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By the time our First reading from Genesis begins in verse eight, the serpent (who by the way is never identified as Satan in Scripture) has already deceived Adam and Eve into disobeying God’s command. Now they are engaged in a hide and seek game of their own—and the stakes are high.

As they hide in the garden like children, God seeks after them, fully aware that something has gone very, very wrong. We listen as God calls out to them, “Where are you?” This is the first question that God asks in Scripture and, as is the case with every good story, it is asked not just of the characters on the page and in the scene, but of every single one of us. At once, the question assumes an answer—we are not where we should be—and poses yet another question—where should we be?

The last one hundred years have been marked by the exponential growth and sophistication of technology. The world is undoubtedly more connected than ever, but it may also be more distracted than ever. Scientists have long warned about the dangers of getting distracted by technology. When left unchecked, it can distract us from everything from our ability to have meaningful face-to-face conversations, to keeping our eyes on the road and off our screens as we drive.

So it is with our lives of faith.

In his commentary on the Book of Genesis, Walter Brueggemann suggests that the serpent in the Garden of Eden is the world’s first theologian because it is the serpent who convinces humankind to exchange obedience to God for theology about God.  If we think about God narrowly enough, we can think our way to salvation. Our knowledge becomes a means of self-preservation and protection, rather than a means of transmitting and communicating faith in the living God. And yet, God cuts through our words and ideas, persistently calling out to us, “Where are you?”

In the same way, when moments of tension invariably arise in our communities of faith, instead of turning to prayer and patient discernment, we get distracted by arguments and anxieties and self-interests, and so we take our ball and go home. We cut ourselves off from community and, in turn, we short-circuit the possibility of reconciliation.

God’s voice calls out after us as we stomp away, “Where are you?”

For us to consider this question, we must discern deeply as to where we are in relation to where God is inviting us.  One place to start is to take account of all that distracts us from living lives of faithfulness. Distractions may look different for different people, but their central characteristic is the same: they draw our attention away from focusing on the life-giving parts of our lives.

We can become distracted from our relationships with friends and family, Work that once brought much joy to our lives can become occluded by the desire for position and power, influence and wealth. Even our days of rest and vacation can become muddled with concerns about what we might be missing on Facebook. All these things distract us from the places in our lives that afford us peace and joy and love, and ultimately, they distract us from our life before God.

The possibilities for getting distracted in our lives, and particularly our lives of faith, are many. But the Good News is that ours is a God who, no matter where we wander or try and hide, relentlessly pursues us, calling out after us, “Where are you?” and inviting us back to Godself.

 In the midst of our busyness it is very easy to forget to take the time to slow down, pray and discover the will of God. Even this past week in meeting with the German Evangelical Lutherans, Pope Francis stated, "Let us not forget to start from prayer, so that it is not human plans that indicate the way, but the Holy Spirit: He alone opens the way and enlightens the steps to be taken." Jesus throughout his ministry was led by the Spirit of God. It is that Spirit that can 'renew our inner self day by day'.  

May we listen intently enough to hear God’s voice and discern deeply enough to answer God’s call.


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