The Alternate Ending to Last Sunday’s Sermon

If I could re-preach last Sunday’s sermon, I would. Let me explain.
While shaking hands with church members at the sanctuary’s front door after the service on Sunday, I heard a few of our folk talking about how they wanted to know how the story that I shared in the sermon ended. The story went like this:
When I was a small child, the iron that sat in the laundry room fascinated me. My mother, ever the perceptive parent, recognized my interest in the shiny, angular object and warned me never to go near it. Of course, that only heightened my interest and I waited for an opportunity to get close to it.
One day, an opportunity presented itself. My mother had been in the laundry room one morning but had disappeared into another part of the house. Seizing the moment, I drew close to the iron and marveled at its curious dimensions and the distorted reflection of the room in its mirror-like surface. I did not touch the iron gently with my finger. No, I took my entire hand and pressed it up against the face of the iron as though I was high-fiving the laundry tool.
I remember that my hand momentarily stuck to the fiery hot surface and I pulled it back quickly, stifling a yelp. The pain came in waves and I felt nauseous at what I had done. But cry out for help, I did not. Instead, I tiptoed into the kitchen, retrieved a cereal bowl and filled it with cold water. Then, I retreated to the house’s crawl space where I submerged my blistered hand while I hid from my mother.
Why did I not cry out for help? Why did I hide? I hid because I was ashamed of what I had done. I hid because I knew that I had disobeyed my mother and was certain that she would be upset with me.
“Jeff,” one of our church members implored after worship, “We want to know what happened to you after you hid from your mother.”
In truth, it never occurred to me that the story needed the kind of resolution that was requested by a couple of our church members. To me, the point of that childhood memory was that our first impulse—like Adam and Eve’s—is to hide when we have committed a sin.
But this is where I failed.
You may recall that I mentioned that God’s response to Adam and Eve’s disobedience felt less like punishment—that is, being banished from the Garden—and more like a lifting of the veil of protection from the world’s pain and terrors. The consequences of our sins have real world implications that oftentimes cannot be undone. When we sin, other people can get hurt. When we disobey God, we ourselves can get hurt. When we don’t do what we should do, people can suffer unnecessarily.
Here’s how I should have ended the sermon:
When my mother found me in the crawl space, she was not angry with me. To my surprise, she was deeply saddened that I had been hurt. She found me, and --of course--she cared for my wounds. My mother didn’t want to berate me. She wanted to care for me in my pain.
I believe that one of the reasons that God wants us to live lives that are sanctified (think, set apart) is because sin causes pain. Yes, it separates us from God’s Holy presence. And yes, it is only through the gift and sacrifice of Christ Jesus that our sins are atoned. But more than anything, I think, God does not want us to suffer. And sin causes pain. God’s declarations that we should avoid sin are rooted in the reality that God does not want us to hurt. My mother did not need to punish me for disobeying her. The consequence of my willful disobedience was punishment enough.
Let’s also not forget that my mother comforted me in my pain, just as the Good Father cared for his prodigal son who had decided to return home. God wants to hold us, especially in our woundedness.
If I could re-preach my sermon, this is how I would have ended it.