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United Church of Christ

533 Route 28, Harwich Port, MA 02646 | Phone: 508-432-1668

Bone Of My Bones

Genesis 2: 15-25

Bone of My Bones

August 7, 2016

Rev. Dr. Susan E. Cartmell

Pilgrim Congregational Church, Harwich Port


The Bible is a story of human history told through the lens of the people of faith. Starting over four thousand years ago the stories track the progress of the Jewish people and their Christian descendants.  The Bible begins with two stories about creation. In the first story God looks over the chaos and in one grand series of gestures, creates all varieties of life in the span of one week. God separates the heavens from the earth and creates all the birds of the air and creatures of the land.in one week's time. In this bold and familiar narrative, cosmic changes transpire.

The second story is very different. This one is intimate. Where God was stately and impenetrable in the earlier tale, here God worried about this new creature, worried about his happiness, approachable in conversation and even angry. The first story takes place on the breathtaking canvas of the sky and the sea but the second takes place in a garden near the fertile river valley between the Tigris and Euphrates. Here at the morning of civilization we find a sweet story which has fascinated human beings for generations.

 I chose it as the text for today's sermon because I believe this story is one of the gems of human literature. But I also chose it because it is a foundational story about beginnings and here on the Sunday when I preach my first official sermon as your new pastor I think this story has a lot to tell us about what makes for a good beginning. Let's take a closer look.

In the first place the story says life is fundamentally based on relationships. It is the relationships that shape our lives, and define them and that has been true form the beginning of time.  It is a contrast with the first story in which God is all alone in the creation of things. In this story, we are thrust into a dilemma. God has created this new being and then like an anxious parent God is worried that Adam is not happy. God is afraid that Adam will be lonely. God knows that life revolves around our relationships. God gets involved in helping Adam find a friend.  God talks to Adam about the problem.   Maybe the birds will provide music to your ears. Maybe the dogs will offer unconditional loyalty. May the monkeys will make Adam smile.  But the story says that none of these creatures could fill that ache in Adam's soul that yearns for true companionship. So, God decided to put Adam into a deep and heavy sleep and took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh and from the rib the Lord God fashioned a woman. When he awoke there before him was another human being, named Eve. In her Adam recognized a true companion. So, he said "This one finally is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh."

The Bible says that from the beginning of time people have needed one another. We cannot under-estimate our essential craving for companionship. It is a good reminder for us today. Sherry Turkle is a professor of social science and technology at MIT, and her latest book is entitled Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other.  She writes, "technology has become the architect of our intimacies. Online we fall prey to the allusion of companionship gathering thousands of twitter and Facebook friends, and confusing tweets and wall posts with authentic communication. This relentless connection leads to a new solitude that takes a toll on our emotional lives...undermining the relationships between friends, lovers, parents, and children.

In our technologically savvy world we may need to put some limits on our dependence on technology so that we can prioritize our relationships, and use technology to foster human connections and build stronger relationships. Churches have the capacity to provide a counterweight and a different perspective in a world charmed by our smart phones and gadgets. But we cannot offer this new perspective unless and until we prioritize relationships ourselves. When I was a candidate for this position I promised to begin the old-fashioned custom of visiting members in their homes on a regular basis. To my delight many of you indicated you would like a visit. So far I have had the privilege of visiting in 17 homes here. You have shown me your homes and told me your stories, and e have begun to build relationships. The reason I suggested this way of starting this ministry is because I believe churches have a built-in antidote to the creeping solitude of modern life. We have the chance to build deep and abiding human connections.

We need one another, whether we are putting on a Jumbo Church Fair where many hands make the work load easy, or we are praying for one another, or we are learning from each other, or supporting each other. The Bible says from the beginning of time the relationships we build with one another will be the fabric of a good life and will make our hearts sing. We need one another.

   In the second place the story of creation reminds us that no one is perfect. If we are honest most of us have a love - hate relationship with the story of Adam and Eve. It has been used for centuries to convince people that we are born with a tendency to sin and turn away from God. The debate about our basic human nature will no doubt continue for centuries. But I think this old interpretation ruins a good story about the ebb and flow of life. Life contains both possibilities and temptations. It contains high aspirations and disappointments. It offers lovely moments of security in life's sublime gardens and times when we also feel driven by curiosity to explore even forbidden or dangerous options. The story describes life as we know it.

That means that nothing is perfect. No one's life is without issues, or troubles of temptations or struggles. Even in paradise we can have trouble. That is a comfort, because when you live in a place like Cape Cod it is easy for folks to assume that you have it made, and you should have no complaints. But one thing the story reminds us is that nothing is perfect. Even when God plunks you down in paradise, things may not always go swimmingly. Life is a delightful and confounding mix of good and evil, of opportunity for excellence and temptation to flirt with danger.  It is a good reminder here in this little slice of paradise.

Even in paradise people get fooled and reach for things that will not satisfy. The sooner we admit this the better we are. One of the things that attracted me to this church was the way that so many people had a common sense approach to the fact that life is never perfect, so that is a foolish goal. It is Biblical.

Finally, The Bible says that God is part of our lives, and always has been and always will be. What is so refreshing here is that God understands that Adam is lonely. God does not tell him to adjust to his situation. God gets involved in finding a solution. Then when Adam and Eve live together in the garden the bible says God would walk with them in the cool of the evening. I imagine that God would ask them about their day.

The ancient rabbis would debate the stories in the Torah and they wondered why God was so concerned about Adam's being lonely. They assumed that only someone who knew loneliness himself could have such empathy for the people He created. They further assumed that God must have created humankind because God was seeking to have a relationship with us. Most of us assume that God needs nothing, and yet the Bible is very clear about God's own hopes to be in relationship with us. God worries about Adam and Eve, and even when God sends them from the garden God spends time sewing clothes for them, and making sure that they are ready for this new chapter in their lives. It is this intimate detail about the extent of God's care, the lengths to which God goes to ensure that these people will be alright when they go out East of Eden further and further away form God's watchful eye.

As we grow together as pastor and people I think it is important to be aware of how God is hoping and expecting to involved in Pilgrim Church. When we gather for meetings or work on projects it is important to factor God's wisdom into everything we do. When the Jews gather for the Passover meal they have an old custom, in every home, of leaving one chair empty. This chair is meant to be for the prophet Elijah. What a powerful symbol to create space for God's messengers!  I would like to suggest that we consider leaving a chair empty at our meetings, and in our classes and at church suppers. Leave room for God's angels, or prophets, or messengers. It is a way to remind ourselves that since the beginning of time God has been in seeking a relationship with the people. God is here – when strangers write on the Board on the lawn. God here when people gather to take on tasks no one of us could do alone. God is here in the church kitchen and the pew and Bible study asking how the day has gone and how together we can continue to build a relationship. 

Posted: Sunday August 7, 2016