November 30, 2022 (The fourth 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)
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.”
I have always wondered about the phrase “self-made person.” Well, in all actuality the phrase has been first stated “self-made man.” Sometimes, I believe the pursuit of “gender equality” which has now morphed into “gender neutrality” is actually the desire to escape an ultimate truth- Immanuel. Oh, I know that there will be those who will espouse their belief in “no Immanuel.” Perhaps what they are espousing is their unbelief in “Immanuel.” Sort of like the debate on the difference between agnostic and atheistic, we end up looking only at two sides of the same coin but only seeing one side. What would the other side of the coin be? Immanuel! Unless you have the ability to see both sides simultaneously, you can only see one side of the coin at a time. That may be the root of this saying as Jesus applied it when confronted in the Temple concerning paying taxes to Rome. In Mark 12, we read yet another story of an attempt to defeat the Word with words. Those who were sent to “catch” Jesus committing treason and heresy at the same time and thereby prove He was not the Messiah actually undid themselves. The image from the Indiana Jones movie where he was confronted by a man with a large scimitar only to have Indy pull out his pistol and shoot him would be a fitting example to explain it. They were outmatched and outgunned by the logic of this man of God. What did Jesus do? He took a denarius from them and asked them whose picture was engraved on it. They answered “Caesar.” Jesus replied, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” What would have happened if they brought a “temple” coin to Jesus (which the Herodians would never have done)? Would Jesus have responded “Give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s”? The point I am making is that we are never presented with the other side of the coin. The face on the coin determines its value, its purpose and its ownership. But, Jesus alludes to what is not seen and declares its vision to be obvious. God is behind everything and thereby “before” all things.
Go back to my initial statement of a “self-made person.” Strange that the noun has been made the determining factor in the statement. It was changed from “man” to “person” as if the noun was the primary focus. And it isn’t. Regardless of the noun, the descriptor of “self-made” is what is the lead question. What does it take to be a “self-made” anything? Even for those who have a desire to promote a strict evolutionary view of the world cannot answer “where did it all begin”? It just “began.” It is the age old question which continues to confound scientists, philosophers and the rest of us. Things just didn’t happen out of nothing at all. The biblical genesis of life speaks to this point. Something had to generate the beginning of all there is. Or as in the storied quote from God to scientists who declared “We have no need of you because we now can make a man”: Get your own dirt. All that we see and all that we know is merely one side of the coin. What is it we must face on the other side? Immanuel. Or in the words of Jesus in the temple, “Give to God what is God’s!” In order to be a self-made man/woman/non-binary, etc., we must start with being a man/woman/non-binary, etc. We did not create our physical self. And, of course, the beginning quote is not speaking to that point. It is actually addressing “what that noun/pronoun becomes.” It explores and proclaims the effort of becoming as determined by one’s own efforts to encapsulate meaning, purpose and existence. Somewhere Frank Sinatra is singing “I did it my way!” But, to ignore the beginning point of life is tantamount to final failure. It is the “from dust we came and to dust we return.” If you or I are merely capable self-made people then what future is there beyond the earth, the solar system, the galaxy and the universe. Is there something more? Is there a dimension of thinking to which we can finally attain so that we are more than our self? Is all our pursuit, intentionally or unintentionally, to finally see if there is a face of God on the other side of the coin and if so, what shall we say?
The point I am trying to make, and some may say I am trying to make it the hard way, is that to believe we are “self-made” denies the true genesis of life. On our own, we are very limited in all we can say, think, experience and do. Adam did not make Adam. Adam made a mess of Adam by not holding fast to God. But, God is the other side of the coin on which Adam’s face is etched. I will give Adam his due but I have to give God His due, too. Further, Adam did not make Eve. Adam made a mess of Eve because he did not intervene in the conversation which was conducted between Eve and the Serpent. Satan is not on the other side of the coin, God is. I will give Satan his due in that he merely toyed with Adam and Eve in their state of innocence with the hope of stamping his claim on the them, to “coin” a phrase. But, what he can never do is remove the face of God from it or them. They were created in the image of God by word and by hand and as such were an anathema to Satan. What he never wanted was a reminder of God. Yet, wherever he was, there was God. It was one thing to be cast down to a planet of birds, fish, walking and crawling things, grass, trees, flowers, sun, moon, stars, land, water and air. He never had to be in awe of those things and the God who created them. He could take them for granted as we so often do ourselves. But, when God took from the ground of His being and formed a man and gave him authentic life in the core of his being out of the core of His being, that was a whole different matter. When God took from Adam and made out of that ground of being another being called woman, Eve, then it was a whole different matter. And let’s go even further to see the ruse Satan tried to pull on God by tempting Eve in her innocence, and Adam in his, with the same ploy used by Jesus’ detractors in the Temple. Adam and Eve were two sides of the same coin. No, the two were as one. Who then was on the other side of the coin? Immanuel. These were God’s people. They were not two coins but one. They were not the flip side of each other but were coined by God to be the people of His hand and the sheep of His pasture. Satan was a thief attempting to steal God’s sheep as if they were sheep without a shepherd. In truth, what Satan hoped was that they would simply choose a different shepherd whether it was him or themselves as “self-made” people. But, while they could make something, good or evil, of themselves, they could never make themselves as in the beginning. They had nothing to work with nor to go from. And strangely enough neither did Satan. In the end, it all still belongs to God. Pro or con, we are His creations and His to do with as He pleases. What pleases Him? Immanuel, to be God with us and within us.
As we continue to consider Advent, let us focus on what it is we are truly trying to create in this season. A name for ourselves? A declaration of our prominence? An affinity of others for us? An honest confession of our need for God’s face to be seen before our own? An honest profession of faith that without God we are no more and no less than the dust of the earth and from which we came we are bound to return? Oh, wait, but that isn’t the real story of our Christmas celebration, is it? Isn’t the real story of how God seeks to save and redeem that which has been lost, His people, by creating now out of Eve the true reflection of wholeness? Out of God’s earth comes Adam. Out of God’s Adam comes Eve. Out of God’s Eve, in the person of Mary, comes Immanuel: Jesus the Christ, Son of God and Savior of the world. And out of God’s Jesus Christ comes God’s people who are called by His name and who seek to accomplish His good will giving to God what is God’s and to the world what is needed in the world that they might know God as their true face, being and hope!
Father, thank You for not only thinking of us but including us in Your great love story. We are Your people because You are our God. AMEN.