Yesterday at Upper Room, I preached a sermon on Romans 5:12-19 and Genesis 3:1-7. Early on, I decided that I should write this sermon in a unique. So, I wrote a poem. Or at least something resembling a poem. Reading poetry, especially my own, was a new experience for me, and I found it very different from preaching. I felt much more exposed and vulnerable.
The sermon/poem was well-received – maybe just because it was significantly shorter than most of my sermons, but hopefully because it spoke to people’s hearts. The text of the sermon is below, but I suggest reading the Romans and Genesis passages first so that it makes sense.
You made us… for a garden.
Soil and clay fashioned by divine hands and Spirit-breathed into life,
Made to cultivate and till with the Gardener.
Made to be fruitful and multiply
Made to fill and subdue.
Made not to be alone, but together.
Made to hear your footsteps in the cool of the day,
and come running to meet You,
arms open and nothing to hide,
swooped up in your love and laughing in shared delight.
Made to enjoy Your garden together.
Made for satisfaction.
Made for life.
But we chose death.
Adam and Eve reached for that fruit
grasping for equality with you.
The trees that you gave us were not enough
we wanted more.
Being who we are wasn’t enough
we had to be like You.
Life wasn’t enough
we wanted life and knowledge of good and evil…
… and we lost them both.
We chose death.
The garden where once we delighted in love
became a place for hiding and fear.
Your presence ceased to be our delight
Your presence became our dread.
And we spiraled down.
One disobedience leading to others.
Brother kills brother.
Brother steals brother’s birthright.
Brothers sell brother into slavery and traffic brother to Egypt.
And death reigned.
And death reigns.
Death reigns over children robbed of childhood,
toys pried from their fingers and replaced with guns,
forced to kill for the sake of a man they do not know
and a movement they did not start.
Death reigns over women and girls locked up in brothels
forced to do whatever men please,
men who are prisoners themselves –
captive to death disguised as desire.
Death reigns over the child in the sweatshop –
fingers-worn and soul-wearied,
Just so we can afford to keep up with the fashions
and pretend to look like our silver-screen gods.
Death reigns over the girls and boys
who worship these silver-screen gods –
air-brushed idols who demand lives,
starving their followers of food and self-esteem.
Death reigns over the woman abused by her husband,
hiding her bruises and fears from the world around her
and trying to keep an illusion of perfection,
hoping vainly that things will change by remaining the same.
Death reigns over the consumer
coming home from the store with shopping bags
filled with high-fructose poison
that slowly turns our own cells against us.
Death reigns over suburbia –
neighborhoods of half-furnished mansions
freshly mowed and pristine on the outside,
hiding the debt and threats of foreclosure within.
Death reigns over our relationships.
We desire connection without vulnerability.
So we give up on people
and seek community on a computer screen.
Death reigns over our love.
Wanting control, we kill those we love
through actions and words, withholding affection
and, without knowing it, denying love for ourselves.
Our murderous plans become a suicide.
leaving us alone in a self-dug grave
of guilt, emptiness and despair;
life-sapped and soul-drained.
leaving us in a graveyard of doubt
afraid to pray
afraid to love
Death reigns like an oppressive regime
Mocking their captors into hopeless skepticism
Doing all that they can to rob us of hope,
convincing us that the truest realities are doubt and depression
How can this regime be defeated?
Who will free us from this oppressor?
Can an enemy this strong be defeated by anything
but an army of strength and force?
We longed for You.
And You came.
But you didn’t send an army.
You sent Christ into this world
not with gun or sword in his hand,
but with a free gift.
Christ came to undo what Adam did
by not doing what Adam did.
Christ didn’t grasp for equality with You.
Christ made himself nothing.
Christ hangs on the cross
arms open and nothing to hide
swooping us up again in his love,
taking our sin, our doubt and despair.
Christ hangs on the cross
And we hang with him.
And we die with him.
All dead with Christ
Death thinks that it’s won
Death thinks that it reigns
But death died on the cross, too.
Death is dead and Christ is alive
The free gift is an empty tomb.
The free gift is a new relationship.
The free gift is new possibilities
The free gift has a message attached:
“Death does not reign.”
Life reigns and sends the Spirit
breathing fresh breath into dry, weary souls.
Redeeming our love and raising our spirits
Hope reigns and sends Christ’s light,
piercing itself into dark rooms and cells.
Undoing shackles and revealing true beauty.
Christ reigns and stands among us
Next to the griever, the patient, the victim.
Next to the buried, calling them up.
Life reigns. And brings freedom.
Freedom to pray
Freedom to love
Freedom to return to the place we belong.
But life is not like death.
Life is not an oppressor.
Life is a free gift.
Christ reigns and stands among us,
extending to us in nail-pierced hands
the free gift.
Life is for us to choose.
And to take it,
all we have to do is die.
Christ, we choose life.
Amen. Amen. Amen.