As a person who is naturally an introvert, it takes some effort for me to get in front of people to talk.
Through the years, I’ve used various techniques to try improve my confidence as a speaker.
For people who are apprehensive about getting in front people, a popular trope is often suggested, “If you are nervous, picture the audience naked.”
Or, at least, “Picture them in their underwear.”
As you listen to me every week, I can tell you that I’ve never used that approach to boost my courage when preaching.
Using some common sense here, that imagining of every person to whom you are speaking without any clothes on doesn’t work because it’s counter-productive.
Seeing everyone in their underwear or less would take a lot of concentration and distract you from what you are to be saying to the people.
The point of the phrase is to make yourself think that you have power over the audience. They are the vulnerable ones and you are not.
You are the judge, and you have one up on them as you have your clothes on and they don’t.
So, if they are critical of you in anyway, at least you can say to them, “Okay, I made a mistake, but you are the ones who are naked.”
If you are to give a speech and are nervous about it, the night before you might have a dream that you show up naked, and everyone is laughing at you.
That dream can be interpreted as revealing your anxiety about giving the speech. You are thinking that the audience can dominate you since they are may and you are only one.
For me, I try to think that giving a speech is a lot like all relationships.
The best advice for talking in front of others is to see that every one is on the same level. You want to share what you have to say and the people who have come to hear you want to hear what you have to say.
Everyone is on the same page. No one is above the other, for everyone is there for the same purpose.
Although a speech is one person talking, the best speeches are conversational in style.
In our talk together, I might disagree with you, but it’s not my judgment of you. We are just having a difference of opinion.
Relationships that work are the ones where everyone agrees that if we don’t agree that we agree that it’s okay that we disagree.
That’s a little wordy. Or to say, we will remain friends even if we don’t always see eye to eye.
In this way, everyone is in the same comfort zone of empathy. What does empathy look like? Each person is forthright with kindness always at the heart of the matter.
So, in a sense, we are “naked” in front of each other. What I mean is that we are physically fully clothed, but we are open to each other. We don’t hide anything from each other because we trust one another.
If I share my thoughts and feelings with you, I know that you will listen to me without judgment. For I know that you will want me to listen to what you are thinking and feeling without judgment.
This kind of fearless open sharing shows compassion that wants deep understanding.
We know that we are all human living on this one planet and need to share it, so we need to make efforts to get along.
Getting along doesn’t mean that we are to have all the same particular ideas about everything, but it does mean that we desire to listen to each other and work with each other.
I have to admit that this is the oddest theme I’ve ever had for a sermon, but it seems that the best relationships are when we are figuratively “naked” with each other.
In our “nakedness,” we are “open” and “unafraid” in our communication with each other, so we can find overall solutions to our problems.
In talking about our figurative “nakedness,” for a moment, we need to talk about literal “nakedness.”
It’s important to remember that at the beginning of life on this planet, humans were meant to be literally “naked.” The wearing on clothes was not part of God’s plan for people.
At the beginning of time, Adam and Eve didn’t give one thought to their nakedness as they walked around the garden taking care of the animals and picking fruit to eat.
We know God dictated the story of creation to Moses. Why did God make the special point to add in His telling of the account of creation to Moses that the first humans were naked and were unashamed of it?
I’m not sure if it was God’s sole point to make sure for all of the history of humanity to know how how the first humans were unashamed of their nakedness, so that I can ask this question today?
But here goes, can you imagine what you would think and feel if everyone, including yourself, were to show up without any clothes on today for worship?
Again, this is an odd thing to ask, but I think there is a point to comparing and contrast how we live now to that of how God first intended for humans to live in the Garden of Eden.
If it wasn’t for sin, we would be here without any clothes on, and a whole list of other things would be different.
One big difference is that we would all be perfectly getting along. We would be open and unafraid of each other as we took care of the animals and picked fruit to eat.
But, sin changed everything. Here’s a quick summary of how sin came to be and it’s consequences.
When God created everything, everything was good-including the first human. Adam was perfect in every way from head to toe physically and morally-he knew only good and did only good.
When God made Eve, Adam looked at Eve, and said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” In other words, Adam was saying, “Wow! God, this is so cool. I now have someone I can relate to who is just like me.”
A little back story here. Satan who was once a good angel rebelled against God. If you can imagine a battle in heaven, Michael, the arch angel, led the good angels in a fight against Satan and his angels- we know them as demons.
God knew from all eternity about how there is good and also evil. God made a world that was only good.
But, Satan turned evil. God did not want humans to know evil. He wanted to keep evil from them, so He gave them a command, so they would not know evil.
Do not eat from the tree of good and evil, for if you do, you will know booth good and evil.
We know the rest of the story about how Satan got Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and now, sin is in the world.
Listen to what Adam said about Eve after they had sinned, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of tree, and I ate.” Well, Adam, it looks like you need a little talk about self-responsibility.
Do you see what happened here?
Let’s put it this way-because of the eating of the forbidden fruit, the relationship with God was ruined, and because of Adams’s response about blaming his sin on Eve, the relationship between humans was ruined.
We can see how everything got messed up because of disobedience to God’s good will.
God didn’t mean for sin to happen, but it did and now sin is in the world.
Before the fall, the first humans walked in the garden with God. They had a close relationship with God.
But, after their sin, they tried to hid from God, for they knew that they had done wrong. They saw that they were naked and were ashamed, so they tried to cover themselves up.
God found their hiding place and asked some questions about their nakedness. “Who told you that you were naked?”
Their own shame told them that they had done wrong.
When we do wrong, we should be ashamed of ourselves.
“Shame” is tricky word. Again, feeling shame was not part of God’s plan for humans. Shame resulted because of sin.
In one way, it’s good to feel shame because it’s a red flag that pops up when we have done wrong.
Shame is a built-in mechanism that tells us that we are doing something wrong.
All humans have it in them to feel shame. If a person does not feel shame when doing something wrong, it’s because shame is buried deep within them.
Often, a person will distract from their shame by blaming others-just like Adam did when he blamed Eve for the wrong that he did.
Adam knew better and so do we when we have dome wrong. When we are not accountable for ourselves by blaming others, we have added a wrong to our wrong.
We can see how wrongs can keep piling up if we are not ashamed up them enough to do something about it.
You and I know that we are human, and we know all humans sin. We know that we have sinned; therefore, we should be feeling ashamed of our sins.
I know my sins are many, so that’s a lot of shame.
This is where “shame” gets a little tricky. We would all agree that living a life of shame is not good. Shame is a heavy feeling that weighs a person down in remorse that can lead to despair.
Here’s a kind of far off illustration-CeeCee is an English Mastiff, and I’ve read where English Mastiffs shame easily. I’ve learned that when CeeCee does something wrong, which is now hardly ever, but when she does to correct her softly. Even then, she cowers and gives me those puppy eyes that make me feel bad.
My sister has a Golden Retriever puppy, Stella. When she corrects Stella, she has told me that she feels that Stella is laughing at her. Stella knows no shame, which proves that English Mastiffs are the best.
Coming here this morning, we are poor miserable sinners. Today, we have come here feeling the weight of our shame. We know better, but we still have sinned.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
So, honestly, we admit we are sinful and unclean and have sinned in thought, word, and deed.
A lot of weight was here. We had a huge amount of guilt and shame, but I’m not feeling that weight.
I hope you are not feeling that weight, either.
We should be feeling light and motivated to start all over again to do quite well.
Our shame of past sins is gone because that sin is gone.
When come to confess, but we also have come to hear absolution.
We have heard God forgive that sin, so that sin is gone. Since sin is gone, all shame and guilt is gone with it.
We are not to live in the shame of past sins.
It might beg the question-if I’m forgiven of my sins, does it mean that I never have to feel shame again?
Remember, we did all agree that we are to not live in shame.
The sad truth is that we will sin again.
I admit that this is tricky about shame. We are always sinning, so it seems that we should always be feeling shame.
But, we know that God is always giving us His mercy and grace.
God wants His mercy and grace to dominate our lives.
We were talking earlier about relationships where any kind of one trying to control another does not work at all.
God does not want to control us, but He does want us only to live by faith in His mercy and grace that comes to us from loving us so much.
Here’s one more thing about the complexities of “shame.”
Jesus is totally unashamed of us. Although we are sinners, Jesus is not ashamed of us. Out of loving us so much, God sent Jesus to go to the cross to take our punishment for our sins.
Scripture says, “That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Isn’t that such a great love? We didn’t deserve to be saved, but Jesus went through all the pain and suffering for us all the way to death.
Knowing what Jesus did for us, we can now only praise him for what he has done, and the best part is that we are to live in that praise that can only bring us joy, for we are free from the guilt and shame of our sins.
I have to admit it’s an odd theme to talk about “nakedness” is a sermon. But it is a theme in Scripture. Noah got drunk and fell asleep naked. Bathsheba was naked when she was bathing that got David all worked up. He gawked when he should have looked away. We think it was a young Mark who followed Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane, but who was stripped of his robe when a Roman soldier grabbed him making him run out naked. When Saul met Samuel, he stripped naked when he prophesied.
If you by some chance, you did get out of this sermon that we should be without clothes in worship. When David danced before the Lord, he was not naked as some say, but he wore a priestly garment.
I did a search for the use of “naked” in Scripture, and it came up one hundred and four times.
I’m not sure about all the details of what heaven is like, but it seems like it’s a return to the Garden of Eden, where everything is good.
But, I don’t think we will be naked but be wearing robes of righteousness.
By God’s mercy and grace in Christ, right now we are wearing those white pure robes of righteousness.
Let me end with a line from our hymn of the day that should totally clear up this odd subject of “nakedness” and the tricky word of “shame”-“Should a guilty conscience seize me Since my Baptism did release me In a dear forgiving flood, Sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?”