Saturday, October 07, 2006

B, Pent 18 Proper 22 - Genesis 2:22-25 & Hebrews 2:10-11 "The Shame of Shame"

Key Texts

Genesis 2:22-25 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (NIV)

Hebrews 2:10-11 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. (NRSV)


What would cause you the most shame? If you were dropped into the centre of a crowd what happenings would cause you the greatest public humiliation and embarrassment? To be found cheating, lying, or stealing? Being seen doing something silly, perhaps? Having your inner secrets revealed in public; projected up on a big screen for all to see! What would cause you the most shame; what would make you ashamed?

Today we focus on shame. We do so because in the West shame and being ashamed are a state of being most people are losing, or have lost, or are being encouraged to lose. We are taught to have no shame over things that are clearly shameful; things that are publicly shameful, known to all of us as shameful, imbedded in our conscience and being from birth.

The shamelessness we are encouraged to embrace is a far cry from the shameless world in which Adam and Eve were placed at creation. With all the innocence of children, children of God, they lived without shame. We heard in the Old Testament reading from Genesis two that after Adam’s longing for a mate, God gave him Eve, woman from man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:24-25)

Adam and Eve were naked and they felt no shame. But for us, nakedness would have to be one of the most, if not the most, shameful states of being in which to be found. Unlike Adam and Eve we do much to cover our nakedness from each other.

In fact if one wanted to truly know we fallen beings live in a fallen world, and dispel the myth that as Christians we are without sin and have moved past God’s word of law condemning us and calling us to true repentance found only in the cross, let us then all be naked once again. I guarantee that within milliseconds of us doing so, our true sinful natures would be revealed. In fact it would be revealed suddenly in two ways, physiologically and sexually. Physiologically, we would see without our clothing many bodily bulges and blemishes. And sexually, our eyes would not be hidden from covetous and lustful leering either, and following this, grievous sexual acts would lead to chaos.

Nakedness reveals our shame. The bible speaks of it over and over again (see below for more texts) and our human actions confirm the truth of the shame found in our fallen nakedness. One only has to see what happens with sexuality in our society to see the shamefulness of human nakedness.

While sexuality and the natural urge are promoted more and more today, humanity still seeks to hide all sorts of sanctified and unsanctified sexual actions. Pornography still remains out of sight in people’s rooms, under the bed or on the computer. Homosexuality for many still is hidden in the closet. In a bid to hid shame, abusers of children always tell their victims to keep the secret or else they’ll get in trouble. And even the perfectly normal sexual relationship of husbands and wives given as a gift from God, is not practised in public, because it is shameful to do so. Unlike Adam and Eve who felt no shame there is cause for great shame if these things were to be unveiled and made public.

Although the ignorant sinful world calls us not to be ashamed of ourselves, most still have a healthy sense of shame. Just as Adam and Eve after the fall discovered shame in the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we too echo Adam’s words to God and each other, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10) We are afraid and ashamed of what we see in our naked selves and of what others might see. So much of our human nakedness is hidden throughout our lives.

This shame of nakedness is far greater than just being caught with our pants down, but extends to every limit of our humanity. We do our best to clothe our spiritual shame, our moral shame, and our intellectual shame with lies, deceit, and half truths, hoping that we don’t get caught out. However, God still comes seeking us in this fallen garden asking, “Where are you?”

But even in the midst of our shame and humiliation we hear that the Son of God is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11). How can this be, when before God in our fallen sinful state he sees beyond our futile attempts to clothe ourselves and sees our shame?

Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters because he is the author of our salvation. He took our shame and wants us to continually allow him to expose our shame and take it to the cross — the epitome of shame. God encourages us in Hebrews chapter 12 to… fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

The author of your salvation knows your shame, and bore it on the shameful cross. So allow him to continue exposing that shame, and let him take it to the cross where it belongs. Just as God stitched skins together and clothed Adam and Eve from nakedness, allow Jesus to clothe you in his robes of righteousness which he won for all on the cross.

This is the faith into which we have been baptised, the same faith the heroes of the Old Testament lived by, the same faith the fathers of the Christian Church lived by, and the same faith we have been given in God’s word in baptism to live by. This is the faith given by the Holy Spirit which demands we hang onto Jesus no matter what shame we might bear, and it is the faith by which God himself is not ashamed to be called our God, for he has prepared a city for us. (Hebrews 11:16)

All sorts of shameful things happen amongst Christians and non Christians alike. In the gospel Jesus addresses the shameful nakedness of humanity in divorce and adultery, just one area of our fallen sinful nature. Jesus ultimately addresses the shame of adultery by taking it and all shame on himself on the cross.

But even as shameful things still happen, as Christians the most shameful thing for us now is this: Failing to trust Jesus, and forsaking the faith given by the Holy Spirit, and still seeking to hide our sinful shame from the forgiveness found at the cross. Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)

God comes to humanity in the fallen garden of this world and asks the same question he asked of Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” And despite our shame we can come to him as children — children of God clothed in Christ — trusting in his mercy and forgiveness of sins. And his promise to us is this: The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 10:14) Amen.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father let us come to Jesus like little children; dress us in the clothes of humility. Let us not be hindered by our shame. Let us fall into the arms of Jesus, so that his hands cover our shame and we receive the clothes of his blessed glory. Amen.

Other texts on shame and nakedness

Romans 1:16, 1:26, 6:20-23, 8:35; 1 Corinthians 1:27, 6:5, 15:34; 2 Corinthians 4:2, 5:1-5; Ephesians 5:11; Philippians 3:18-21; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Hebrews 2:11, 11:16, 12:2; Revelations 3:14-22, 16:15, 21:27.