In Genesis 12, God just starts talking to an old, childless man living in the region that we now refer to as “Iraq.” He makes the man some astounding promises regarding a blessing for the entire world, and “a seed” that will come through his…(ahem) flesh.
Twenty-four years later, at the age of ninety-nine, and having tried and failed at engineering the blessing, God reminds him of the Promised Blessing, the Covenant, and tells Abram that he will now be called “Abraham: father of many nations.” He then says, “This is my covenant which you shall keep between you and me and your seed after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised… in the flesh of your foreskins… he who is eight days old. Every male throughout your generations… shall surely be circumcised.”
And Abraham did say unto the Lord, “Your Word is good, oh Lord… but couldn’t we just wear t-shirts? …Maybe start a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, wear uniforms, pass out certificates; how about an edgy tattoo on the arm? But please, God, don’t touch me there; you’re making me uncomfortable.”
OK, maybe he didn’t say that, but certainly he thought that. That was a tender spot for old Abraham and his wife, Sarah—tender, in more ways than one. It represented their deepest hope and their repeated failure—that place was shame.
Well, Abraham did it. That’s faith, hope, and love in the place of shame!
Then the Lord said, “Next year you will have a son.”
Sarah laughed, saying, “Will I again have pleasure?” And God got the last laugh, for the following year, Sarah gave birth to a son, and they named him Isaac (that is “He laughs”).
The Promised Blessing, Life, and Laughter did not come through a process of addition but a process of subtraction… a seemingly absurd subtraction, and God didn’t explain why.
About 430 years later, God “sought” to kill Moses until his wife cut the foreskin from their firstborn son and held it to Moses’ “foot,” saying, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” They usually leave that part out of the movies, and God still doesn’t explain his reasoning.
But forty years later, speaking through Moses to the descendants of Abraham, in Deuteronomy 30, God begins to explain: “Your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart… that you may live.”
Love and Life are not gained through a process of addition (trying harder), but a process of subtraction; something is to be cut away from the heart, exposing something else within the heart that will love Love and live Life in freedom.
“God will circumcise your heart,” says Moses. And then, “The Word… is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it.” In Romans 10, Paul quotes Moses in Deuteronomy 30, revealing the meaning of circumcision and the identity of this Word that is already hidden in the heart of Israel in 1500 BCE. This Word is the Word of Faith, that is in fact Jesus, who is the Promised Blessing—the Seed.
It would seem that every human heart is like a seed.
And every seed has an outer casing or husk.
But within the husk is a kernel that is eternal, like the Word hidden in a manger or buried in a tomb or spoken into dust the day Adam is created.
St. Paul makes it clear, “Faith, Hope, and Love” in us is Christ Jesus in us.
It’s the eternal treasure that the Good Father sees in his Son.
It’s his own love returning as faith, in spite of all shame.
It’s the eternal treasure that the Good Bridegroom seeks in his Bride.
It’s his own spirit in communion with her spirit, causing her to surrender her shame and reveal her hope for her Bridegroom’s Love.
“Faith, Hope, and Love”—what God does—is the kernel and eternal.
And perhaps, our own ego, our shame, our illusion of control, our flesh —what we think we do—is the husk, or in biblical parlance, the “chaff.”
Until God threshes the wheat which cracks the chaff and makes a person feel very “uncomfortable,” all that proceeds from the human heart is nothing… but evil.
But when God separates the chaff from the kernel, the Word begins to grow.
The Word that is preached calls to the Word that is hidden. The curtain in the temple of the soul rips from top to bottom, and the Spirit—like a fountain—fills the empty self with God’s self, uniting the self to God and an entire new creation: that’s everything that’s anything, the endless Seventh Day, the Eighth Day, everything Good, the place where everyone loves Love, and lives Life in freedom.
So why don’t we love Love and live Life in freedom right now?
I suppose we’d rather wear t-shirts; we like our chaff, and so we’ve begged our Lord not to touch us in the place of shame.
Sociologist Brenee Brown claims that people who “connect,” who love Love and live Life in freedom, fully embrace vulnerability; they’re willing to let go of “who they think they should be” in order to be “who they actually are.”
“Who we think we should be” is who we are not, by definition. And yet, this is the self that we present to God and to the world. And so, we are a world of actors interacting with other actors and wondering why we feel so alone… and religion makes it worse. We gain knowledge of love, in order to act like we do love, and then find ourselves unable to love, and even wondering if there is such a thing as “Love.”
And here is the ultimate irony: You and I are the very Breath of Love; we are Eternal Treasure in vessels of clay; we are the Word that God has spoken, hidden in what we think we do or don’t do—our ego, our shame, our judgments, our flesh.
“You were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, by the putting off of the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,” wrote Paul. Jesus is our Bridegroom of blood. He gives us the courage—the faith, hope, and love—to lose ourselves and find ourselves in him: the Body of Christ.
The Body of Christ is not who we should be.
It’s who we are, but don’t yet know we are, for everyone is hiding.
At the Cross, we gain the courage to confess our sins and become who we truly are.
And although it once felt rather absurd and uncomfortable, everything ends (and begins) in Love, Life, and Laughter.