We begin the narrative lectionary year with the story of Creation. No doubt you’re familiar with the story. So what do you remember?
The story as told in Genesis 1 is cosmic in scope. It paints a broad picture of the creation of earth and humanity. In it God speaks Adam and Eve into existence.
Genesis 2, however, is different and it reveals as much about the Creator as it does about Creation. It zooms in to that larger story layering it with detail, emotion, intention and even humor. And if we’re open to it, there is something very special about scripture and its capacity to speak new truths to us.
When God creates humanity in Chapter 1, God says “Let US Create humankind in OUR own image.” Does this mean that God’s chosen pronouns are US and OUR? Had you ever noticed that? Not saying MY suggests a wider mystery than is described by a single gender. We are blessed to take gender roles from this story’s telling, however, it seems clear that those gender roles are wider than we have previously noticed in this text.
And in Genesis 2, humanity is not spoken into simultaneous existence in the way Genesis 1 treats the story. In Genesis 2 the first human is formed by God’s own hands out of the dirt or the hummus of the earth. Even Adam’s name is a Hebrew word play, taken from the word Adama which means dust or hummus. Adam is the earth’s first “hummus being.”
If in hearing the story you think it sounds almost poetic, you would be correct. Genesis is in fact a Hebrew poem. The bible is full of poetry and music along with first person narratives and rich storytelling, which can help us mine the reasons why the two chapters expand the story in different ways.
Throughout Genesis we find God pictured as caring, relational and charmingly funny. God says in verse 18, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper as his partner.” But God does not get to work making the second human according to Genesis 2? NO! First God presents him with pets! With animals. Did you see it? It’s in verse 19. One after the other God forms and brings Adam every animal…and every bird. Adam gives them all names and in verse 20 it says “but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.” Poor Adam.
Adam now has more pets than any human can manage but still-he needs a spouse. So in the image of the Divine “US” God puts Adam to sleep and takes a rib; a piece of Adam’s own self is what and who God forms into a partner— a partner and a helper equal in every way. This first human combines the divine male and female all within itself. And the two shall cling to each other becoming the one flesh they were created from. In Hebrew the words “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” would be more accurately translated as, “Now that’s what I’m talking about. THIS one shall be called woman.”
But for what larger purpose were they created? What is God’s greatest imagination for Creation? Reflecting on these questions, I took a break to enjoy the season opener of the Minnesota Orchestra. Conducted by the deeply respected and loved Finnish musician, Osmo Vänskä, the emotion and intention with which he lovingly forms music out of this self-described family of musicians is in itself cosmic. Vänskä uses his entire being to create a level of musical interpretation that hangs in the air before bringing you to tears and then to your feet. Osmo Vänskä brought this Genesis text to new light.
God is the ultimate maestro, the conductor of creation, composing the music of life, calling it into being, caring for it, naming it and imagining a fullness of purpose and expression. There is sacred intention in naming all the parts of creation. Naming is holy. Even Mary didn’t recognize Jesus at the tomb until Jesus called her by name!
In every holy way, God is inviting us to live in harmony with the whole of Creation and God’s holy vocation as Creator of the Universe is our divine heritage. We too are part of the Divine US.
This is important as we look back at verse 5 when God has laid out the earth as our future home but as yet there was no one to till the ground. In Hebrew the verb to till is as much related to caring about it as it is caring for it.
The measure of how well we honor this creation and our Creator is by whether or not we get it, how well we care for this planet and each other. Just as Osmo Vänskä gathered what could just as easily be a disconnected group of diva musicians, the art of Vänskä’s vocation is in how he orchestrates their individual gifts into a seamless musical community.
And the art and vocation of our Creator God is in how God divinely orchestrates you and I into the beloved community who lovingly accepts our calling to care for and till this wonderful earth. That brothers and sisters is a calling cosmic in hope, rich with purpose and bubbling with divine possibility. Now that’s what I’m talking about.