Meg Peery McLaughlin
February 4, 2024
Genesis 2: 18-23 and Romans 12: 3- 8
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle and to the birds of the air and to every animal of the field, but for the man22 there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.”
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the encourager, in encouragement; the giver, in sincerity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
A few Sundays ago, I happened to be standing next to Eric Munson in the narthex after worship. He looked across the way to Sandy Hale who was pulling on her coat. And he just said “Woof.”
If you even say Woof, it was more like he actually woofed at her.
Sandy was not insulted at all. Instead she smiled.
I could not have been more confused. I know Eric to be kind.
Eventually, Sandy woofed back,
then walked out the door into the remainder of her Sunday.
It was like this was normal church behavior.
A few moments later I was in Vance Barron Hall, teaching Sunday School.
We are doing a class called Confirmation 2.0.
In Confirmation, 8th graders learn about the faith—
things like the Bible and what we think about God
and why we come to this table and pour water in that font,
then if they choose, they can confirm the vows that their parents spoke over them at their own baptisms, and join the church themselves.
But we figured learning all that stuff shouldn’t just be for 8th graders,
and we’ve been having a great time—at least I have.
There have been some really excellent questions in there.
One of them came from Sam Sakai.
Sam and Sarah and their 4 adorable children joined the church last year.
In class that morning we were talking about theology—
grace in particular,
how we are saved – made right with God – only because of who God is
not because of who we are—or how we act, or even what we believe.
It’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around.
So Sam, brave Sam, raised his hand and asked—
well if God’s grace can be trusted, then what am I supposed to say to my kids
about why they have to come to church?
There was a chuckle that rippled across the classroom,
adults who were once children who were forced to come
or parents who’ve stared into the pleading eyes of their own kids.
But it wasn’t a parenting question, though that’s a good one,
it was a question about this. What are we doing here?
Here’s what I trust:
God made us for this.
Literally built us for this kind of community.
Do we have to be here to receive the grace of God? No.
But we do need this to be fully human.
Yes, I know I do.
I have to admit that as a woman, I’ve always like the first creation story better.
God creates humankind in God’s own image,
male and female, God creates them, and says wow—very good.
Genesis 2, also narrates creation,
but in this version, God makes the man first,
then takes a part of him to make the woman,
and it’s so often read as a story of marriage,
and so often interpreted in ways that say
woman was made for man.
You’ve heard it: it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Ugh.
But, church, why should we abandon our story
just because other Christians twist it?
God says it is not good for the human to be alone,
so I will make him a helper for his partner.
It is quite fun to read how different translators have put the Hebrew into English.
The King James says God will make a “help meet for him”
others say “a fitting helper” or a “partner suited to him.”
It is obvious that relationship is essential for life.
But I don’t think this means that everyone must be married to be fully human.
The best clue for what kind of relationship
comes from what happens next in the story.
God makes animals, and its clear that’s not the relationship God intended.
God makes a wolf, cozy fur, but then God says my what long teeth you have.
God makes a gentle giraffe, but the neck, whoa!– so tall.
God makes the eagle and the hummingbird, impressive, but won’t do.
It’s a delightful scene, is it not? All of creation: a parade of possibilities.
From the Punxsutawney (Punks-a-Tawney) groundhog
to the ram with the Carolina blue curly horns.
But none of these work, only when God makes one
out of the same strong hard stuff and warm yielding stuff
bone of bone and flesh of flesh
only when there is one who is equal
does the human find one that fits.
And then and only then
is the creation story complete.
We are made for each other.
We are not to do this life alone.
Dogs are great. But we need humans.
I asked Eric why in the world he barked at Sandy Hale.
And he told me that they were neighbors for decades.
And in the mornings they would walk their respective dogs, Buster and Cubby,
and greet each other with a good morning or a hello.
Then when Buster died, and Sandy would be out walking alone,
Eric started hollering across the street when he would say her,
Woof, Woof, get a new doggie.
Which eventually got shortened to just Woof.
When Cubby died, Sandy followed suit.
So for 10 years, this continued. Eric and Annette moved to Fearrington,
so now, it happens in the church narthex instead of in the neighborhood.
It is what we are made for.
A couple of weeks ago there was an article by a Rabbi Sharon Brous in the NYT,
where she described a ritual from the time of Second Temple Judaism where thousands of Jews would climb the steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and enter its enormous plaza. And the pilgrims would turn to the right, en masse, circling counterclockwise.
Meanwhile, those who in that particular year of their lives were brokenhearted with grief or illness would be part of the same ritual, but they would turn to the left and circle in the opposite direction, walking against the current.
And each person who encountered someone in pain would look into that person’s eyes and inquire: “What happened to you? Why does your heart ache?” Then they would listen. Really listen before responding with a blessing “May the Holy One comfort you. You are not alone.” And then they would continue to walk until the next person approached.
The whole article is worth reading, stunning in its beauty and wisdom,
but I got stuck on this picture
and wanted to call Sam Sakai and say, this is why.
Because we, who are recipients of grace,
are made to step toward each other,
even when we cannot fix each other,
we step toward each other
human to human
bone to bone
flesh to flesh.
It’s no mistake that years and years later,
when followers of Jesus were trying to figure out a way to talk about the church,
they used the image of the body.
If God took the rib from Adam so that humans would have partners,
friends, people to woof at them in this life,
then why would the church not be defined as part of Christ’s own body.
Paul says we, who are many, are one body in Christ,
and individually we are members one of another.
We are all different—sure—with varied skills and interests—
but connected all the same,
encircling one another on the street and in the narthex reminding each other that we are never, ever alone.
(End of sermon, next, the Realm things. . . . )
And because that is so,
and because it matters so very deeply,
I’m going to end this sermon by asking you to do something in worship that
frankly makes me a little nervous.
So bear with me.
Churches used to have a tool to encourage and facilitate connection between members. A tool that I, as pastor, am asked to reproduce no less than once a month.
Raise your hand if you remember the Olan Mills Church Directory?
Now raise your hand if you have ever wished you had one?
You had a conversation with someone whose name maybe started with a K
and you want to remember who they are so you can follow up.
Or you are on the nominating committee and someone named Robert is suggested
but you can’t for the life of you picture his face.
There are 1,200 reasons that this tool is helpful.
And if you are visitor today, you’re reason 1,201.
But let me break your collective hearts,
there will never be another Olan Mill Church Directory.
Because most of us have these.
And the church has a new tool called Realm,
it’s an online church database.
And databases are only as good as the info that is put into them.
And you know your information best.
Joey is going to play some music for a few minutes-
and I’d like you to open the Realm connect app on your phone,
and upload your photograph. You all have brand new selfies to use.
The instructions are right there in your bulletin.
And while you’re there, make sure all your contact info is correct,
add your skills – those are things you’re good at
Kind of like how the Apostle Paul says there are teachers, encouragers, givers, leaders. We have slightly different options, just check all the ones that describe you.
and add your interests—those are ways that you might like to be invited to serve here at church.
Adding an interest does not commit you to serving in any area, it just helps the church know that you might like to be asked sometime.
If you are a visitor or a young person who is not old enough to have a phone, help someone near you who isn’t as tech savvy,
if you are a church member and you don’t have a log in, send us an email and we can get you all sorted out later,
if this is completely too much for you,
take comfort in a staff member (who shall remain nameless) who said that at this point, we should have just put a crossword in the bulletin for those who forget their phones or find it all too ridiculous.
the Grace of God is already yours,
but I am glad that you are here,
bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh
I’m glad that we are here together.
Thanks be to God. Amen.