Message from Our Pastor
Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman's October 7th homily. Relevant text: Genesis 2:18-24, Mark 10:2-16
Bible quiz time! But not to worry, I‘m starting with very easy questions, fill-in the blank. Think back to the beginning of Genesis, when God created the heavens and the earth. Ready?
On the first day God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light and God saw that the light was ____ (good).
God separated the dry land from the water. The land he called Earth and the water Seas. And God saw that it was ____ (good).
Then the earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind. And God saw that it was ____ (good).
God put lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth and to separate the day from the night. And God saw that it was ____ (good).
God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves of every kind with which the waters swarm and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was ____ (good).
God made humankind in his image. And God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was ____ ____ (very good).
Then, after having made Adam and placing him in the Garden of Eden God saw that Adam was without a partner and alone. And God said this is ___ ____ (not good).
That it is not good for individuals to be alone is the underlying message of today’s lessons. By no means are these texts suggesting that everyone must find a mate and get married. But these readings are declaring that God created us to be people in relationship with each other, and failure to care for, and protect, these relationships is sin of the first degree. And just as great a transgression is to fly solo through life, as if relationships are of no necessary value.
From the very beginning everything that God created was a pair: day and night, space and sky, land and seas, sun and moon, creatures that swam and birds that flew, plants and animals. And in the first creation story, even humanity was created as `a pair, male and female.
But in the second creation story, told in Genesis chapter 2, God started with Adam, breathing life into the dust of his nostrils. And then when God looked around something was missing, and it was NOT good. In this version of the story, it is in response to Adam’s solitude that God makes all the animals, hoping that Adam will find a help mate — not a servant, but a partner with whom to share his love and life.
Every animal of the field and bird of the air Adam named, but not one of them was a suitable mate. So God went back to work, this time creating a creature from Adams own flesh and bone. And, thus was born woman, or Eve, as we have come to call her.
God’s intent was for Adam and Eve to be an insoluble unit. Humankind, a humanity that lived, and worked, and loved, and played, and rested, together as a team. As one being, united in heart and mind.
Of course that lasted all of one sentence. In the very next verse, just after the man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife in one flesh, the serpent arrives on the scene. And from that point on, very few marriages are blessed eternal paradises.
And it is not just marriages. There is often trouble in the paradise of other relationships as well. Personalities clash, habits annoy, preferences differ, looks tempt, -isms cast some out, and greed turns partners into servants. Even today it doesn’t take much more than a sentence before relationships are drifting at sea.
You might think, and the Pharisees were hoping, that given this troublesome nature of humanity, God would provide an out, a loophole, through which we could slide when the going gets tough.
You could say that divorce is such a loophole. It was handed down by God through Moses, so it must be OK, right? God knows we are an ill tempered, restless brood, so surely this was his way of keeping us out of even more trouble than we are already inclined to.
But here is a surprise, and it certainly surprised the Pharisees, what the law allows is not always what God wills. And relationships are a case in point.
The law does contain loopholes. We can divorce ourselves from those with whom we have made promises and entered into covenant relationships, whether it be our spouse, our business partner, our friends, our neighbors, or even our God. And, we never have to think again about the debris left in our departing wake.
There are also loopholes for taxes, allowing us to pay what is legal, but maybe not what is right.
There are loopholes in our constitution, making many things legal, even though some things, like hate speech, are neither right or good.
There are loopholes in our healthcare. Some people are not covered. And, while the wealthy can always afford the best coverage and most advanced treatments, the poor have to settle for much less, or none at all.
There are loopholes in our education. Inner city schools should not have to beg and borrow outdated textbooks, while large suburban schools are budgeting for iPads and electronic textbooks for all of their students.
These legal loopholes are not a matter of life not being fair. They are about partners not loving each other with the same grace and faithfulness as God has loved them. They are about we the people not loving our neighbors as our selves. They are about our forgetting that we are all brothers and sisters. They are about our settling for what is allowable instead of fighting for what is right. They are about choosing what relationships to pursue instead of pursuing the insoluble relationship of humanity that God created in the beginning.
Our God is an eternally gracious and loving God, forgiving our sins and renewing his steadfast love for us every morning. Nothing is more firm and loyal than God’s faithfulness. But God’s goodness is not a loophole for our laziness or unwillingness to do the work required to be the people he created us to be.
Maybe we can’t eradicate poverty or hunger or homelessness or illiteracy throughout the world, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything in our power and means to try.
And this means in order for some to have more, some will have to have less. It means that we will have to start looking at each other as equals and not competitors or inferior neighbors. It means we must not stop with what the law allows, but pursue instead what God wills. It means we must confess our human sinfulness and commit to turning our selves and life as we currently know and live it around. Amen.