Sermon: Grace-full Life: All That Are Hiding, Come In Free
Scripture: Genesis 3:1-10
Date: October 8, 2017
When I was just getting ready to enter the second grade, my father was transferred from Granville, Ohio to Speedway, Indiana. Now Speedway was a great place to live as a kid. We moved into a neighborhood that was full of kids my age.
We were about a half mile from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but the roar of the cars on the track made it seem like it was even closer than that. The man that lived next door was a mechanic on the crew of A.J. Foyt, who was probably the most successful race car driver of the day and often there would be one of his cars parked in the neighbors drive. We could walk or ride our bikes to school. And there was a vacant lot right in the middle of the neighborhood which served as a baseball diamond in the summer, a football field in the fall and during the month of May, it was the race track for all of us speed demons on our bicycles.
And on warm summer nights it was home base for our neighborhood game of hide n seek. Or should I say, our variation of Hide n Seek called Kick the Can. Someone would dig a can out of the garbage and place it right in the middle of the vacant lot, and one person would be chosen to be “it”, and the rest of us would go and hide. The object of the game was for the person who was “it” to find everyone and gather them captive at home base before one of the hiders would manage to to beat them back to home base and kick the can. Because once that happened, everyone held captive on home base would be set free and the game would start all over again with the one who kicked the can now becoming the one who was “it”, who would now search for everyone else. On most summer evenings our game would start right after dinner and go until it was too dark to find anyone. Now most of us were just little squirts and pretty evenly matched when it came to kick the can, but occasionally some of the older kids – the fifth and sixth graders would join in, and the nature of the game would change. Because there was one of the older kids in particular who was much better than the rest of us. He was a deadly combination of being a great hider and also being the fastest runner. And his strategy was to go and hide where he could not be found, and then wait until everyone had been captured and then come out of hiding and make a mad dash to the can and free everyone. But sometimes he would just be in it for himself and hide so well that nobody could find him and finally the person who was “it” would give up and call out “olly olly oxen free” and the game would be over. But sometimes even that wouldn’t bring him out of hiding so we would all go out looking for him, but if he didn’t want to be found, it didn’t matter how many of us went out looking. We couldn’t find him.
In fact, it became a big joke to him. Sometimes he would even circle back around and we would give up looking and head home and we’d “find” him sitting on his front porch with a cold glass of water, and he’d taunt us about not being able to find him.
We moved from Speedway after three years but my parents had become great friends with the next door neighbors and they would keep us updated on the comings and goings in the neighborhood. And some years later, they told us that our world champion “kick the can” player had graduated from high school at the age of 18, and soon after that left home one night and didn’t come back. He finally hid so well that his parents couldn’t find him. But they never stopped looking and hoping. As far as I know, he might still be hiding somewhere. Some of us are excellent hiders throughout our life. And that’s when Hide and Seek becomes so much more than a children’s game. It becomes a matter of life and death.
In his book “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” a pastor by the name of Robert Fulghum writes:
In the early dry dark of an October’s Saturday evening, the neighborhood children are playing hide and seek. (It’s been thirty years since I played but) I remember how. Adults don’t play hide and seek. Not for fun anyway.
Did you have a kid in your neighborhood who always hid so good, nobody could find him? We did. After a while we would give up on him and go off, leaving him to rot wherever he was. Sooner or later he would show up, all mad because we didn’t keep looking for him. And we would get mad back. (In the game) there’s hiding and there’s finding we’d say. And he’d say it was hide and seek, not hide and give up. No matter what though, the next time he would hide to good again. He’s probably still hidden somewhere, for all I know.
And then Fulghum goes on to write:
As I write this the neighborhood game goes on, and there is a kid under a pile of leaves in the yard just below my window. He has been there a long time now, and they are about to give up on him over at the home base. I considered going out to the base and telling them where he is hiding. And I thought about setting the leaves on fire to drive him out. (But) finally I just yelled out the window (so everyone could hear) “Get Found Kid” It’s hard to know how to be helpful sometimes.
Now if you stop and think about it, this game hide and seek is a most curious game. It is one of the first games that most of us learned to play as kids. So I did some research and discovered that the game is really centuries old. In fact, no one really knows how old. But there are apparently references to the game in two of Shakespeare’s plays and even a reference from a Greek writing dating to the second century that seems to be about children playing hide and seek. But let me suggest that it goes back even farther than that – back to the time of creation. You see I think these words from the 3rd chapter of Genesis, describe the first “game” of hide and seek.
Read Genesis 3:1-10
I believe that the writer of Genesis is here describing the beginning of the longest game of Hide and Seek ever. This begins the story of humanity hiding and God seeking. It’s a story that began in the garden with what was really the first story about human beings interacting with one another and God in any way. Led by the serpent, who is the ultimate game player (hider if you will), Adam and Eve eat fruit from the one tree that God had placed off limits, and immediately their eyes are opened up to the nature of their sin, and so what do they do? Well the writer says that they ran and hid in hopes that their disobedience won’t be “found” out. But God comes looking for them. And so this cosmic game of hide and seek begins out of our sinfulness and continues today. Genesis tell us that ultimately it is our sin and guilt that makes us want to hide from God. And the reality is that the story of scripture is the story of human beings playing hide and seek with God. We hide and God continues to search. Throughout human history God has sent Kings, and prophets, and judges, and priests, and apostles, to search for us in our hiding places and though they have sometimes been able to find us and return us to home base, it was not long before mankind was hiding again. That scenario is repeated time after time throughout scripture. Humanity tries to hide and God continues to seek. And as humanity advances, we have found new ways to try and hide away from God. You see the writers of God’s story, the Bible, didn’t believe like the Romans and Greeks that time was cyclical in nature. That was a concept that time never really advanced but rather all of humanity was caught up in this cycle of time that doomed us to simply repeat what had gone on before.
The same triumphs. The same failures. So in hide and seek terms, the players may change but the game remains the same. Human Beings are just interchangeable parts in the continuing cycle of time. You have probably heard the old saying: “the more things change, the more things stay the same.”
But the Hebrews advanced the notion that time was not cyclical, but rather it was linear. That humanity was advancing along a line of history that was set in motion at creation. And so the past was not something to simply repeat, but rather it was something to learn from. The lineage of their ancestors became very important in their development. And they started to think in terms of “ages” or eras of history. And most often those “ages” were associated with the great patriarchs of their faith. Adam and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Moses. There was the age of the judges and the prophets. And the golden age under King David. And as those ages faded into the past, they came to understand that all of those were attempts by God to find humanity once more. In their own way, all of the patriarchs and prophets and kings and priests called the people to come back home from wherever it was that they were hiding. In their sinful states. In exile. In faithlessness. From under the oppression of foreign kings. From the worship of idols and other Gods. No matter where humanity hid, God has called us back. And He always does. There may be times in this life when we give up on ever finding God, but He never gives up on finding us. Throughout human history, from the moment that Adam and Eve first tried to hide from Him in the garden, God has never stopped looking, never stopped hoping, never stopped seeking, never stopped calling. And so the story says that Adam and Eve hid from God, and when God walked through the garden calling out “Adam, where are you?” and in both Hebrew and Greek, Adam means all mankind, this cosmic game of hide and seek began. Only in God’s time the rules are a bit different. First of all, God is always “it”. Always the one searching for us. Now there have been times in my life when I thought I was searching for God, only to discover that it was not God who was hiding. He was always there. I was the one who was trying to hide from God. I was hiding in my sin. My fears. My insecurities. Sometimes my sense of failure. Even in times of tragedy. Sometimes I even hid in a false sense of self assurance. Things were going great in my life. I didn’t really need God so I stopped looking for Him. I was content in my hiding places. But God never stopped searching for me. He is always “it”, trying to gather us all back at home base. You see, what I discovered was that all the time I thought I was hiding from God, I was really hiding from myself. Hiding from my humanity. Have you ever thought about why Adam tried to hide from God in the Garden? Now you may be thinking, well that’s an easy one. He felt guilty because he had disobeyed and so he feared God. But, I wonder, what about God did He fear? Adam had never experienced God’s wrath or judgement before. He had never felt pain. Had not experienced insecurity or failure. Never experienced guilt. Or judgement. He had no concept of consequences or even death. All the things that lead us to hide, had never been a part of Adam’s experience before. But yet we say he and Eve hid from God. But as I look again at this story, I don’t think that’s exactly what the story says. Look at it again. The writer tells us that God asked Adam why He hid. And Adam says he hid because he was naked. And God then says, “Who told you you were naked?” In other words, how did you come to believe that being naked was an unnatural state that you needed to hide from? In essence, God is saying there was no need for Adam to hide from Him. But I think the story implies that Adam was really hiding from himself. In Hebrew, the word we translate as naked means “without cover” and it is also associated with shame and humiliation. What the writer wants us to understand was that Adam hid to cover up his own shame and humiliation. As I look back on my life, I see that my efforts to hide have often been my attempts to cover over the shame and humiliation that come as the consequences of my poor choices. I am not so much hiding from God as I am hiding from myself, from whom God created me to be.
Robert Fulghum continues his story of hide and seek like this:
A doctor I knew found out that he had cancer. (He) knew about dying, and he didn’t want to make his family and friends suffer through that with him. So he kept it a secret. And he died. Everybody said how brave he was to bear his suffering in silence and not tell everybody. But privately his family and friends said how angry they were that he didn’t need them, (that he hid it from them), didn’t trust their strength. And (how much) it hurt that he didn’t say good-bye. He hid too well. Getting found would have kept him in the game.
What are you hiding from that is keeping you from really being a part of the game? You see the funny thing about hiding is that we can convince ourselves that our hiding effects no one but me. But that doesn’t take account of all of those who are over at home base waiting for you to leave your hiding place and come and kick the can and set them free. Often our hiding is the most selfish thing we can do. Adam was fooling himself, thinking he could somehow hide from God and by hiding avoid the consequences that come with life in the worldly realm. But God is always “it”, and no matter how well we think we have hidden, He will keep searching until He finds us and ultimately we find ourselves.
Jesus told a story about this human propensity to hide when he told about a boy who lived with his older brother and father in a great estate. He had everything he needed and more. But he was restless. Convinced there was a magic fruit out there that would bring him joy and fulfillment in life. And so he went to his father and said, I can’t stay here any longer. I know that there is something special out there for me that I can’t find here. Give me my half of your estate now so I can go and find it. And the father did, and he left, and began to hide himself in all sorts of worldly things until everything was gone, and that magic fruit remained hidden from him. And, in his desperation he looked to home base and realized that even a little in his father’s home was greater than all he had experienced searching for the pleasures of the world. Perhaps he had been wrong. Perhaps that which he sought had been hidden in plain sight in the home of his father. And his search was really hiding himself from it all along. So he decided he would allow himself to be found. And when he turned for home He discovered that his father had never stopped searching, never given up on him, and when he was still a long ways off, His father saw him coming and He ran to welcome his son home to home base. Because you see in God’s game of Hide and Seek, not only is He always the one that is searching, always “it”, but the way you win the game is not by being the best at hiding, but rather by being found. When we played hide and seek as a kid if there were those who couldn’t be found no matter how long we searched, we would end the game by calling out “olly olly oxen free” which has several derivations, all of which literally mean: “all that are hiding, come in free.” Come home free and clear. And the game would be over. But in this cosmic game of hide and seek, God begins the game by calling to all of us to come home from wherever we are hiding, free and clear of all the world might try to cover us with. No matter where, or when, or how we have tried to hide, He continues to call us, assure us, that we can come out of hiding, and come home free and clear. That’s what grace is all about. In a sense what we call the prevenient grace of God is His gps tracker that he places in each of our hearts from the moment of our creation. And it is with us wherever we might journey in this world, and even when we hide so well, when the world covers us in sin, and shame and humiliation, God knows where we are, and He will never let go, never stop searching, never stop hoping, until we come home. Always calling, always assuring, always loving. All who are hiding come in free and clear. That’s why He sent His son, Jesus, to find us once and for all and call us home.
Max Lucado tells the story of Maria, a single mother in Brazil trying to raise a family on a very limited income. Maria did the best she could, but it became evident that her oldest daughter, Christina, was hungering and thirsting for a better life. So, one day Christina caught a bus from their small village and headed for the big city. Maria knew Christina had little money. She also knew that being a beautiful teenage girl, she was destined for disaster in the city. So, Maria went down to the drug store and had as many pictures taken of herself as she could afford. Then she caught a bus to go and search of her daughter. Once in Rio de Janeiro, Maria visited every bar and cheap hotel she could find searching for Christina. And in phone booths and bathrooms Maria posted pictures of herself hoping against hope that Christina would see one. Out of pictures and low on hope, Maria went home.
Time passed. Then one day Christina stepped into the bathroom of a cheap hotel and suddenly saw the picture of her mother on the mirror. Christina took the picture and found written on the back these words: “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Come home.”
You see, God is like Maria. He loves us with an everlasting love and searches for us with reckless abandon. His grace is with us from the moment we are created, calling to us, “whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Come home.”
This first chapter of our church wide study talks about the prevenient grace of God. Prevenient grace is the love of God that will not let us go. Prevenient grace is love that is unanticipated, unexpected, surprising.
Prevenient grace is free in all and for all, for all time. It is the grace that calls to all of us all of our life, “all who are hiding, come home free and clear.”
Perhaps you are hearing that call today. This altar is home base. Hear His call. Experience the grace that has always been working in you. Won’t you get found and come home today, this very moment.