Hebrew 1:1-4; 2:5-12
In our Bible story this morning, Jesus is reminding us that we all need each other and how we treat other matters. No one person is more or less important and we need to make sure that we are taking care of each other and including each other so that we can be whole-like our whole building. What happens when we tell someone that we don’t want them around anymore? (Remove a block.) Yes, we’re not whole and we need them. In our story from Genesis we read that God created us to work together, to not be separate blocks doing our own thing but to be like one building. Jesus says that God thinks that we are all important no matter how big or how small to God and so we treat each other how God would treat us. What are some ways that we can show people that they matter to God, to us and that they are not alone? (Maybe try and highlight some service/outreach ministries that are accessible to children and young families in your congregation. But allow all answers of sharing, helping, loving, hugs, nice words, helpful hands, etc.) That’s right! We have so many ways to show God’s love for everyone!
Adam was walking around the Garden of Eden feeling very lonely, so God asked Adam, “What is wrong with you?” Adam said he didn’t have anyone to talk to.
God said, “I am going to give you a companion and it will be a woman. This person will cook for you and wash your clothes. She will always agree with every decision you make. She will bear your children and never ask you to get up in the middle of the night to take care of them. She will not nag you, and will always be the first to admit she was wrong when you’ve had a disagreement. She will never have a headache, and will freely give you love and compassion whenever needed.
Adam asked God, “What would a woman like this cost me??” God said, “An arm and a leg.” Adam asked, “What can I get for just a rib???” And here we are.
There are a lot of jokes about men and women based on Genesis 2. And many of them are pretty funny—like that one. But they’re also built on assumptions, aren’t they? And sometimes—probably most time—those assumptions are built on more insidious thoughts and practices.
This creation story in Genesis 2 is very different from the one in Genesis 1. In chapter 1, the author probably has strong connections to the priesthood. God methodically forms each element as a potter shapes clay. Each day builds on the last until finally, God rests. This creation story is the foundation for taking sabbath and seeing all creation as good and worthy of care.
The second story of creation begins in verse 4 of chapter 2. The central point of this story is the formation of humanity and building the lineage that would eventually lead to King David and the covenant God made with him. The author is more interested in covenant and relationship than in order and design.
So, the story begins with the Lord God building the human out of dust. The term ‘ha adam’ is not a name. It just means ‘the dirt-being’. Just like the term ‘human’ comes from the Greek word ‘hummus,’ meaning earth. So, the Lord God made the human. And then the Lord God realized that the human was without a partner. And the Lord God is fully aware of the importance of relationship and intimacy. So, the Lord God began to make animals and sent them to the human to name, but none of them seemed to be a good match.
The Lord God put the human to sleep, and this is where it gets interesting. We’ve always read that the woman was taken from the man’s rib, but the Hebrew says that Lord God took a ‘side’ of the human and built another human. Only now does the Lord God make a distinction between the two humans. The first is called ‘ish’, translated ‘man,’ and the second is ‘isha’, ‘out of man’ or ‘woman.’ And when ish awakens to see isha, he says, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And the man and woman were naked and not ashamed.
Now, the problem is that this passage has been used for thousands of years as the basis to consider that women are secondary to men. In the 1500’s, a document called Malleus Maleficarum was written to give direction on how to handle women considered to be witches. It said,
“But the natural reason is that she is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives.”
The way we interpret Scripture has lent itself to horrible injustices for women. From the right to vote to the right to be ordained, the assumption that women are less than men has been prolific. Even now, many ELCA Lutheran congregations turn away women candidates for the whole reason of their gender.
And to add insult to injury, injustices continue in home life as well as work. It was as recent as 1993 that all the states finally ruled that raping one’s spouse is against the law. 1993! In the workplace, women continue to put up with unwanted touches, rude comments, and lower wages for the same work. If you question that, ask any woman you know. Chances are, she’s been there and gone through that. I know I have. And I’ve never had the courage to challenge what was happening. Isn’t it just normal? Expected? Part of being a woman?
The answer is, “Absolutely not!” That is not what God created us for—any of us. The reality is that such behaviors and mindsets and language and assumptions not only hurt women; they hurt men. And we can’t just blame men as if all men are bad. We are all—all of us—willing and unwilling participants in systems that have allowed these things to continue. And we all—all of us—will have to change our ways of thinking if we are to change our culture.
Because God created us for each other. God created us to be intimate and trusting—vulnerable without shame and without fear. But when that vulnerability is exploited, it all falls apart. For all of us.
One day in the Garden of Eden, Eve calls out to God, “Lord, I have a problem!”
“What’s the problem, Eve?”
“Lord, I know you created me and provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedic snake, but I’m just not happy.”
“Why is that, Eve?” came the reply from above.
“Lord, I am lonely, and I’m sick to death of apples.”
“Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution. I shall create a man for you.”
“What’s a man, Lord?”
“This man will be a flawed creature, with many bad traits. He’ll lie, cheat, and be vain and glorious; all in all, he’ll give you a hard time. But…he’ll be bigger, faster, and will like to hunt and kill things. He will be witless and will revel in childish things like fighting and kicking a ball about. He won’t be too smart, so he’ll also need your advice to think properly.”
“Sounds great,” says Eve, with an ironically raised eyebrow. “What’s the catch, Lord?”
“Well… you can have him on one condition.”
“What’s that, Lord?”
“As I said, he’ll be proud, arrogant, and self-admiring… So you’ll have to let him believe that I made him first. Just remember, it’s our little secret…You know, woman to woman.”
Sexism goes in both directions. I often see postings on Facebook by women of shirtless cowboys in tight Wrangler jeans—photos taken from behind, of course. And commercials that show women drooling over sexy men. And commercials that make men out to be completely clueless in the home or with the kids. That, too, diminishes God’s image.
Imagine the damage done to little boys who are told that crying isn’t masculine, to girls who are expected to wait for a boy to save them, to mothers who are asked how they can balance parenthood and work, to fathers who ‘babysit’ their children when the mother is away, to those who are transsexual and expected to conform to certain gender roles and looks, to older women ashamed of their wrinkles and gray hair, to older men who lose their identity when they retire from their jobs. We—society, the Church, our government, our families—are complicit in creating these injustices. And then we wonder why couples get divorced.
Because here’s the thing—we are bound in sin, and we cannot free ourselves. Now, that’s no excuse for bad behavior. It’s no excuse for boys to be boys. It’s no excuse for adultery. It’s no excuse for rape. It’s no excuse for hurting one another, breaking each other’s trust, undermining one another, or determining one’s value based on gender or sex or even sexual morality. The truth is, sin is a reality. The truth is, though we are bound in sin, we are not destined to it. The truth is, the cross of Christ sets us free and gives us a better way.
When Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ question of divorce, he turns their question upside down. Typical Jesus. He answer the question with a question. He keeps it personal—using ‘you’ instead of their preferred hypothetical ‘a man.’ And he takes them back to God intentions for humanity—trust and vulnerability. He also throws in there, just to shut them up, the option of a woman getting a divorce—which would have been unheard of, if not impossible.
He puts women and men on the same playing field and reminds them—and us—that God made humans for each other’s well-being. We need each other—not just for company but to have someone who can show us the image of God created in us—to BE Christ to us.
In preparing for this week’s sermon, I went back to the ELCA’s social statement on Sexuality and the social statement draft on Women and Justice. I would commend those to you to read or re-read and consider what is next for us as Christians, as a Church, and as a congregation
Let us pray. Gracious God, we pray for all the victims of abuse, especially abuse based on gender and sexuality. Restore us to your intention of relationship with you and with each other, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Tobi White
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church