A Sermon for Wednesday of Laetare (Psalm 102)

Garden of Eden-Shame IconHave you ever had the dream where you were up in front of a crowd giving a speech, only to realize at some point that you were totally naked? It’s difficult to think of something more embarrassing than this. Many people won’t even be caught dead wearing a bathing suit in public! Fewer still are comfortable being totally naked, even with their spouse. Even models don’t like it when photos are released of them without first having been touched up. We’re not comfortable in our own skin.

Now contrast this with these words from Genesis 2: “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed,” (Gen 2:25). Could you even imagine what it would be like to be naked and not ashamed? To be naked is to be entirely vulnerable. When you’re exposed, there’s nothing to hide. We’re not comfortable in our own skin. Ashamed of our physical appearance—and a whole lot more—we hide things.

This shame is a result of the fall into sin: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths,” (Gen 3:7). Genesis shows us some startling before and after photos of Adam and Eve. In the before photo, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. After the Fall, they were so desperate to cover themselves up, they even resorted to using fig leaves!

From this point forward, the Old Adam has become obsessed with covering things up and keeping secrets. Adam and Eve were no longer comfortable being completely exposed to and vulnerable with one another. Consequently, their marriage suffered, as did every other relationship they had. Somewhere along the line, Adam failed to catechize Cain in the importance of a commandment as basic as, “you shall not murder.” God’s Word remained buried deep somewhere within Adam’s heart.

Cain’s question to God reveals the extent to which sin damages our relationships: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” This question betrays a very wrong assumption: that we are not our brother’s keeper. Instead, like Cain, we are too busy trying to cover up our sin—sin that causes harm to our neighbor—to attend to their needs.

Not only do our relationships with God and others suffer because of our sin, our sin also causes us a great deal of suffering. Consider the words of the Psalmist:

My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread (Psalm 102:4).

This is what guilt will do to you. It weighs heavily and interferes with our ability to function. Sometimes we forget that God gave us His Commandments because it’s to
our benefit to keep them. We disobey God to our own detriment.

God would have you attend to your relationships, both with those around you and with God. Since you are your brother’s keeper, and since Christ is your Lord, you have an obligation to, as Romans 12:18 says, “live peaceably with all, so far as it depends on you.” And to outright reject God’s commandment about going to church—remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it Holy—amounts to a rejection of the Christian faith.

In Matthew 5 Jesus says, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” (Matt 5:16). It’s hard to build relationships, but it’s very easy to destroy them. One easy way to do this is to hold on to grudges. But to do this is to live in darkness. It brings shame to your Lord. As a Christian, you are to bear Christ’s love to the world. To live with unresolved conflict is to deny others the very forgiveness for which Christ died.

You have brought shame to your Lord, but Jesus doesn’t leave you in your shame. The shame that began with the nakedness of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 was carried to the cross by Jesus, who had nothing to hide or be ashamed of. His nakedness is what makes it possible for God to take your shame away. Hear how shamefully He was treated:

“And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him,” (Mark 15:16—20).

After beating Him, they stripped Him of the purple cloak. They left it on just long enough for the blood of His open wounds to dry on the fabric. Then they tore it off, re-opening the wounds and exposing His nakedness. They put His own clothes back on him for a time, again giving the blood a chance to soak in to the fabric and to dry. And again, they stripped Him naked and cast lots to see who would get what garment (Mark 15:24). And then, beaten, bloody, and naked, they crucified Him.

As we sing in “Shattered Bliss”: Son of God, Incarnate Savior, Son of Man, both Christ and Lord, who in naked shame would offer on the cross His blood outpoured. But His real shame wasn’t that He was crucified naked; Jesus didn’t have the shame associated with sin that you and I have. No, His shame was that you, His own beloved child, have loved your sin more than Him. This is the shame He bore on the cross.

And all of this your Lord did for you that you might be joined with Him through Baptism into His death and resurrection, that your shame might be covered up with the royal robe of His blood (LSB #438, verse 4). In Christ, you have nothing to be ashamed of, for in Holy Baptism, you have been clothed in Christ (Gal 3:27; Rev 7:14).

Since you belong to Him, you must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). In the words of the hymn, “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now” (LSB, 440):

“Grant that I Your passion view with repentant grieving. Let me not bring shame to You by unholy living. How could I refuse to shun every sinful pleasure, since for me God’s only Son suffered without measure?”

Soli Deo Gloria

+ Rev. Eric Andersen
Psalm 102
Midweek #4: Wednesday of Laetare, 2015
Zion, Summit: https://www.facebook.com/zionlcms
Immanuel, Hodgkins: http://immanuelhodgkins-org.webs.com/
Steadfast Throwdown: http://steadfastthrowdown.org/
Around the Word Bible Studies: http://www.whatdoesthismean.org/bible-studies.html

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