The Crowning Glory of Creation Peace Presbyterian Church
Genesis 1:26-2:9, 15-25 Summer Bible Characters
Elizabeth M. Deibert 18 June 2017 – Father’s Day
I have been at Peace very rarely on Father’s Day! So I’m going to start today by saying how thankful I am to the father of our four children for his active and engaged nurture of our children. I am grateful I am to have had an involved father, who was an excellent listener and a man of strong faith. Of course, on Mother’s and Father’s Day, it’s always complicated. There is always some pain among us, because some are still recovering from the grief of losing or never having good fathers or mothers. And some of us have regrets over our own fathering or mothering. Father’s Day is further complicated by years of patriarchy in church and culture, so I am grateful to say that while fatherhood is an important image for God, it is no longer the dominating one. Thanks to the church’s greater care with language, our understanding of God is now broader than the maleness that dominated Michelangelo and others for generations. Our understanding of humanity is more equitable, (thanks Rodin), our gender roles are more fluid, and we have a deeper appreciation of the breadth and diversity of holy and loving relationships, blessed by God.
We are reading today parts of both creation narratives, the end of one and beginning of the other. Our focus is on God’s greatest act – the creation of humanity. Notice as we read that Adam and Eve are not named in any of these verses. That comes later, but be aware that the Hebrew word for humanity is
a-dam, but it is also sometimes translated man, instead of humanity. We used to use those terms inter-changebly until we realized that it was not helpful to think of male as normative and female as somehow less than the image of God. We now know that how we speak of humanity and of God really shapes reality. Listen for God’s word, speaking to you today.
Genesis 1:26- 2:9, 15-25
Then God said, "Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth." 27 God created humanity in God's own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground." 29 Then God said, "I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. 30 To all wildlife, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground--to everything that breathes--I give all the green grasses for food." And that's what happened. 31 God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day.
2:1 The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. 2 On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. 3 God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. On the day the LORD God made earth and sky-- 5 before any wild plants appeared on the earth, and before any field crops grew, because the LORD God hadn't yet sent rain on the earth and there was still no human being to farm the fertile land, 6 though a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land-- 7 the LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life's breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. 8 The LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. 9 In the fertile land, the LORD God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit, and also he grew the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…
15 The LORD God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it. 16 The LORD God commanded the human, "Eat your fill from all of the garden's trees; 17 but don't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!" 18 Then the LORD God said, "It's not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him." 19 So the LORD God formed from the fertile land all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky and brought them to the human to see what he would name them. The human gave each living being its name. 20 The human named all the livestock, all the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals. But a helper perfect for him was nowhere to be found. 21 So the LORD God put the human into a deep and heavy sleep, and took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh over it. 22 With the rib taken from the human, the LORD God fashioned a woman and brought her to the human being. 23 The human said, "This one finally is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She will be called a woman because from a man she was taken." 24 This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they weren't embarrassed. (CEB)
The first and most important point I want to make is that humanity, male and female, everyone on the spectrum, is created in the image of God. We understand that gender is part biology, and part social construct, and part mental and emotional self-understanding. Gender identity and sexual identity are complex things. But all of us, no matter how we identify are made in the image of God, imago Dei in Latin, tzelem Elohim, in Hebrew.
The part of the creation story we did not read today is the story of the fall of humanity, the moment when Adam and Eve take life into their own hands, instead of trusting God. You are created by a holy God for holy purposes. We may get confused, misunderstand, or flatly reject God’s intention, God’s holy purposes for our lives, but that does not negate the fact that we are still imago dei at our core.
Even people who commit atrocities like Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden were created in the image of God. Yet the image of God in them was badly marred by disobedience, by a deep misconception about the value of other human beings.
God created the world to be supremely good! Every day of the creation story, God looks around and says, “Wow. This is good. This is very good.” And then after doing a lot of good, God rested and so should we. We cannot function without sleep, not for very long. And taking time to unwind and to be grateful for the goodness around you is crucial for staying connected to your God-like self. As Anne Lamott says in her TED talk, almost anything that is not working will work again, if you unplug for a little while. That includes you! If God needs rest and refresh, so you do. Sabbath is for trusting that you can stop working and the world will not fall apart, because the One Jesus called Abba, has got this whole world in His hands.
Now this is kind of amazing, that the God of the universe, who put this beautiful, complex world together, the God who made it possible for an egg and sperm to grow together into a human being who can think and feel as deeply as we do is just beyond comprehension. And the more we learn about the universe, the more we realize how much we do not know. Ask an astro-physicist…. which brings me to the next point about creation. There is no real conflict between science and scripture. Science answers some questions, the Bible answers others. The Bible is not trying to help you understand evolution. Evolution is not trying to help you understand the mysteries of God, although by faith, you can see that all truth and goodness come from God.
So, point one is we are all created in the image of God. Point two is we need to rest – even God did – to be our best selves. Point three is you can believe in creation and evolution – there is no conflict for people who understand the Bible to be sacred truth but not scientific history book, dropped down from heaven.
And point four is this: “God commands us to care for the earth in ways that reflect God’s loving care for us. We are responsible for ensuring that earth’s gifts be used fairly and wisely, that no creature suffers from the abuse of what we are given, and that future generations may continue to enjoy the abundance and goodness of earth in praise to God.” (Study Catechism of the PCUSA of 1998).
Last of all, point five, we come back to the beginning. We are created in the image of God and so is everyone else. Treat yourself and others well because as award-winning singer and actress, Ethel Waters said, “God don’t make no junk.” Say that with me. Ethel was born into the poverty of inner city Philadelphia in 1896, to a twelve year old victim of rape at gunpoint. She got her start singing in African American churches, moving on to the Harlem Renaissance, to Broadway and Hollywood and touring with Billy Graham. I doubt Rev. Graham knew that she had enjoyed romantic relationships with women, long before that was culturally acceptable. Her favorite hymn and the title of her biography, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me, but how does a little girl raised with no father sing these words of a loving protecting God? Grace. By grace she has helped many of us know that we are special too, because God made us.
As David Brooks wrote an interesting piece and grace-filled piece on absentee fathers who do love their children, though for many complicated reasons are not there for them. I wanted to quote from it, but there’s not enough time. Also, listen to Harold Green’s poem on fatherhood on youtube, The Day will Come. Like Anne Lamott says in her TED talk, try not to compare your insides with somebody else’s outsides. It will only make you worse than you already are. Don’t assume wrongly that they’ve got it all together and you don’t, because all of us are totally messed up and amazingly beautiful at the same time. And don’t try to fix other people’s problems because they are not yours to fix. You cannot run alongside your grown children, trying to guide their life’s journey. Trying to help like that is just the “positive side of control,” so don’t get “your help and your goodness all over other people.”
Haven’t you ever noticed how much freedom and space God our Father gives us to mess everything up? Trust God about all the children of God and your children especially. All those sons of Adam and daughters of Eve have a tendency to ignore God and go their own way, instead of trusting the One who made them, who provides all good things. Guide them when they are young, give them roots, but as they get older, respect them, give them the freedom of wings. Grace will allow their imago dei to emerge in God’s time – which may be long after you have crossed the bridge to the other side of life.