Scripture Genesis 2:4b-25
A note about the scripture passage translation: I used Wilda Gafney's A Woman's Lectionary for the Whole Church: Year W to adapt the passage from The Message - hence the use of "it" as a pronoun in reference to the human and "side" as opposed to "rib."
Genesis 2:4b-25 (The Message, adapted)
This is the story of how it all started,
of Heaven and Earth when they were created.
5-7 At the time God made Earth and Heaven, before any grasses or shrubs had sprouted from the ground—God hadn’t yet sent rain on Earth, nor was there anyone around to work the ground (the whole Earth was watered by underground springs)—God formed the human out of dirt from the ground and blew into its nostrils the breath of life. The human came alive—a living soul!
8-9 Then God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. He put the human he had just made in it. God made all kinds of trees grow from the ground, trees beautiful to look at and good to eat. The Tree-of-Life was in the middle of the garden, also the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil.
10-14 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden and from there divides into four rivers. The first is named Pishon; it flows through Havilah where there is gold. The gold of this land is good. The land is also known for a sweet-scented resin and the onyx stone. The second river is named Gihon; it flows through the land of Cush. The third river is named Hiddekel and flows east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 God took the human and set it down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order.
16-17 God commanded the human, “You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.”
18-20 God said, “It’s not good for the human to be alone; I’ll make it a helper, a companion.” So God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the human to see what it would name them. Whatever the human called each living creature, that was its name. The human named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but it didn’t find a suitable companion.
21-22 God put the human into a deep sleep. As it slept he removed one of its sides and replaced it with flesh. God then used the side that he had taken from the human to make a Woman and presented her to the human.
The human said,
“Finally! Bone of my bone,
flesh of my flesh!
Name her Woman
for she was made from a Man.”
Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh.
The two of them, the Man and his woman, were naked, but they felt no shame.
Leader: A Word of God that is still speaking, People: Thanks be to God.
*Hymn - We are in God (from Music that Makes Community) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFenw5mEM3A&t=2s, start at 00:45, Natalie Renee Perkins
We’re starting our Faces of our Faith: Bold and Untold stories with the story of Adam and Eve. Now, you might be thinking, how is this a bold and untold story? Adam and Eve are two of The Most well-known characters in the Bible, right? This is a story we know. God makes Adam - the human, the human feels lonely, God creates creatures from the dust - like the human is made from - nothing fits, and so God takes a side of this mud-soil-earth creature to create this other being - and now the human isn’t one, but two - man and woman - and the human - now man - recognizes a suitable partner.
Maybe the story as you learned it - much as I learned it - involved ribs and Adam and Eve and an apple and a snake, some of which are in the story and some of which are not (spoiler, the fruit is never mentioned by name!). It probably also involved a flannel board and fig leaves. But here are some fun facts for you all before we take a closer look at this story:
Other than these fun little facts about this story - why include it in our Bold and Untold Faces of our Faith series?
To me, it’s because origin stories mean something. Watch just about any Marvel movie (or the questionably done Star Wars prequels - but you and I can have conversations about that later) and a large portion of the narrative deals with the why and how - why does this person have the superpower they do and how did they reconcile themselves to their abilities? What does it mean for how the rest of the world relates to them and their story? How did they become who they are today?
The story of Adam and Eve functions in the same way - it’s a story used to answer some of the fundamental questions of who we are as humans and why are we here and what is our relationship to God and to each other supposed to look like. We get this vision of a God who gets hands dirty in the rich soil, fashioning a human out of the humus and breathing into them the breath of life - a God who demonstrates a particular concern for the human’s well-being and who will go to great lengths to provide - food, companionship, enjoyment. In Genesis 1 we get a lot of “and God saw that it was good” after each step - and here, God notices that there is something not good - a lack of connection and relationship for the human - and so God continues to create. We see an intimacy with God and the land and each other - with the two humans showing a partnership of equals, a relationship that is mutually beneficial.
The final two verses indicate that this story served a specific purpose for those who would have heard it - why people leave homes for the sake of others (and while many times people think about this passage in terms of procreation, it is not actually mentioned in the story). But even more than this, our creation story points to our need for one another - and to be sure, marriage is one way of understanding this - but also our need for chosen family, deep friendships, investment in intergenerational relationships, choosing to see “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” as a recognition of the ways we are knit and held together, of a willingness to be in connection with each other that is mutual and interdependent.
This is a beautiful message and one of the core truths of our faith - that we are created with this deep need for each other. Nature alone isn’t enough. Animals alone aren’t enough. Even God alone isn’t enough. The story of Adam and Eve shows us that we have this sacred need to know and be known by others. It’s part of how God creates us to be in this world.
When we understand this about ourselves, about our innate and divinely-created desire for communion with others, we can both celebrate and affirm the places where we’ve found that kind of connection with others. Perhaps we experienced that in our family of origin - or perhaps we’ve had to find that sense of belonging beyond our biological relationships. Perhaps we’ve found friends that feel like an extension of our own soul, or we’ve had moments with strangers that give us glimpses into our shared humanity. We can find these moments of partnership, cooperation, solidarity while marching on the streets in demonstration, while serving at the soup kitchen, while lounging on the beach, or participating in worship. We may not find this connection with everyone all the time, but here as a church - as the body of Christ - as people who are trying to live as Jesus invites us to live with one another - we seek to embody and affirm and invite these kinds of connections with each other.
When you came into worship today, you received a strip of paper. On this paper, I invite you to write one word describing what you gain from being in community with others - well, one word or phrase.
We have these strips of blue and green and brown - reminding us of the ways that baptism claims us in community and the ways that we are formed from earth, connecting us with all of creation.
When you have written your word or phrase down, I invite you to come up and connect it to this chain here that we’ll have on the altar during our summer series.
Our Adam and Eve origin story reminds us of our deep need for one another - and to be a people who offer that kind of community and connection for others.
Father Richard Rohr, in one of this week’s meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation writes this:
“Reality as communion” is the template and pattern for our entire universe, from atoms to galaxies, and certainly in human community.
We come to know who God is through exchanges of mutual knowing and loving. God’s basic method of communicating God’s self is not the “saved” individual, the rightly informed believer, or even a person with a career in ministry. God communicates primarily through the journey and bonding process that God initiates in community: in marriages, friendships, families, tribes, nations, schools, organizations, and churches who are seeking to participate in God’s love, maybe without even consciously knowing it.
Until and unless Christ is experienced as a living relationship between people, the gospel remains largely an abstraction. Until Christ is passed on personally through faithfulness and forgiveness toward another, through concrete bonds of union, I doubt whether he is passed on by words, sermons, institutions, or ideas.
Living in community means living in such a way that others can access me and influence my life. It means that I can get “out of myself” and serve the lives of others. Community is a world where kinship with each other is possible. By community I don’t mean primarily a special kind of structure, but a network of relationships.
If the Trinity reveals that God is relationship itself, then the goal of the spiritual journey is to discover and move toward connectedness on ever new levels. The contemplative mind enjoys union on all levels. We may begin by making little connections with nature and animals, and then grow into deeper connectedness with people. Finally, we can experience full connectedness as union with God and frankly everything.
Without connectedness and communion, we don’t exist fully as our truest selves. Becoming who we really are is a matter of learning how to become more and more deeply connected. No one can possibly go to heaven alone—or it would not be heaven when they got there.
May this week be a one of celebrating connections and community - as we understand and live more fully into our place of belonging with God, with creation, and also with one another. Amen.
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Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.