~ Genesis 2:18-24/Mark 10:13-16 ~
Our reading from Genesis today has been the source of much consternation over the years. Theological conflicts over faith and science, literal verses metaphoric interpretations abound. For many, the way patriarchy and gender is presented and assumed has been hurtful. Limiting and exclusivist views about the relationship between men and women and the nature of marriage has been oppressive. Given all that, however, we don’t have to accept how it has always been taught. I read this passage from Genesis today because it has much to teach us that is affirming and redemptive. So hear this reading of Genesis 2:18-24
Then God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.
So God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then God took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that God had taken from the man God made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Despite appearances I don’t think this ancient narrative is really about male and female and the nature of marriage. Yes, I realize that’s how it is most often taught. But I don’t think that’s the main point of this passage. Rather, going deeper, it is about the creation of two people from one person. It is about the creation of something new – a second person. It is about the creation of mutual relationship.
The story presents a creator – God – who seems to be creating things in the moment, without a predetermined plan. God creates man and realizes that it is not good that man is alone. It’s as if God realizes that a God-man relationship doesn’t quite do it; it’s not enough. “I’ll make him a partner, a helper,” says God. So, God makes animals. Why not? And, it seems, that in order to facilitate this new relationship God gives the man the privilege of naming all the animals. That’s nice. But that doesn’t do it. The animals, as nice as they are to have around, do not a satisfactory relationship make. So, God tries something else. God takes the human being and makes another human being. I don’t think we should get too absorbed with the almost fantastical details of how God does this. The important point is that out of one human being we now have two human beings. And the man can finally say, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” It’s as if they were made for each other, which is the whole point.
This particular creation story seems to make the point that this was necessary. As important as the divine-human relationship might be, that wasn’t enough. As wonderful the menagerie of animals might be that wasn’t enough. The first human needed another human, pure and simple.
When the two humans finally meet in verse 23, it is a meeting of equals. Their relationship is unlike what humans have with God or animals, “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” says the man. In this way, Genesis 2 describes the divine creation of relationship, of community, of intimate communication, of sharing.
We are made for each other – mutual human relationships. That was at the core of Jesus’ mission. And he was not afraid to call out those who might seek to quash or limit or oppress other humans for some supposed order of things, some supposed hierarchy of power. Jesus’ mission is amply demonstrated in our gospel reading today. As I preached a couple weeks ago Jesus had strong views about children. Employing strong language he was not adverse to scolding his own disciples even in public. In trying to keep the children away his clueless followers thought they were helping. But, as we read, Jesus was indignant about all this. “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” And, as the story goes, Jesus took the children into his arms and blessed them. Children and adults. Mutual human relationships – we are made for each other. Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
This is also the language we use to describe the sacred meal we celebrate this week: communion. It is the moment in which we look at one another and at our world community and say that we together are the body of Christ, “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!”
We are made to be in community. Now, I realize that ‘community’ doesn’t require that we be physically present with each other. Indeed, over the course of previous months we found ways to be community remotely. But there is something about being here together. It’s like being home. In being here together as mutual human beings we might just realize how much we’ve missed each other.
With that in mind I would like to invite Emil Miland and Candace Forest to come up here. They are going to perform a piece written by Candace – Missing You. Here is how Candace describes her composition:
This cello/piano duet version of Missing You, created especially for Emil Miland was premiered at the 2021 Annual Mother’s Day Concert at Mission Dolores. The original concept came from something my mother wrote at the end of one of her letters to me, “I miss you, but missing you has become a way of life” My intention was to melodically capture the poignancy and tenderness each of us feels when enduring separation from our loved ones.