SERMON ~ 10/03/2021 ~ “From the Earth”

READINGS: 10/03/2021 ~ Proper 22 ~ Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) ~ Job 1:1, 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16 ~ World-wide Communion Sunday ~ Communion Sunday ~ VIDEO OF COMPLETE SERVICE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHJdlMDNSxywfQXnG5dt8Gw.

From the Earth

“…Yahweh, God, said, ‘It is not good for this creature of the earth, this one I have made out of the ad-am-ah, made out of the earth, to be alone; I will make a fitting companion, a partner for it.’” — Genesis 2:18.

I have already mentioned here that I was a professional writer, mostly for theater related projects. And, since I have been a writer and people know that, occasionally someone will say to me their impression of most writers is that writers are… loners— do things alone.

That impression is not far fetched. Even I think most writers are loners. They go off to their towers, ivory or otherwise, and scribble, scribble, scribble— or these days type, type, type on a computer— pages and pages and pages of prose.

Then the writer emerges, finalized copy in hand, ready to share it with the world. And the world is not permitted to change a single letter, word, comma or paragraph, thank you.

But there is something unique about writing for theater which sets theater writers apart. How are theater writers different? This is a given: theater is a collaborative art.

It takes many, many people of great talent— actors, directors, producers, musicians, set, sound and lighting designers, sometimes even other writers, multiple writers— to present a stage play. And all of these collaborators will bring change to what has been originally written.

The demand the theater makes is to embrace change in the process of creating. The nature, the character of the art incorporates change in the process of creating.

Hence, while a theater writer may initially find some tower in which to write, that writer needs to know upon emerging from said tower, change is a part of creating. Equally collaboration, working with others, is a part of the process of creating.

So no theater writer can be a loner nor can anyone who works in theater. The profession does not allow for that.

And yes, as I worked in theater I learned how to collaborate and even found I like to collaborate. It’s what we theater people do— we collaborate. (Slight pause.)

We find these words in the work known as Genesis. “…Yahweh, God, said, ‘It is not good for this creature of the earth, this one I have made out of the ad-am-ah, made out of the earth, to be alone; I will make a fitting companion, a partner for it.’” (Slight pause.)

You probably know this reading is the second of two understandings of creation in Genesis. Please notice, I did not call these creation stories.

Why? Neither of these understandings are descriptions of creation nor are they concerned with how creation came about. The Bible is not a science textbook. So if this is not a story of creation or how creation happened, what is it? (Slight pause.)

There are a bunch of things here which jump out. Let’s start with the obvious. I hope the translation [1] we heard made it clear the word ‘a-dam’ [2] is not a name.

Our clue to this idea is in the fact that the ad-am-ah is the earth, the ground. It is, in fact, the dust of the ground. A-dam is, therefore, an earth creature, made out of the ground, from the ground.

Equally, Eve— ish in Hebrew— is not a name but a word which means giver of life. Additionally, Yahweh, God, has made these earth creatures. And it should be evident God loves what God has made. How do I know God loves what God has made?

In words which came before the section of Scripture we heard today God acted as a bellows, breathes life into the a-dam. This “breath of life” is God’s own living breath.

This is a divine act and an act of love. This divine act is the only distinction between the creation of humans and the creation of animals. God does not breathe into the animals. Instead they are simply created out of the ad-am-ah, out of the earth.

Additionally and therefore, the a-dam, this earth creature, is a combination of the substance of the earth and the image of God, this breath of God. What also seems clear is this passage constitutes a profound statement about human identity, about who we are.

Now, having formed the a-dam, having breathed life into the a-dam, what happens? Together with this a-dam— together— Yahweh, God, sets to a task. They begin a collaboration. The task? They name things.

God creates things and brings them to the a-dam so they can be named. Further, this is not simply a collaboration. We watch as a relationship develops.

The motive of God is stated quite clearly. God seeks a companion for the a-dam, the earth creature. Then yet another level of collaboration happens.

God, you see, does not take this next step in isolation from the earth creature. God creates ish— this name which means giver of life— God creates ish out of the earth creature, out of the a-dam.

Thereby, the collaboration deepens and becomes richer and becomes inclusive of yet another earth creature made out of the a-dam, made out of the ground and made out of the breath of God. Hence by its nature, by its reality, this very act instructs humanity about what we should be doing and need to be doing. We need to collaborate with one another, rely on one another, support one another. (Slight pause.)

Let me state the obvious. As I said minutes ago, is not concerned with how creation came about. This is a story about relationships— about a relationship with God and relationships with other humans.

And yes, you may get tired of hearing me use the word ‘covenant.’ But here it comes again. This is a story about covenant because it’s a story about relationship with God and relationships with other humans.

Further, something we need to realize is covenants— in part because they are collaborative— covenants are not contracts. Contracts do not change. They are and remain static.

Covenants by their nature renew, animate, revive, regenerate, create, re-create, alter, live, breathe. And yes, covenants demand change because covenants are not static. And yes… covenant is about collaboration.

It is a demand of the art of covenant to embrace change, incorporate change, include change. Covenant, you see, is about the process of creating, about the process of creating with God. Covenant is also about the process of creating with others.

Covenant is about the process of creating and growing in love, in peace, in wisdom, in knowledge, in understanding. That, my friends, is both a real story of creation and the real story of creation. We are invited by God to grow— to grow in love, in peace, in wisdom, in knowledge, in understanding. Amen.

10/03/2021
South Freeport Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, South Freeport, Maine

ENDPIECE: It is the practice of the Pastor to speak after the Closing Hymn, but before the Choral Response and Benediction. This is an précis of what was said: “The Thought for Meditation was from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. [3] That is a work of science fiction comedy— yes, science fiction comedy. As a theater person let me define comedy for you. Comedy seeks to uncover deep truth. That’s what makes us laugh— comedy helps us see deep truth. In Hebrew a-dam and ad-am-ah reads as a comedic word play and points to deep truth. That being said let me end with another quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s not a funny quote but it is true. ‘There is a moment in every dawn when light floats, when there is the possibility of magic. Creation holds its breath.’”

BENEDICTION: The work and the will of God is placed before us. Further, we are called to be faithful and seek to do God’s will and work. In so doing, may we love God so much, that we love nothing else too much. May we be so in awe of God, that we are in awe of no one else and nothing else. Amen.

[1]

This is the translation used and the introduction Tthe the reading which preceded the reading of Genesis 2:18-23 [Inclusive Language Version]
There is a tradition in Congregationalism which says there should never be a dumb reading of Scripture in a service of worship. In this case the word dumb means silent. What that means is there should never be a reading of Scripture in a service during which the reader fails to offer some commentary as the reading progresses. That is what you will hear today. Jeremy will be offering some commentary as he reads. As commentary he shall inject both the underlying meanings and the Hebrew pronunciations of some of the very familiar names you will hear. Hear now this reading from the Tanakh in the section known as the Torah in the work we call Genesis.

[18] ...Yahweh, God, said, “It is not good for this creature of the earth, this one I have made out of the ad-am-ah, made out of the earth, to be alone; I will make a fitting companion, a partner for it.”  [19] So also out of the ground, from the soil, out of the ad-am-ah, Yahweh, God, formed all the animals, every wild beast of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the earth creature, the a-dam, so these could be named.  Whatever the earth creature, the a-dam, called every living one, that became its name.  [20] The earth creature gave names to all cattle and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field, all the wild animals.

But none of them proved to be a fitting companion, a partner for the a-dam, the earth creature. [21] So Yahweh, God, caused a deep sleep to fall on the earth creature. While it slept God divided the earth creature in two and then closed up the flesh from its side. [22] Yahweh then fashioned the two halves into male and female and presented them to one another.

[23] The male realized what had happened and said,
“This time this is the one!
Bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh;
Now this one will be called ish”—
ish a word which means source of life
“and I shall be called a-dam”—
a-dam— a word which means from the ground
“for out of me was this one taken.”

Here ends this reading from Scripture.

[2] Adam is pronounced a-dam. Adamah is pronounced a-dam-ah.

[3] Thought for Meditation:
“Humans think they are smarter than dolphins because we build cars and buildings, start wars etc., and all that dolphins do is swim in the water, eat fish and play around. Dolphins believe that they are smarter for exactly the same reasons.” — Douglas Adams (1952-2001), author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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