Being God’s Creation, by Pastor Noel

October 6 &7, 2018     Proper 22B


      We remember St. Francis today. Because of his love for animals we bless our beloved pets. And Francis was known for much more than this. He is quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.”

      I will use words now, and pray that they may lead us to preach God’s love with our whole lives.

      Today we hear part of one of the Creation stories. Yes, there are two Creation stories in our Bible, and they are quite different.

      The story we are probably most familiar with is the opening of Genesis, “In the beginning, God.”  That is actually the older story.

      We all have creation stories about our families. I have a hand drawn family tree done by my grandmother with names and dates and who married who and when, and lists of their children and beyond. This is just facts, data.

      Then we have the narrative stories that flesh out the facts. Like the story of the night I was born and all my parents’ Christmas presents were stolen. Or how Andre de Ligneau came here to help fight in the Revolution and changed his name to Andrew. I was told that when I named my first son Andrew.

      The stories help tell us who we are and put us into a bigger picture than just our generation.

      All cultures have stories of their origins. Historians can show us several stories from other cultures in the Middle East.

      The Genesis stories are similar, but they have a different focus.

      The stories from Babylon, Sumer, Egypt, for example, all have gods doing the creating. They all have several gods who fight with each other and cause chaos. Genesis tells us that our God calmed the chaos and created earth.

      The other gods created humans for fun, and to toy with. God created humankind to be like God, to bring peace and calm from chaos.

      The first story in Genesis is like a family tree of all creation, and it is also a beautifully crafted poem about creation. It starts with the big picture, and then narrows focus to humans and animals.

      In this story “God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.”

      Then, when everything was done, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because… God rested from all the work of creation. This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” (I’m using the CEB translation)

      So, the poem is ended and everything is in place. And it has occurred to me that God used words, God “spoke” Creation into being.

      Then we get the second, and older, story.

      We read, “On the day the Lord God made earth and sky” (but before any other creatures) “the Lord formed the human from the topsoil and blew life’s breath into his nostrils.”

      The creature was called “adam” which means red, like the red earth. The creature is not actually called man or male, just human. Our tradition has used “man” and so that’s how we hear it.

      Then the story goes on with beautiful descriptions of the land and rivers and the creation of the animals in the garden with the human.

      None of the animals is a good partner for the human, so God creates another human.

      Our story says that God took a rib from the adam, the human, and made another human. But men have the same number of ribs as women, so maybe that’s not exactly what happened!

      Many Hebrew scholars have a different idea. The word for rib is also the word for side, and that is what it means everywhere else in the Bible.

      So they say that instead of taking out part of the human, God split the human into two sides. So then we have male and female.

      In the Hebrew Bible there are many names for God. Two different names are used in these two different stories. Some of the names for God are feminine, showing that God is both male and female natures. 

      So, this different way of understanding the creation of woman makes sense.

      From the beginning what God wanted was harmony. Peaceful coexistence, if you can hear that without its political baggage.

      Just as every culture has a creation story, so does every culture have the golden rule. What Jesus calls “the first and great Commandment.”

      Love God, love your neighbor (because God does) and love yourself (because God does) (my editing)

      Or, because we are remembering Francis and actions speak louder than words, Be loving to God, be loving to your neighbor, be loving to yourself.

      We know, though, that we do not always love, we are not always loving. And relationships can turn from love to hate all too quickly.

      God’s will for us is always to have peace. Sometimes we have to break relationships to have that peace. Friendship, marriage, business—all can turn from peace to chaos.  Sometimes, the only way to have peace is to get out of that relationship.

      In Jesus’ day a Jewish man could divorce his wife by simply saying—using words! “I divorce you.” And there were no laws to give her part of the property or to keep her safe.

      Those opposing Jesus asked him about divorce hoping he’d advocate breaking the law. He reminds them of the chaos that can come from broken relationships.

      And I’m reminded that even though this ancient story from Genesis gives us “male and female” those are not the only identities for us. Or for animals. Gender is a wide scope of identities and expressions. There is no right or wrong, unless our true identity is not allowed expression. That IS wrong.

      In this passage Jesus also reminds us of the innocence of children who don’t usually bring about that kind of chaos. He reminds us of the peace that God has in mind for us.

      He and his listeners would also have been reminded of the foundational story of the Jews, the Exodus. God is always leading us to freedom and new life. From chaos to peace.

      That is the good news.

      May we use our words and our lives to preach this good news at all times.

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details