A High Degree of Correspondence

Man and woman
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/serendipitys/3436932007/">Benedetta Anghileri</a>

Genesis 2:15-25

God put the earthling in God’s garden to take care of it and cultivate it. God gave the earthling instructions: “You’re free to eat anything on any of the trees, except the tree of moral discernment. If you eat from that tree, you’ll die.”

Then God said, “It’s not good for the earthling to be alone. I’ll make him a helper to be his partner.” So God molded from earth all kinds of animals and birds, and brought them to the earthling to see what he would call them. The earthling gave them all names, deciding what to call all the domesticated animals, wild animals, and birds. Still, none of them was suitable enough of a helper to be called a partner. So God anesthetized the earthling and took one of his ribs, closing over the skin. God made the earthling’s rib into a partner, and presented her to the earthling, who said,

“This, at last, is my very bone and flesh.
I’ll call her woman, because she corresponds to man”

So, ever since, a man leaves his parents to be attached to his wife. Both of them share the same essence, together naked, without shame.

It should go without saying, but unfortunately it doesn’t.

This is about partnership and equality, not domination and hierarchy. The point isn’t that woman is a derivative or essentially different. The point is that she is correspondent and essentially the same.

In its entirety, the story is about the human need for community. The earthling cannot exist alone in a vacuum. “No man is an island,” as John Donne put it. We cannot thrive in isolation.

Genesis recognizes that partnership, collegiality, equality, and community are divine gifts. Even more so when that partnership and community leads to the formation of intimate, life-affirming connections between people.

Whose Company Do You Keep?

2 boys with mentor
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vexrobotics/5632611860/">Vex Robotics</a>

1 John 2:24-29

May what you’ve heard at the outset always stick with you. If it does, you will remain with God and Jesus, and according to the promise, you will live forever.

I’m mentioning this about those deceivers, but you remain true to your commission and you don’t need any further instructions. Because your commission contains everything you need to know (it’s true, no lie), keep in touch with that. That’s what Jesus taught. So, keep in touch with Jesus, so that you’ll have no question or shame when you see him. Knowing that Jesus is a righteous dude, anyone who does what he does will also be righteous.

There’s a financial services company that advertises about “the company you keep.” But the recognition that you tend to become more like the people you hang around with came long before the slogan.

There are other adages, too. Birds of a feather. Peas in a pod. You get the idea.

On the one hand, staying always within the same social circles and spheres of interest runs the risk of becoming an unhealthy homogeneity. Like people who watch FOX and only FOX. Or others who watch MSNBC and only MSNBC.

On the other hand, when someone is really a “righteous dude,” it’s worth it to stick with her. Because like anything else, righteousness does start to rub off. I’m not advocating following with blind faith, mind you. Keep your eyes open. You still have to think and act for yourself. But a good example, when you can find one, is a priceless gift. And people who model a better way are worth sticking to.

You don’t have to stick to any doctrinal line to get that Jesus was one of those people. It’s just that you have to keep in mind that there are a lot of other people who haven’t made it yet who are also following along, too. Do what Jesus does, not what they do.

Generation to Generation

Mother, teenager, and child
Photo credit:<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/2566365965/">Mckay Savage</a>

1 John 2:12-14

I’m writing to you, kids, because what he did made your future possible.
I’m writing to you, parents, because you’ve met him in the past.
I’m writing to you, youth, because you have overcome evil.

I’m writing to you, kids, because you know God.
I’m writing to you, parents, because you’ve met him in the past.
I’m writing to you, youth, because you’re strong, because you’ve got the idea living in you, and you have overcome evil.

As we contemplate the beginning of a new year, we may do well to reflect on this passage’s affirmations of future, past, and present.

Each generation has something to contribute: the children to the future possibilities, the parents to the personal remembrance of where the community has been in touch with its source of life, and the youth to the strength for doing the work right now.

Perhaps many communities that are struggling are having trouble, in part, because they’ve forgotten the order of things. The elder generation is trying to do it all while the children are coddled rather than challenged, and the youth are ignored.

It takes tremendous strength of character for a community, whether it’s a religious one or some other kind, to keep it’s generational house in order. But every community’s success in the new year will depend on its being able to do so.

Be Thankful (Not Apprehensive)

mother and son
Photo credit: Tony Alter

Luke 7:11-17

Later on, Jesus went to Nain with his disciples and a large crowd in tow. As he neared the city gate a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. Another large crowd from the city was with her.

When Jesus saw her, he felt terrible for her, and said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went over and touched the gurney so that the pallbearers stopped. And he said, “Dude, get up.” And the dead man sat up and started talking. So Jesus returned him to his mother.

The crowds were struck with apprehension. They acknowledged God, saying things like: “A great truth-teller has come to us,” and “God has come to our rescue.” And this news about Jesus shot through the whole Judean region.

(Happy Thanksgiving!)

The point of this is not to prove the Jesus can raise the dead. The point is to prove that Jesus can restore a relationship. The key line: “So Jesus returned him to his mother.”

It requires his attention to both sides of the estranged relationship. Her sorrow. His inaction. She’s not as alone in the world as she thinks. He needs to take responsibility for himself.

But what the crowd (which includes most readers) sees, of course, is the raise the dead thing. So instead of being thankful and rejoicing, they are struck with apprehension. Instead of seeing an example to do likewise, they interpret it as a sign that they will be rescued from beyond.

But the life, and the rescue of society is in the relationships. So too, is the hope of renewing life and restoring community in the ability of each of us to do as Jesus did. To have compassion, and then to do something to rebuild broken relationships. Even those that seem hopelessly dead.

[Hint: If you really want to do this, it will take paying attention to both sides.]

[Oh, and did I say, this is tremendously great news. So don’t be so apprehensive about it. Happy Thanksgiving!]