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St. Paul’s – Proper 5 – June 9,2024

Thank you

Walking stick

While I was in one of my pain medication induced stupors Susan and I were talking. Somewhere in our conversation she asked, Where are you? She could see that I was sitting no more than three feet from her. But that’s not what she was asking about. I had slipped away and become quiet. Maybe I was distracted or preoccupied, I really don’t remember where I went. My body was there but I had left the room.

I have to tell you, and so would Susan, that wasn’t the first time she has asked me that question. Pain meds or not. But this time I heard it differently. It wasn’t an angry question. And it wasn’t an accusation. What I heard was, I miss you.

Susan was calling me back not just to her but to myself. She was inviting me to be self-reflective and to look inside at what was going on with me. The frustrations, self-pity, the windings if my knee will ever get back to normal……She was asking me to be vulnerable, to risk self-disclosure, and to speak from a deep place. She wanted me to share myself with her, to be present to her, and to let her in.

And I wonder if that’s exactly what’s going on in today’s reading from Genesis when God said to Adam, Where are you? It’s the very first question God asks Adam. In fact, it’s the first question God asks in scripture. That suggests to me that it’s a pretty important question.

I wonder if we need to re-hear that question from God. I think we are so familiar with the Adam and Eve stories and so sure that they are about disobedience, original sin, failure, and being bad that we can’t hear anything new or different. But what if there is another way to hear God’s question.

How we understand that question has a lot to do with tone. If we hear a loud angry accusing voice yell, Where the ___ are you?! we know what’s coming next. If we hear the concerned and worried voice of a parent looking for his or her child call, Where are you? that question has a different meaning. And if we hear the soft, sultry, sensuous voice of a lover calling his or her beloved, Where are you? it has another meaning.

Maybe God is simply looking for and desiring Adam’s presence. Maybe it’s not an angry accusing question. Maybe it’s not about disobedience, punishment, or being bad. Maybe it’s simply God wanting to be with Adam and Eve. What if God is calling Adam and Eve back to themselves? What if the question is more for Adam and Eve’s benefit than God’s? And what if it’s the kind of question we are to ponder and follow rather than answer? Where are you? 

Please understand, during my recovery, I have had plenty of time to ponder…… That’s what I want us to do. I want us to follow and ponder that question in three ways.

Here’s the first way. Where are you? Where are you in your life today? What’s it look like? What’s going on? Where are you in your life of prayer and spirituality? Where are you in your friendships and relationships, in your marriage, parenting? Where are you in your work? Where are you in those things that have left you brokenhearted and grieving? Where are you in those things you regret and wish you hadn’t said or done, in your disappointments, failures? Where are you in your joys and thanksgivings?

That question – Where are you? – is the invitation to be self-reflective, to look at your life, to observe what’s going on. But don’t take the next step and turn it into a conclusion or a judgment. It’s just information. It’s about honestly looking at ourselves and saying, This is where I am. And maybe it’s also saying, And this is where I’d like to be, or This is where I am not, or This is where I never want to go again……. Where are you? asks us to simply notice what’s going on, for better or worse.

I wonder what you see when you follow and ponder that question, Where are you in your life today?

Here’s the second way I want to think about that question. Where are you hiding today? What parts of your life are you hiding and why are you hiding? In what ways do you hide? Do you hide through busyness, work, taking care of the kids, distractions, the things that get you high –shopping, alcohol, drugs, sex, the internet?

Do you hide in your preoccupations, dreams and fantasies. Do you hide because you are afraid, embarrassed, because you feel some guilt or shame? Are you hiding from the hard decisions in life you just don’t want to deal with or from those difficult relationships and circumstances you just don’t know how to deal with? Are you hiding from your past or maybe your future?

That’s where Adam and Eve are today. They are naked and afraid. They are hiding among the trees of the garden. They’re trying to protect themselves, eliminate vulnerability and risk. They’re trying to cover up in such a way that they won’t be seen or noticed.

They think they are hiding from God but my experience of hiding, and maybe this is true for you too, is that I’m not really hiding from God or other people. I’m hiding from myself. Every time I hide from myself….. I live, to use an image from today’s gospel (Mark 3:20-35), as a divided house. The house of my life is divided. I live with a part of me here and a part of me there, but there’s not the whole of me anywhere.

I wonder what hiding looks like in your life today. And, once again, as you ponder that don’t make it a conclusion or a judgment. It’s just information. Let it inform you, offer you new opportunities and possibilities. Let it teach and guide you.

Growing up, the neighborhood I lived in had many children and we would play together daily….vaarious games……One of which was Hide and seek. At the end of the game those who were not found were given a free pass when we would shout: Olly olly oxen free

So….Here’s the third way I want to think about thatquestion. It’s a theological term that you already know.

You probably first learned it in your childhood. Olly olly oxen free. It really is theological. Olly olly oxen free. German-“Everyone is free. “

Regardless of who you are, what you’ve done or left undone, what has or has not happened in your life; regardless of what you are hiding, where you are hiding, or why you are hiding – Where are you? Olly olly oxen free! It’s the promise that you can come out and you’ll be safe. You won’t lose the game. It’s going to be ok.

What would it mean and take for you to come out today, to no longer hide? It’s not about coming out and hanging your head in shame, or making excuses, or worrying about what will happen. But just to come out, to be more authentically yourself, to be more fully alive, to trust that it really is ok and so are you.

And God called to God’s people, Where are you? Olly olly oxen free. Olly olly oxen free.