Rev. Misa Furumoto
Proper 22, Year B, October 3, 2021
Morning Prayer, Nara Christ Church.
Genesis 2:18-24, Mark 10:2-16
This morning, I would like to talk a little from today’s first reading, the Book of Genesis. Without understanding the message given to us from God there, we wouldn’t be able to get what Jesus says in the Gospel today. The passage from Genesis read this morning is the latter half of the creation story. As you know, the creation narrative is composed of two different sources. Today’s passage which continues from the beginning of Chapter 2 is called J story of creation (J stands for Yahwist source) which is an earlier tradition than the P creation story in the Genesis Chapter 1. (P stands for Priestly source.)
Whereas the P story pictures human as the culmination of creation, meaning that we are created after the whole world is complete, the J story pictures human as its center. In the P story, human is created after the animals and in both male and female sexes. Here, in today’s passage however, man is created first, and then the animals are created. Looking at the lonely man, God decides to make him a helper as his partner. Then He brought every animal and bird He created to the man and let him name them. Naming them indicates control over them. However, none of them was good enough to be his partner. Although they could possibly serve him, none of them could become someone who lives a life with.
Then what did God do? He made the man into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The meaning of this word “rib” in Hebrew is actually uncertain, but it is to suggest that man and woman share the common humanity. And at the same time, it is intended to suggest that woman is derived from man, which had actually provided an idea of woman’s subordination to man. And sadly, this idea had remained in the world of Christianity for a long, long time.
However, what Genesis is truly telling us is not the subordination of woman. What is important is that God gave man someone who perfectly matches him and complements him. Unlike the animals, this partner was a real consort. When man is sad, the partner can cry with him. When man is happy, the partner can smile from the bottom of the heart. When man feels funny, the partner can also fall about laughing with the him. When man is angry, the partner can understand perfectly how the he feels. And even without uttering a word, just by sharing the air together, man and the partner are fulfilled. Being together, they feel safe, comfortable, and happy. The two are totally equal; they complement each other.
Here I tried to use the words, man and the partner, and not a man and a woman. I know it is debatable, but I wonder if the sex of the two persons is that important here. They could be male and female, male and male, female and female. Either one or even both could be genderless. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they share a common humanity and are complementary to each other; neither is complete without the other. And this whole thing is in God’s hand. It is God who created this loving relationship. And this is marriage.
So, they leave their parents and cling to each other, and become one flesh. The word “one flesh” in Hebrew means more than merely physical union, but it also includes the spiritual union. Clinging to each other both physically and spiritually, they create a new home. But we should never forget that it is a state of life created by God, not ourselves.
Knowing all of this more than anyone else, Jesus answered to the Pharisees’ question “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He said “No, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Instead of commenting on the Law, Jesus reminded them what God intended in the creation. For Jesus, it didn’t mean much how the Law was written whereas for the Pharisees whether preserving the Law or not was everything. Jesus simply affirms that marriage is not a human option but a divine creation. Like the Pharisees, because our hearts are so hardened, we are not being able to see what the most important thing is. No matter how the Law is written, divorce is against God’s will. Once they become one flesh, divorce would be like trying to divide one person into two.
Yes, we understand that. And yet, it is sometimes very hard to keep a marriage relationship. I am also the one who could not keep it up. I need to admit that I am a weak, sinful person. But God knows it, too. Just as knowing all their weak points and all the mistakes they have made, I can’t stop loving my own children, God’s love never changes. As it is said “For God so loved the world, He gave one and only son to us so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John3:16) Through his death and resurrection, I was given the power to rise up again and spread the Good News of Christ, the light of the world to people who are walking in the darkness.
God never gives up on us. He again and again, says for us “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” He knows that no one can live alone. It is not only marriage relationship but all kinds of encounters are prepared and blessed by God. The church is where we can feel it the strongest. We are all family members of God. No one is left alone. Let us rejoice that we are given family and friends by God and also that we can become someone’s helper to live a life together.
In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.