the Rev. Paul Nancarrow

This sermon is based on Genesis 3:8-15 and Mark 3:20-35. Click here to listen to an audio version of this sermon.

Not long ago I woke up in the middle of the night from a bad dream. I was dreaming that I had been invited to  preach the sermon at a large gathering of many congregations in a major liturgy in a huge cathedral. It was quite the occasion. I arrived on time, found my way to the vesting room, joined the procession, went through the first part of the service, came to the sermon, got up in the pulpit, got out my device with my sermon text on it – and only then did I realize that my vestments came down to my waist and then stopped, which meant that everything below my waist was undressed. Exposed. Naked. So, my mind racing, I thought “Well, this pulpit covers almost everything; maybe people won’t be able to see that I’m not fully dressed. Maybe if I just act normal, nobody will notice.” I had a terrible desire to grab the waist of my vestments and try to pull them down; but I knew if I did that, people would notice, and then they’d also notice that I was showing. So I tried to keep my hands up on the pulpit desk and go ahead with the sermon. But I was so afraid and so embarrassed I could not get a single word out of my mouth. All I wanted to do was run away and hide. I woke up terrified – no, seriously, terrified – and I’ve never been so grateful to clutch the sheets to cover myself.

From our Genesis reading today: The LORD God came walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” And the man said, “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

There is a lot of hiding in our reading from Genesis this morning; hiding because of nakedness; hiding because the man and the woman do not want the bare truth about themselves to be seen.

The hiding begins even before the passage we read today. We start with verse 8; but in verse 7 the eyes of the man and the woman were opened, and they saw that they were naked – and their first impulse was to hide from each other, to cover up, to gather leaves quickly and make loincloths and hide their true selves from each other.

Then they hide from God, when they hear God walking in the garden. They want to hide because they know they’ve done wrong, they know they’ve broken the commandment, they know they’ve disrupted the right-relationship God gave them. They don’t want to be exposed now for what they  have become.

And then they try to hide from the truth. God says “Did you eat the fruit I told you not to eat?” And rather than see that truth, rather than let themselves be seen in that truth, rather than admit it and allow that God might actually forgive them, they do everything they can to point God’s attention somewhere else.

“Don’t look at me!” says the man. “It was the woman, the woman you gave me, she made me do it. It’s her fault. It’s your fault. Don’t look at me!”

“Don’t look at me!” says the woman. “It was the snake, the snake you created, he made me do it. It’s the snake’s fault. It’s your fault. Don’t look at me!”

The man and the woman hide from each other, they hide from God, they hide from the truth. And the sad thing is that they think that by hiding they will protect themselves. They think this truth will diminish them, or at least diminish the fantasies they have about themselves; so they try to keep the truth from being seen, they try to keep themselves from being seen in the truth. But the reality is just exactly the opposite: it is hiding from the truth that diminishes them, it is refusing to see the truth, even difficult truth, that blocks them from being in right-relationship with each other and with God; it is refusing to let themselves be seen in the truth that diminishes them from being the whole people God wants them to be.

And that kind of hiding from the truth doesn’t stop with the Genesis reading. We see it in the reading from Mark today, as well. Jesus comes into Galilee proclaiming “The time has come; the Reign of God is at hand; repent; and believe the good news.” And people don’t want to repent, they don’t want to take a good hard look at themselves, they don’t want to admit the truth about who they are. People don’t want to believe, they don’t want to open their hearts to God, they don’t want to put their trust in the good news that God will transform them, God will renew them, that God will help them become the people God wants them to be. So they hide from that truth. Jesus preaches and they say “He has gone out of his mind”; Jesus heals and they say “He’s in league with the devil, the ruler of demons.” They try to point attention anywhere but at themselves. “Don’t look at me!” they say. “This crazy demon-exorcising stuff has nothing to do with me!” And that diminishes them. That prevents them from seeing the truth. That prevents them from seeing themselves in the light of God’s truth. That prevents them from being forgiven and being made whole and doing the will of God.

And I suspect most of us do a certain amount of hiding in our own lives too.

Say you’re having a bad day – not just a day of inconveniences and annoyances, but really profound sadness, really a sense of being lost and alone – and someone says “How are you?” and you answer “Oh fine. Everthing’s fine.” How much would it really cost you to let yourself be seen in the truth of sadness, to let someone you trust know your truth and hold you up in prayer and love? But how often do we prefer instead to hide?

Or say someone you know is doing something harmful – harmful to themselves, harmful to people around them, harmful to relationships – and you know you could be caring enough to confront them on it. Not to get angry, not to blame, not to make a scene; but just to speak the truth, and speak the truth in love, and even though the truth would be hard to hear the love would make it easier to connect. But how often are any of us willing to have that kind of conversation? How often do we hide?

Or say something wonderful has happened to you.You’ve received a great gift; you’ve felt a great joy; you’ve known an awareness of the Presence of God. And how many people are you going to trust to tell that to? I saw a survey once that said nearly half of all adult Americans report having had some kind of deep, joyous, life-altering religious or mystical experience, nearly half. And yet a significant majority of those same people say they are afraid to tell other people about it – afraid they’ll be judged, afraid they’ll be mocked, afraid people will think they’re weird. They feel like they have to hide their true spirit, they feel like they cannot let their true joyous self be seen. How often do we hide our truest selves?

The message of the Gospel for us today is that we do not need to hide. We do not need to try to cover up the truth about who we are. The Genesis reading reminds us that we can’t hide from God anyway: we can get in the bushes, we can point the finger somewhere else; God still knows us better than we know ourselves. But more than that, the Mark reading tells us that God forgives, God forgives everything, and the only thing God can’t forgive is our refusal to let ourselves be forgiven. The truth about us is that God loves us – whatever else may be true, it is always and unshakably true that God loves us – and God in love creates us, and God in love can make us new. And if we can be willing to see that truth, if we can be willing to let ourselves be seen in that truth, then we will be sisters and brothers of Jesus, then we will be doing the will of God, then we will be more the people God wants us to be. And the more we share the truth about each other, the stronger we’ll be to share God’s truth in the world.

What good truth about you will you allow to be seen today?


  1. Jewels Wolf says:

    Thank you Rev. Nancarrow for this wonderful sermon. I enjoyed reading it and hearing your message. I miss hearing sermons like this at the church I currently attend so this really fills a need for me.

  2. Carter Hannah says:

    This was an amazing sermon and I thought you were speaking directly to me! Then after Church, I heard someone else say how wonderful the sermon was. Then another who said,; “how can I ever tell Paul how special that sermon was?” So you spoke to many of us. Thank you, Carter