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Naked and Unashamed: Intimacy

This week launches our “Naked & Unashamed” Sermon Series. Our sacred story comes from John 17:20-26 and 1 Samuel 18: 1-4, where we talk what God’s three-in-one nature, asexual folks, and the relationship between two men in the bible and what all that reveals about the sacred gift of intimacy. You can watch the sermon on our facebook page here.

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On this “Trinity Sunday” we dwell and wrestle with the sacred mystery of that which is one, being multiple, and the multiple, one.  God is three in One…what some call the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Yahweh, Jesus, and Sophia; the divine parent, liberator, and advocate; the creator, redeemer, and sustainer. God is these three identities, and yet one identity.  These three…being so deeply connected and interwoven so as to be indivisible.  I in you and you in me and us in them.  This is the nature of who God is – relational, but in a particularly intimate way – a way marked by deep connection and knowing and love.

Each of us in created in the image of God and so we are created in this intimate nature of God, reflecting this divine dance between distinction and connection, between ourselves and the other.  Jesus prays that as they and the rest of the Godhead are one (IN one another), that we might be one with God and with one another.  It’s a reciprocal rhythm and a depth of knowing.

So as we begin to think about what it means and looks like to be faithful AND sexual beings, let us first consider a biblical and sacred understanding of intimacy. Often the word “intimacy” is mistakenly reduced to a euphemism for sex.  We use phrases like “someone with whom we’ve been intimate,” but it’s so much more than that. What we see through God’s own self is a kind of intimacy that goes beyond any surface level sensation. It is this experience and expression of being connected, known, and loved – up close, in our fullness.

I wonder….when you think about this kind of intimacy, what do you picture? What comes to mind?

God’s own intimacy helps me to see intimacy as what happens when we sluff off all the extra layers at the end of the day. It’s THAT kind of knowing and sharing. It’s revealing something so true to who we are that exhibits trust and care. It’s standing next to each other at the sink and being a part of the rituals that others don’t get to see – how they shave, that little way they breathe funny right before they sneeze.   It’s in exchanging a look and knowing exactly what it means without any words. Intimacy comes in the seemingly small moments of conversation, where we share and are attentive to the ins and out of each other’s day. Certainly there is intimacy in sharing our naked bodies, but that is only part of this relational gift. It’s such an exciting part of the beginning of a relationship, to discover the raw and unpolished intricacies of a person and know it is a privilege to be honored and cherished. This privilege can be easily taken for granted after a time too, and like many treasures we must anchor ourselves to remember it is a gift. This intimacy is where we feel safe enough to be imperfect, to let loose, to be ourselves. Sometimes that means the ones we hold closest also see our roughest attributes - our impatience, our temper, our criticism, and all our vices. If intimacy has been nurtured, our partner can allow us to be human, but also hold us to and call us back to the best parts of ourselves. And isn’t this all exactly what God is for us?

All these things require and establish trust as we open up parts of ourselves we might otherwise keep only for ourselves. We bare our heart and our truth before another, and hope it will be received with love. This holy intimacy is reflected in noticing and appreciating the little things that make us what we are, that make our lives what they are. This is a divine sense of intimacy where our asexual siblings have something to teach us…that it’s not just about the bedroom…that meaningful sacred knowing and connection and love (can be a part of, but) is actually so much bigger than our physicality. 

I wonder….when you think about this kind of intimacy, what do you picture? What comes to mind?

It made me think of what we see in the bible between David and Jonathan. David is just a young shepherd boy turned warrior who will one day God will make King of Israel, replacing Saul, Jonathan’s dad. Jonathan is a prince turned prophet who God will call to walk alongside David. Their connection is so profound that is says “the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David.” Jonathan loves David so deeply, that he makes a covenant commitment to be together even when it means rejection by his family. He lays down any and all artifice before David, the symbols of power and protection – his robe, his armor, and entrusts them to David’s care and makes David’s well-being as important as his own.  The intimacy shared between these two men shows us holy and soulful connection, covenant commitment, sacrifice, compassion, and concern. Their relationship will be strong enough that Jonathan will one day be able to hold David accountable to the harm he causes to Uriah and Bathsheba. Their intimacy will be the foundation that enables David to see his truth reflected back to him and be moved and changed again toward healing and life.

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We know all too well that intimacy can be violated and our trust and our bodies abused – when this knowing and connection is used against us; when someone puts their own desires ABOVE another’s  instead of alongside; when it is not marked by love but extraction. This harm can be emotional as well as physical. God’s identity of intimacy is marked by reciprocal connection, profound knowing, and especially humility in love. Therefore, the manipulative abuse of intimacy is not of God. In her recent book “Shameless: a Sexual Reformation,” Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber makes a claim that in forming a Christian ethic and practice of sexuality “we must be guided by more than just the absence of ‘no’ and the absence of harm…we must also bring concern to our consent and mutuality. Concern moves us closer to the heart of Jesus’ own ethic: love God and our neighbor as ourselves. It requires us to act on another’s behalf. It reframes the choice entirely outside of our own self-interest in a way that consent and mutuality alone do not.  Concern means taking notice of how our sexual behavior affects ourselves and each other.”

This is how God loves us. God sees me fully and still loves me and is deeply concerned about my wholeness. And yours too. God’s identity of intimacy helps me to recognize and prioritize a holy intimacy for myself – knowing myself/who I am, facing my flaws and my scars, owning my desires and gifts, and claiming my identity as good, beautiful, and beloved as God has declared me to be.  Recognizing God’s intimate nature, helps me to become aware of how God’s love is expressed and experienced in and through intimacy shared with others - in partners, families, friends, parents, and marriage.

I wonder…when have you felt seen, known, and loved for it? God is there.

I wonder…where do you see the multiple becoming one? God is in it.

May you dwell in the fullness of God’s intimate love for you. May you recognize the extension of God’s love through you to others. May you be one as God is one.  Amen.

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