more likely our common friend, busyness. We can use just about anything to distract ourselves from God.
Adam and Eve hid behind the trees. What are you hiding behind?
V. On Passion Sunday, the Church reminds us of the veils in our hearts.
You’ve probably noticed that something is different in the room today. The icons and crucifix are covered up. The saints, our blessed Mother, our Savior Jesus Christ are all veiled behind the curtain. In a sense, our service almost feels Jewish, and that’s just the point. For a brief time, we remember what life is like without Jesus Christ. Before God became incarnate a heavy curtain hung between God and humanity. We couldn’t see His face and look into heaven. With Christ all that changed, but for this season, the veil is pulled over our eyes again.
When the Jews picked up their stones to kill Jesus Christ, why do you think He hid?
He hid for the same reason that we’ve covered up the icons. God gives us seasons when He steps back and let’s us feel our own darkness. He pulls down the curtain so that we can remember life void of Him. If you look carefully at all these curtains you’ll notice what difference they make in the atmosphere. Silence, blankness, austerity – what were windows into heaven have now become windows into our souls.
There are two more weeks of darkness. This is our opportunity for looking within and preparing our hearts for the resurrection.
If you look a little more closely at the icons, you’re notice that they’re not entirely blank. You can just make out faces on the other side. Because no matter what we do, heaven is always near by and always pressing down into our lives.
VI. Pascha is near.
When Jesus Christ died on the cross, “darkness came over all the land…the earth shook, the rocks split, the tombs broke open…[and] the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mat. 27:45-52). For the first time, we were given the chance for a new life.
We no longer need the veils in our hearts.
We no longer need to be entangled in busyness. We no longer need to be addicted to drugs or devices. We no longer need to justify ourselves. We no longer need to stay in the bushes.
“On this mountain" Isaiah wrote, "the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine…On this mountain he will destroy the veil that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever” ( 25:6-8).
When we’re bold enough to come out of our hiding places, we can walk again, face to face with God.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.