The Original Plan, October 7, 2018, St. Paul’s, Vancouver
Gen 2:18-24; Ps 8; Heb 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than the angels, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,”
On the day of the Pet Blessing the story of creation is such a nice one. God creates the animals out of the dust and brings them to the human he has created. The human gives them all their names. It is such a lovely story.
And then God makes a second human…
If this were almost any other Sunday, we could just focus on the creation of the animals. I could preach a very charming sermon (if somewhat trite) about the earth, animals, and the role of human beings here as caretakers and stewards of creation.
But this is not most Sundays.
And I can’t stand here and pretend that the story that has been told for thousands of years of a woman being created as a “helper” to a man is not still having horrible repercussions. Not today.
It is also thanksgiving weekend. I could also present to you a comforting sermon on the many things that we all have to be thankful for: food, clothing, warmth, shelter. But today I am more aware of the fact that I am thankful that I live in this country; that I am thankful that I was born a male; white; straight and cis-gendered; and that I live in a place where there law, while far from perfect, still strives to be “fair”, at least as far as it understands the term.
I don’t have to endure “rib” jokes. Nobody expects me to be their “helper”. I can strut around this world, if I want to, as though I have been made “just a little lower than the angels”, and act as though I can do whatever I want with very minimal consequences. Because that is the privilege I have.
I am not a survivor.
I am at the top of the pile—but not because I worked to get there, and not because of any talent, skill, or uniqueness of who I am—but simply because I was born there. I arrived on this earth as the “king of the castle”. And the last few weeks have reminded me just how hard others like me will fight to keep the privileges that they never earned and don’t deserve. Despite what it may cost everyone else.
Human beings have made a mess of this place. This earth. This society. Things are not getting better. We have not reached some pinnacle of human enlightenment and achievement.
And yet I have good news for you today.
It is hard for me to tell you good news in the midst of the chaos around us. I do not want to minimize the suffering and frustration and anger and resentment that many people are feeling. Yes, there are political things to be deeply concerned about. There are inequalities to be concerned about—some of which affect us very deeply. There are flaws within our legal system, our political system, and even our religious system. And on top of all of that, many of us here today are also facing personal struggles, health struggles, relationship struggles.
It is not easy to find Good News today, but as I promised, I have good news for you, even in the midst of the scriptures that we heard today.
First of all, let no one tell you that Jesus defined marriage as between a man and woman. That is not what he did. He was asked a question—a group of men asked if they were permitted to divorce their wives. This was a trap. They wanted Jesus to say something offensive that might get him arrested and killed—after all, John the Baptist was arrested and executed for speaking out about Herod’s unlawful marriage. When asked about a marriage between a man and a woman and whether or not divorce was permissible, Jesus asked them about the law of Moses and then quoted Genesis—I remind you that this was not a question about what constitutes marriage but a question about whether or not a man might divorce his wife.
Jesus proposed something radical—a wife might divorce her husband! This was not how it was done in those days. Men were allowed to “put aside” their wives so that they might marry another—the certificate of divorce the woman received allowed her to remarry legally—but it didn’t guarantee her alimony or child-support payments or even the respect of anyone in the culture. Jesus was concerned about the well-being of these divorcées whose husbands were abandoning their responsibility.
Then Jesus said something even more challenging: anyone who remarried was committing adultery against their first husband or wife.
Believe it or not, this is where we can see the good news.
Divorce, Jesus tells the Pharisees, is permitted because of hardness of heart—this is not what God intended when the first humans were created. But it is also not the intention of anyone who gets married to get divorced—at least not someone who enters into a marriage with a proper understanding of what it means. Nobody plans to get divorced—and yet it happens (and please hear me here: sometimes it happens for very good reasons and in some circumstances divorce most definitely should happen—but I won’t get into all of those examples here).
So, why is this good news?
It’s good news because we were created for something better. Divorce is not a good thing—although in many circumstances it is indeed a good thing and even the best possible thing given the circumstances. God’s intention for human beings, created in the image of God, is that they would recognize their common origin and be united as one humanity—that their differences would be overcome by their willingness to cooperate. When our attempts to achieve that goal fail, we rightly feel disappointed—maybe even despair. And this is not restricted to romantic relationships. When we look at the world and mourn the inability of people to effectively communicate with each other; when we see the unwillingness to share in people’s pain and take steps to make things better for future generations; when we see people in power openly mock the suffering of others in a feeble attempt to gain popularity—then the good news that I spoke of becomes evident: we were created for something better. There is a disconnect between the world we are living in and the one we were meant to—the one we were created for. We were not made for enmity and strife. We were not created for partisan politics and division. For sexism and sexual violence and ignoring the testimony of victims of abuse. We were created with unity as out ultimate goal—union with one another and a recognition that we and all the creatures of the earth and sky were created from the dust—and to this same dust we will return.
As human beings and stewards of this earth, we have not done this job particularly well. But if we are distressed by the failures at our attempts at unification, that is just a reminder of where the bar is set—at what the intention was for us at our creation.
The good news is that we can work together to move toward that goal, if we choose to. It will not be easy—and there are always those who work for their own convenience, power, and popularity rather than the collective good.
As beings created in the image and likeness of God, we were created with an ideal. Our disappointments with where we find ourselves and this world serve to remind us of that Godly ideal dwelling in us, for us to strive for.
And if we can accept this with the open-hearted faith of a little child, then nothing can stand in our way.
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than the angels, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet[…] O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”