Let us pray: Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.
(Book of Common Worship, p. 60)
The first few chapters in Genesis describe God’s creation of the world in beautiful, awe-inspiring, poetic language. Our reading from Genesis today closes up that account.
God has already created the first human out of dust and breathed life into this human–Adam, we call him, but this human wasn’t male yet. Just human. We call this human Adam because it flows well from the Hebrew for a human being, adamah. But adamah–human–could also be earthling, for in Hebrew the earth is adam. Hence–earthling. Not in a science fiction way, of course–more of a whimsical sort of naming of this first human, a play on words and on language that captures the way that Hebrew, too, loves to play with words.
And this earthling is alone. God puts every animal in front of this adamah, and none of them are good companions for the earthling. None of them are equal. And so God goes to work again, putting the earthling to sleep and splitting it down the middle and from one being creating two, male and female. Man and woman. Equal companions.
The woman was crafted to be a helper to the man–an ezer. We talk about this like it’s something lesser and shallow, the same way we talk about so many other jobs and people that I’d like to see us all survive without, frankly, but the Hebrew is having none of it. The woman was created to be an ezer–and if you search this word out in the Hebrew Bible, it’s mostly used of God, of how God helps people and cares for them and protects them and guides them. It’s not a word for unimportant work, for the work we can ignore and denigrate. It’s a word for work that is important and honored and holy, work that is shared with God and blessed by God.
I’m dwelling so much in the Hebrew this morning because it’s important–and because translations mute much of what’s beautiful and wonderful about this passage. Male and female are halves of the same whole–there is no excuse to raise up one or shove down the other. We are both created by God, part of the same whole and called to be part of God’s work. Together. We need both halves, male and female, to be God’s family, to do God’s work. We both need to be present; we both need a voice, a part in God’s work. We are all invited into God’s family.
But on World Communion Sunday, this passage has yet more to say to us. Not just about male and female, but also about all of us as humans. It reminds us that we are all part of the same family, deep in our roots. We all were created by God–perhaps not literally out of dust, split into two halves because we cannot be alone–but we were created by God to be with one another, for we are all family. The entire human race. Not just Americans, not just Lutherans, not just Republicans or Democrats, not just those who look like us–but all of us. Every single one of us.
Today we remember our sisters and brothers across the world, and celebrate our unity–that, today, we are all having communion, and that this fact ties us together. We are together in Christ, worshiping together. It doesn’t matter what language we worship in; it doesn’t even matter that we understand that language. But together we worship. Together we remember our human family, which is made up of every single one of us.
Perhaps I love World Communion Sunday so much because of my own experiences. One particular Sunday, I was spending the summer in Austria and somehow ended up in Croatia on a mission trip. We were working with a local Croatian church, working together and worshiping together. Sunday morning they invited the group to their worship service, so they were worshiping in Croatian, someone was translating that into German for the Austrians, and then I was translating that into English for the British members of our group. It was chaotic, to say the least.
They ended the service with a song we could all sing, one that had been translated into Croatian and German and English, and so we finished worshiping together by singing this song together. I’m sure no one could understand any of us, and that we sounded pretty terrible, all singing in different languages–but it was this beautiful moment where we were all worshiping the same God together. Language was unimportant in that moment; all that mattered was the God we worshiped together.
May we always remember that we are family–that God has created each one of us, male and female, no matter where we’re from or what language we speak. We are family. We worship together.
Alleluia! And Amen.