GNB 160

November 29, 2022 (The third day of the first week of Advent 2022)

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:

“But for Adam no suitable helpmate was found. So the Lord God, Yahweh Elohim, caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While he was sleeping, God took one of the man’s ribs. Then God closed up the place where the rib had been and covered it with flesh. God took the rib from Adam and made a helpmate fitted perfectly for Adam. When God was finished with what He had done, He brought the woman and presented her to the man. And Adam, who had named all other living creatures, recognized her as his own and called her woman.” (Genesis 2.20b-23)

TODAY’S REFLECTION:

The God who dwells within us makes us His people!

Let us be perfectly clear on this: the evidence provided in the stories of creation leave nothing to the imagination…GOD creates life. This is why when we hear the declarative naming of IMMANUEL, we know that God alone is with us, within us and and all around us. Let there be no doubt in professing “We are God’s people.”

Yesterday I mentioned that the “agenda” in the creation story found in Genesis 1-Genesis 2.3 is different than the creation story found in Genesis 2.4-25. In the “beginning” creation presentation, the “end of the story” plants us squarely on the vitality of the Sabbath. In the “continuing” creation presentation, the “end of the story” affirms without equivocation that Adam and Eve, man and woman, existed without shame even amidst the reality that they were both naked and fully exposed. From that time on, the history of God’s people has been moving along between these two posits: claim and shame. The claim of blessing and its accompanying divine declaration of “this is good and very good” exists in the midst of celebrating the Sabbath and keeping it holy. Such claim and service is based on Immanuel, God with us/God within us. If there were any true “good ol’ days,” then that would have been the seventh day and every day like it. All that was known was God who walks with us, talks with us and tells us that we are His own. Yes, lyrics from an old hymn, In The Garden, will continue to remind us “…and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” There really isn’t much difference between that “end of the story” and its companion ending which establishes the truth of the relationship between Adam and Eve as “shameless.” Where the first story speaks of the interrelationship between God and His people (Adam and Eve), the second story speaks to the relationship between Adam and Eve. As long as they are right with each other then there is the assumed “being right with God.” And all that is is “good and very good” and brings about the feeling of peace, contentment and prosperity.

But, there is trouble brewing in paradise! If we could borrow again from noted journalist Paul Harvey, there is a “rest of the story” to be told. In storytelling fashion, I say “…and then the eighth day.” I say “eighth day” because life got real after the celebration of the Sabbath blessing and shameless acceptance of one another in right relationship. Let’s follow the paradigm established by the first story as “peace exists when you live day by day as the Lord has made and rejoice in it.” (Psalm 118.24) In fact, the entirety of David’s declaration sung as Psalm 118 builds upon the faith expressed in it about “nothing is impossible with God.” Trusting God’s provision and supervision in each day brings safety, security, prosperity and most of all a peace which surpasses all understanding. If we follow the paradigm established by the second story as “maintain a right relationship between husband and wife as God saw fit to create it, then there will be no shame.” Job espouses this truth to his disconcerting friends (read Job 12 as the response to Job 11). He would be with shame if he confessed that “bad things happen to bad people because they are bad.” Instead, he professes that all things happen because of the shame which evil brings upon our lives as we give claim to anyone or anything apart from God as being in control. In his trust in God, Yahweh Elohim, he refuses such shame which would thus separate him from the providential love of God. He believes that “in all things God works together for good;” especially when and even when most of those things are shameful, hurtful and sinful. (Romans 8.28) But, there is a caveat to Paul’s declaration which says “…for those who love God and live according to His purpose in their lives.” In other words, “nothing is impossible for God to do in maintaining a “shameless” relationship if the relationship is bounded by love and faithful obedience. Whether it is the “eighth day” which follows the first story or the “next day” which follows the second story, the test of faith and faithfulness comes in Genesis, chapter 3.

Without getting into the whole “fallen” story of the “blind leading the blind,” let me suggest this reading for the “rest of the story.” Some scholars say that the first story of creation which Moses records for posterity for the people of God is that which the priests shaped as a means of “overcoming the shame of fallenness.” They are an orderly group of believers in God who want to structure and maintain control of life in a “seven step” program. Living by the guidance of God who created all things and culminates it in a day of worship promotes mental, physical, social and spiritual welfare. Some would even say this is the fundamental understanding of legalism. Except, we know that legalistic living does not and cannot promote authentic living in true faithfulness to God. We can follow the “steps” but if our heart is not in it or our intentions are not fully revealed (in other words, they are hidden in shame), then the result that is desired remains far from us. I have always promoted “you cannot legalize morality and you cannot heal a people with laws.” Those same scholars would say that the second story of creation is fashioned by theologians, teachers and philosophers. It is their belief that having a right understanding, a keen intellect and a right relationship with one another will promote a right living and a prosperous life. I believe this is the foundation of Gnosticism which was not not first promoted by the Greeks but by the Jewish adherents to this rabbinical expression. We can see them both alive and well in today’s culture and climate and neither now have to have anything to do with God and godly living. This is how far “the rest of the story” has gone. And it is to “our shame” as mighty ones of God that it has done so. It is as the true “fallen one,” Satan, full well intended when he separated Eve from Adam and them from God. Whether by legalism or by “mindful right relationship” the healing of this rift is impossible for the human community. But, “nothing is impossible for God.”

In comes “Immanuel” to not only save the day but save those who will affirm in their heart, mind, body, soul and community they are the people of God. Without question God is both legal (and just) and moral (and loving). He is the God of all things and all creation. Nothing that is exists without Him. Sadly, because of free will which exists because of true love, the choice can be made by us to “cease to exist” and dwell apart from the Spirit of God which created us, sustained us and ultimately saved us from our sin and shame. Yes, the day of the Lord is a Sabbath expression which the Church holds dear as the “first day of the week.” It celebrates what happens on the “newly created by Jesus faith in God to be the Christ” eighth day. On the day when everything seemed to go wrong for us, everything can be resurrected into a newness of life where sin and shame are defeated and life and living are promoted as possible for all those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and Savior of all those who dwell in God’s kingdom on earth and not as the world would have us live. It is the day when we declare “God is with us and within us.” But, let us not forget that “the day of the Lord” will also be on one certain day a terrible and frightful day when the true realities at work in the world will be judged and divine justice will be executed. Those who trust in God and call upon His name by those who seek to live as His people will be blessed and separated out and away from those who refuse to be that people. On that day, there will be many who will experience the fruit of living apart from God, any chance to be with God and any hope of having the spirit of God to lead, guide and direct their lives. Our Christmas celebration must carry this reminder as well. The birth of the Savior is the birth of our Savior. All else in our “celebration” is window dressing, manmade legalisms in traditions and hopeful peace offerings. As we prepare for “that day,” let our focus be on living shamelessly in the midst of a shameful world. Let us focus on what is right and true and not what feels good and nice. Let this Advent season be a time to refuse to contract the disease of worldliness as well as a refusal to distract others from the healing which comes in seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Let it be known that we are His people set apart from all shame to shamelessly go into all the world and make disciples in the name of Jesus our Christ.

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Let Your will of reconciliation be known in us and through us to all generations and to all nations in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

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