Scripture Reading: Genesis 3:8-13
Melinda Hartson, Liturgist
When our son was four I introduced him to the classic game of “Hide and Seek.” As children often do, he misheard the name of the game and immediately began calling it “hiding seek.” Change the name and you change the game. Hiding seek is different, it turns out, from hide and seek, in this small but important way. In hide and seek one person hides, the other seeks to find them. In hiding seek, the person hiding is the person also seeking to be found.
Here’s how it went. I closed my eyes and counted slowly to 20 as David left the room. Opened my eyes and said, “Ready or not, here I come.” That’s when I would hear a little voice shout, “Ready!” and simply follow my ear to his hiding place in the closet or under the bed. Easy catch.
He taught his sister essentially the same game. He would count, she would hide, he would walk into the hallway and say loudly, “Anna, do you want some chocolate cake?” From whatever she was hiding her little voice could be heard, “Yes!” Easy catch.
It turns out hiding seek is an ancient game. We even find it in the book of Genesis.
Adam is hiding in the garden, because he feels his nakedness after having eaten the forbidden fruit. Never mind that he’s clothed in fig leaves; when we are feeling ashamed, or guilty, or embarrassed, or self-doubting, or vulnerable, we could be wearing a super-insulated snow suit and we’d still feel exposed.
Adam hides. God comes into the garden and speaks these words: Ayekkah. “Where are you?” at which point Adam practically springs from his hiding place, as if he’s been holding his breath this whole time, waiting for the moment he can come out of hiding and tell God everything, and return to the life-giving relationship with the divine he and Eve had briefly, inadvertently set aside.
Hiding seek is the oldest game in the Bible. We see it played over and over in its pages. It’s also the most enduring game in the human community. We push others away, secretly hoping they will persist in seeking us out beyond our hiding, our protests, our off-putting behaviors. We go into hiding, but leave a trail of crumbs; or accidentally on purpose bump against the shoe rack in our dark hiding place, causing a shoe or two to fall to the floor; or we stick a toe through the crack in the doorway. Find me. Find me . . . Please find me.
It’s game played by friends and lovers, sisters and brothers, spouses, church folk, nations, neighbors. The poet said it this way:
We make ourselves a place apart behind light words that tease and flout; but oh, the agitated heart till someone really find us out.
Right now we have a whole society of agitated hearts divided into teams, involved in a rigorous game of hiding seek. One side pushing the other away, claiming superiority and self-sufficiency, but secretly desperate to be understood, and even to understand. To discover a way to live into the fullness of our humanity as we were created in the image of God, who is constantly working on both of those endeavors.
Every action, kind or cruel, a writer once said, is either a gift of love or a cry for love. Always one or the other. I bless you; or I beg for you to draw near, moving past my signals of hostility.
Adam hides, but clearly cannot wait to be found by his Creator, and asked the question we all yearn to be asked, if only so we can learn the answer ourselves while we’re offering it back.
The words spoken by God seem to melt Adam’s nascent heart. “Where are you?” And if someone were to ask you that question with genuine concern and attentiveness, it would surely melt your heart, too.
Where are you? Funny that would show up today; it’s been our Covid question for over a year. Mine as your pastor, over and over. Yours as leaders, members of the church family, welcomers of seekers and new arrivals, serving in the community, among your neighbors. Where are you? Are you okay? Are you connecting? Are you in the circle of community? Would you like to be?
And now, after this year like no other, it’s still my question, our question. Where are you? Inside, I mean. Tired? Relieved? Sad? Hopeful? Angry? Questioning? Impatient? Afraid? Assured? Trusting? Weary? Energized? Expectant? Downright Easterly?
Do you come to this moment more deeply aware of the presence and purpose of God in your life than ever? Or do you come more uncertain of those things than ever?
Where are you?
Today we share the sacrament of Holy Communion. We speak of this holy meal as a gift from God of forgiveness and new life, a moment of encounter in which we may hear a specific question, that original question, the first divine question ever.
Where are you? I truly believe that when we share the Lord’s table that is the whisper of God, the whisper of grace, into every ear, every hiding heart. How are you? How is it with your soul? What’s the state of your heart?
And whatever answer that question elicits is accepted, and understanding follows. Forgiveness and new life. The narrator tells us that in response to Adam’s answer God, who has listened past the trespass to the fear, the worry, the shame, makes for them garments, and clothes them. One of the most intimate gestures in all of Scripture. Initiated by an understanding God.
When we come to the table, listen for the question, its own gift of grace. And be ready with your own muddled or makeshift or well-established answer, maybe in a quiet whisper, maybe in the heart rather than on the lips. As we begin to emerge from this Covid year, where you are, how you are, how it is with your soul, what is the disposition of your heart.
I’m thinking of what I’ll say, how I’ll answer that whisper with my own. You be thinking, too.
And then imagine, as we break the bread, and turn it upward toward the sky, your own soul opened before God in in merciful foundness, in holy surrender.
Hiding seek. A game as old as time. As is the question, Where are you? As is the answer. Here. I am here. Old as time. And new as now . . .