Genesis 2, 18-24
- I hear about a craftsman God today, forming out of the ground, building up. And God continues working: I will make a suitable partner.
I will make that word ‘partner’ echo throughout my reading, so that no one listening could think of treating
other human beings as a means to their own selfish ends.
- I notice over and over that the man plays an active role in this account. The man gave names to all. We become the final
judge of God’s work: None proved to be the suitable partner. We
become participants, and for that reason we are also stewards. How do I reconcile
this story with the God of intelligent design theory?
- God cast a deep sleep on the man, took out one of his ribs and built up into a woman. Here
I would place the emphasis on ‘God,’ because God understands what man needs and achieves it.
- But notice who decides whether it is right. The man
said, This one at last… What does this tell me about God? This inspired insight reminds me that we cooperate with the divine plan. And we do so from Day One of our own creation, before, after and throughout the state we have called ‘the
- Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. I don’t
hear a claim of equality here, but something more fundamental. The words identify
the man and the woman. In fact, I almost think it would be more appropriate
for a woman to read them. We have daily confirmation that man is created out
- Climax: And the two of them become one flesh. It comes at the very end of the reading. It is a statement
of our life together, and also an interpretation that says that God intended it to be this way. So let us hear the mythical language in a way that leads up to this reconciliation of humanity.
- Message for our assembly: Can we find the lesson of identity
in the ancient story? Can we affirm the dignity that belongs to all children
of God? Can we give that example of our affirmation to others who seek such an
identity in their married life and in their relations with us?
- I will challenge myself: to pay attention, by the way I read, to the
cooperation between God and created humanity in defining the social order.
Hebrews 2, 9-11
- Once again I hear mythical language, this time based perhaps on an ancient cosmic hymn about the Son of God. I don’t think that I can reach my listeners today unless I become at home in using the same language. I certainly can’t speak the words as if they formed part of a press briefing
or news commentary!
- The language sounds much more poetic than declarative. That
does not make it any less true. Indeed, the deepest truths can only be expressed
in poetry. I need to say this truth very deliberately today, and with an inviting
- We will be listening to passages from this letter throughout the next two months.
If I begin on the right foot today, our congregation will look forward more eagerly to the readings that follow.
- The author of Hebrews takes Jesus seriously in his two natures, and that is what underlies his entire letter. He begins with the human reference: He might taste death for everyone. Then comes the divine reference: He, for whom and from whom all things exist. We affirm them both every time we say the Creed of the church. But the final words of the reading? He is not ashamed to
call them “brothers.” They certainly form part of the creed that
I might compile. Though they seem to say it in an uncreedlike way, they possess
the finality of an embrace.
- He also takes his cue from the Hebrew scriptures. Listen:
He was made lower than the angels, quoting from the Psalms. He who
consecrates and those who are being consecrated is not a direct quote but does convey faithfully the vision of Ezekiel
in the desert.
- Every sentence describes the bond between Jesus and ourselves. The author
begins by declaring what Jesus has done for us, and ends by reiterating Jesus’ bond with us. The literal translation obscures this progression, almost deliberately I would say. Is it convenient for us to think of Jesus as our brother? Paul
dared to say it once in Romans; was there any other time? It will be my job to
rescue the teaching, by building carefully to the final word brothers.
- Central point: It was fitting. In other words, our salvation through
Christ is no accident and no afterthought of God, but God’s crowning work, grace of God.
- The message for our assembly: He is not ashamed to call us “brothers.” What about us? Do we accept our place in his family?
- I will challenge myself: To declare the words with the lyric tone that leads us to an event beyond all time, and which
is the defining event for all time.
Mark 10, 2-16
- On the surface I hear a prescription from Jesus about the lifelong bond between a married couple. I am prompted to make that connection because I recall how the teaching authority insists on this. Is any other interpretation possible? Aren’t
the Gospels filled with prescriptions from Jesus? Let me listen more carefully.
- Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife? That
was the question and not an honest one at that: They were testing him. I
will pause briefly here to remind my listeners that the Pharisees want to place Jesus between two horns of a dilemma. Jesus will either take their side and betray his commitment to the dignity of women
and men; or he will stand by his commitment and denounce the law. I can also
emphasize ‘husband’ to show that patriarchy itself is now in play.
- A husband writes a bill of divorce and dismisses her.
This is not ancient history; in too many countries married women still have very little religious and legal protection,
and divorced women even less. Again I emphasize ‘dismiss her.’
- Jesus takes the debate to a higher ground, to a time before
laws when God made them male and female. I read the words of Genesis with the assurance that Jesus felt, and with
my own warm approval: And the two shall become one flesh.
- The blessing of the children fits perfectly into this debate. The kingdom of God belongs to such
as these. There is something about
a child’s receptiveness, that may help my listeners understand the reality of married life, beyond the sense that we
have limited our options.
- Climax: What God has joined together, no man must separate. This saying has no nuances. It assures us that we are cooperating in God’s plan. At
the same time, it reminds us that God has taken the initiative.
- Message for our assembly: Do we form relationships with others with the purpose of using others for our own ends, or
because we see God’s reflection in them?
- I will challenge myself: To reach the dimension that transcends our legalisms.