Then God looks at all that God has made, and God sees that it is very good. Now, God looks at the dirt thing, the Adam, because Adamah means “dirt, soil” in Hebrew. God looks at the person God has made from clay, and God says “It is not good.” “It is not good that the dirt thing should be alone.”
After all, we human beings are born out of deep connection. We all came from someone’s womb. Many of us are not married, that’s fine, may not particularly want to be, but we have friends and family we love. Some people spend weeks or months by themselves, they’re just fine. Even they were cared for by parents, have people they love. “Not good that the human being should be alone.”
So God says “I will make a helper as partner.” Said this before, the Hebrew word for “helper,” “Ezer,” does not mean some kind of inferior person hired to do the grunt work. “Ezer” is used for God more often than not in the Old Testament, as in, “God is a very present help in trouble.” So the companion, partner to Adam. The sort of person that will keep your back.
So out of the ground God forms a huge creature with big, floppy ears and a long trunk. The dirt thing said, “Aha, what a wonderful creature. I shall call it elephant. What does it do with that trunk? Oh, it fills its trunk with water and sprays itself on the back. That’s great. What are these elephant kinds of fossil bones over here? I wonder how they got here.”
See, we human beings use language. We are curious, we find things out, we wonder.
But the Adam says, “this elephant is great, but I’m not sure it is gonna work as a partner. Might step on me or something.”
So, gotta try something else. God forms out of the ground, a creature that bounces on its hind legs, “bounce, bounce” has a long tail and comes from Australia. The Adam says “What a wonderful creature. I will call it ‘kangaroo.’ Look a how it has babies, a tiny fetus is born into the bottom of that pouch, and that is where it grows. . .But, I’m afraid a kangaroo is not going to serve as an equal partner.”
Okay, try again. God forms out of the ground a little creature with spiny hairs all over, that lumbers around, lumber, lumber eating snails and beetles and things, and curls up into a spiny ball when it gets startled.
The Adam says, “What a marvelous creature. It curls up into a spiny ball. I shall call it hedgehog. But I don’t think a spiny ball will serve very well as a friend.”
So now God has to do something new. You know, sometimes God does a new thing. Trying a different way. God puts the Adam to sleep, and takes out a rib, and makes a woman. This is the first time in this creation story that we have seen the word “Ishah,” woman, female. Now for the first time the human being, the Adam has been clearly distinguished between Ishah and Ish, woman and man.
And now, for the first time, Adam says “Oh, this is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. This is the one, and they become one. Like all good comedies, this creation story ends in a marriage.
The Gospel lesson for today is a far cry from the laughter of Eden. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where he will suffer and be killed and on the third day rise. He has predicted this to his disciples twice already. They don’t get it. Too busy arguing about who’s the most important. In this section Jesus encounters various people who bring up three seemingly different issues: Divorce, children and wealth and poverty. This week we hear Jesus speak on divorce and children, next on wealth and poverty.
Seemingly different issues. But in reality, the same. Because Jesus is showing us here, how we, as followers of the Messiah who suffers, as servants of the king who dies, are supposed to treat people who are not very important.
For example, women in Jesus’ day were not very important. If you were a woman, you could not inherit the family estate. You could not testify in a court of law because your testimony was considered untrustworthy. You could not go to work in a factory or profession as a nurse or physician or engineer to support yourself and your family. You had to work in a man’s home: your father’s or your husband’s, your brother’s or son or son-in-law.
So if your husband divorced you, and in Jewish law it was the husband, usually who divorced. If your husband divorced you so that he could go marry that cute little hottie that lived next door, and if your family could not or would not take you back into their home, you had a choice. You could beg or you could become a prostitute. Divorce in Jesus’ day was life threatening to women because they were not seen as important.
Jesus is saying here that if you get married, you are to treat each other as important, one flesh, not go running off with somebody else.
Children in Jesus’ day were not important. A Jewish father could sell his children into slavery. A Roman father could order that an infant child be exposed, that is, left by a roadside in hopes that someone should come along, take the baby and raise it. Sometimes that happened and sometimes it didn’t.
Children were not important. Jesus says, let the children come, treat them as important. In fact, if you want to be a part of the realm of God, if you want to be a part of Gods power and hope moving in this world and beyond into eternal life, then you have to accept the realm of God as a child. That is, as a person who is not important. Why? Because the realm of God is not about who is important. The realm of God is about blessing. Remember, Jesus blesses the children.
Nowadays the status of children has changed, thank God. I still wonder, though, whether we as Christians might be called to regard them, both our own children and the children of the world, not in terms of who’s the most important, but rather in terms of blessing. Blessing which includes self-discipline and humility and considering the well-being of others, as well as giggles and afternoons at the playground. But blessing.
Nowadays the status of women has changed, thank God. Marriage has changed. In Jesus’ day, you did not choose a partner whom you loved to marry. Your parents chose for you, because you were, like, fourteen years old. And love had nothing to do with it. A marriage was an economic and social alliance between two families. We have changed marriage, because we have felt that choosing and loving the person you marry are closer to God’s delight: “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” God’s blessing. We continue to change marriage, sometimes in ways we approve of and sometimes in ways we don’t. But the criterion of the change is still blessing, over and above importance.
Divorce has changed. Still hurts. Hurts awfully, like having your thumb cut off. Still leaves a scar for everybody. But it doesn’t pose as deadly a threat to women as it used to.
The deciding factor is still not power, it’s not who’s the most important. The deciding factor is still blessing. What is best for you, my spouse? If there are children, what is best for the children? Again, blessing is not always giggles and playgrounds, doing what we want. As often as not, blessing is sacrifice and repentance and forgiveness and persistence and painful honesty. But it is still blessing. What is most healthy for us? What is most healthy for the children? What is respect, what is relationship, what does it mean to be real helpers, as in people who keep each other’s backs?
Blessing is the criterion for dealing with both marriage and divorce.
The point is this. We are broken people. We are sinful and blind and as often as not we choose the worst option for everyone. But in the end, it’s not about us. God forgives, God heals. When one thing doesn’t’ work, God tries another, because God is determined to bring about healthy relationship, trustworthy commitment, a resurrection to eternal life, a new day.