Based on Genesis 1:1 – 2:3, 2Cor 13:11-13, Psalm 8, Matthew 28:16-20
My father received the National Geographic magazine on a monthly basis as did many people around the world. In my formative years in the 60’s and 70’s, this magazine contained articles on the extraordinary findings of Louis and Mary Leakey – the paleo-archeologists who were discovering the fossilized remains of human ancestors in East Africa. The area that they were working is called Olduvai Gorge, and it held a treasure trove of both bones and tools of ancient humans and pre-Homo Sapiens. Louis Leakey, following the hypothesis of Charles Darwin that humans had originated on the African Continent, spent decades in the Gorge searching and finding the evolutionary links to modern Homo Sapiens. Leakey even wrote a book in the 1950’s entitled, “Adam’s Ancestors”…an interesting segue into our guided meditation for today.
It is Trinity Sunday, our last Church holy day until “All Saints Day” in November. It is the day when we recognize the interdependent relationship of God the Creator, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, conceptualized as three persons of one divine essence. God is all about perfect relationship between the three persons of the Trinity – and the Bible tells us we are all made in that same image as “ben Adam”, the children of Adam. Let us go to God now in a prayer of thanksgiving for having been made in the image and likeness of our Creator…
The endings of both the Gospel of Matthew and 2Corinthians invoke the Triune God. In Matthew, Jesus gives the last direction to the Disciples to go and be in relationship with others making new disciples of all the nations – baptizing them (as we still do) in the names of the Holy Trinity. Jesus reminds them of the importance of teaching and following His commandments from that moment until “the end of the age”. Paul, writing as though the “end of the age” were coming soon tells the believers to, “…put things in order, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace;…the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the sharing in the Holy Spirit be with all of you….” Paul knew that living into the fullness of relationship with God and one another would put these believers in the proper mindset for the second coming of the Christ. Living as Jesus directed in love and peace would be essential for the realization of the promises of God.
The poems that are the first chapter of the Book of Genesis and Psalm 8 are truly wonderful to read and reflect upon. The Psalmist marvels aloud at the miracle that a God who is all-powerful and majestic enough to create all that is would have created humans in God’s image and likeness; that God would have made humans just slightly lower than God with the task of stewarding all that God had made in relationship with God. The opening story in the Bible is truly magnificent! The fullness of God on display as order is brought to chaos and life begins on Earth. God created all things to make a place for humans to be able to live and be fruitful, and on the last day of creation God made humans. The Bible tells us in this first creation story that, “…God created humankind (heb: adam) in God’s [his] image, in the image of God…male and female God [he] created them….” God then looked at all that had been created and saw that it was very good.
The creation story in the Bible is different than every other creation story told by peoples of the ancient Near East. In the other myths that were told about creation, the gods always created a king and a kingdom (e.g., Sumeria). In the biblical record however, God created a world and then created in God’s image and likeness male and female – to have shared and equal stewardship over all of creation – God as King and world as kingdom. All of humankind (Hebrew word: adam) is descended from this first pair of parents – in Hebrew the term is “ben Adam”, the children of Adam.
Interestingly, the scripture says that God created fruit-bearing trees, vegetation, creeping creatures and winged birds; animals and wild beasts – God created all of the listed “of every kind”. By the time God creates man and woman, one expects to hear that God created human beings “of every kind” – and yet that descriptor is missing from the text. Could this just be editorial error or could it be something more revolutionary? The mind-blowing epiphany contained here is that according to the biblical record there are no different “kinds” of human beings. Therefore, since we are created by one divine and holy God who created the first humans, ALL humans around the world are descended from one set of divinely and equivalently created parents. Religiously speaking then, racism, bigotry and misogyny in all their forms are heresies which deny the biblical truth of God as equitable creator of all. Further, scripture goes out of its way to stress that God created both male and female at the very same time. So, sexism, misogyny, gender inequality “of every kind” have the same moral and theological status as any other form of bias – they are nothing less than a sin against God and God’s children.
I began to wonder…how would we interact with each other if we finally internalized the TRUTH that every human being we come across – however they differ from us, is created in God’s image and likeness and are kindred souls as children of Adam? Would we see that Genesis 1 issues a clarion call to place human worth, dignity and right to life at the very center of our public and private relationships and discourse? Reprehensibly, again and again in our lives we are confronted by the reality that there are privileged people who fail to act on the truth that persons of color are as human and precious as themselves. We see again and again that persons whose wealth creates and maintains the sin of poverty, deny the truth that the economic systems which benefit them create the impoverished who are as human and precious as themselves. All too often, people who are able-bodied fail to see that persons with physical and/or mental challenges are as human and precious as themselves. Every day, people who are heterosexual and cis-gendered forget that persons who understand themselves differently are as human and precious as themselves. Male dominated societies and the media forget that women were created equal to men and are thus equally human and precious – that women are not objects. Finally, there is the truth that ALL of God’s people have the right to walk through the world without being demeaned or degraded, assailed or assaulted, encumbered or enslaved, marginalized or murdered.
We see again today that Judeo-Christian teaching is countercultural from its very beginnings. To serve God with an authentic faith, we are required to speak painful truths first to ourselves and then to public institutions and political leaders. We are required to constantly re-examine what we think we know about what the Bible teaches and how that informs our faith. In these days, our Nation and our world are filled with the sins of the foulest array of “racial resentment” (a fad term for racism), misogyny, and xenophobia, perpetuated by those in power who control the media and public policies. These sins are present in our laws, our institutions, our discourse in popular media including films and internet feeds, and not surprisingly in our representative government. There are many “churched-folk” that seek to bless and protect the sin of existing power structures which allow their privilege, while continuing to marginalize and weaken those who are non-white or in other ways different.
Louis Leakey was the child of Episcopalian missionaries, born and raised in East Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. He knew the biblical story of creation and set his life’s work to find the scientific evolutionary record of the first parents of us all. He was certain that before there was “Adam and Eve” the first Homo Sapiens, there were links all the way back to the beginning of life. He, his wife Mary, and their teams worked tirelessly to find those fossils. The search to find the link between science and faith continues today, long beyond both of their deaths. Scientists continue to find the fossil remains which bolster the truth of scripture that God created the evolutionary process for hominids to develop into Homo Sapiens. We are thus presented with evidence that the evolutionary record is consistent with the biblical record we have before us today. Therefore, it is time to live fully into the truth that ALL humans are descendants of Adam. Children of our Triune God, from the second page of the Bible we’re taught the truth that God did NOT create humans “of every kind”…just ben Adam. That truth stridently calls out to us to dismantle the sinful structures that have been erected over millennia which perpetuate the heresy that God created a hierarchy of humans. It is time to work diligently to demolish flawed and sinful human systems which marginalize, “other” and murder the children of Adam. Finally, as the Apostle Paul teaches, it is time for us all to, “…put things in order, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace;…”, so that all of ben Adam can live life abundantly and well. With the power of Almighty God and the truth of science and scripture enabling us, let ALL God’s children agree to get to work to live in right relationship with our neighbors by saying – amen!