True Community

Genesis 1.27; 2.18-25; Hebrews 1.1-4; 2.5-12; Mark 10.2-12

My grandfather, Daddy Joe, is an old school guy. He’s a farmer and a general contractor. He works hard, he brings home the bacon and he expects dinner on the table at 5 o’ clock sharp. I’ll never forget the conversation he had with my cousin, Jenny, after she finished college.Male & Female Sign

Jenny went to school on scholarship, and after she graduated was accepted to Johnson & Wales to study culinary arts. Daddy Joe was interested in none of that. “Did you find a mate?” he bellowed. Jenny had not “found a mate” much to my grandfather’s disappointment. In fact, he went so far as to suggest that Jenny’s time in college had been a waste. The purpose of college is to find a mate!

Of course it’s easy to laugh about that now, but that mentality still lingers. And my cousin is not in the minority when it comes to people who wait to get married. People are getting married later in life and for all the reasons a major one might be the fact that an extremely high divorce rate has likely disheartened many of us to say the least. Many of us know, too, that we’re not talking about the divorce rate outside the church. Currently the divorce rate is upwards of 30 to 40 percent, and we will push 50 percent at current projections. It’s interesting, too, that it’s in the nondenominational and more conservative denominations that tend to place an emphasis on “family values” where we see the highest divorce rate.

Today, I want to talk about true community. Jesus talks about divorce in the Gospel passage for today by pointing back to creation. He talks about what was intended. I’d like to look at the creation of human beings to understand better what was intended and perhaps to understand where the break down continues to happen.

Look with me again at Genesis 1.27 and 2.18-25. We see two things about community in these passages. First, when God creates humans he creates in community. Notice 1.27 says, “Male and female he created them.” In 2.18 God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” What it means to be created in God’s image is to be in community. True community is male, female and God. It is not, in other words, that man, by himself, bears the image, and female, by herself bears the image. No, male and female together with God bear the image of God. What it means to bear the image of God is that, before anything else, we are made for God. In fact, God himself is a community of three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Secondly, we learn that true community is entirely God’s work. Look again at Genesis 2.21. “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man.” God creates the woman out of man while the man sleeps. The man had nothing to do with this. The Lord saw that it wasn’t good for man to be alone and the Lord created the man’s helper. God is the essential partner in true community. He is the sustainer, the life-giver. God is the one who animate the relationship; gives it purpose and meaning. He completes the

relationship. We’ll see this again when God establishes his covenenant with Abraham in Genesis 17. It is while Abraham is sleeping that God moves through the sacrifice and vows to be Abraham’s God. Without God community is impossible.

Let’s fast forward a bit to “the Fall,” the breakdown of community. The breakdown in community happened when Eve and the serpent talk to one another. In that moment there is a shift in the narrative. Suddenly, God is spoken about in the third person. He no longer is a part of the conversation. He is out of sight out of mind so to speak. So the breakdown in community happened well before Eve actually ate the forbidden fruit. It was when she distanced herself from God that community broke down.

Then, we see how humans try and relate to one another without God. We see Adam and Eve blame one another when confronted by God about eating the fruit. Men and women, without God, begin to use each other in order to survive. They try to use each other to understand themselves and their place in the world.

This “trend” hasn’t stopped. We continue to do the same thing. Jerry Maguire didn’t help when he told Renee Zelweger’sJerry Maguire character, “You complete me.” We use marriage to ensure we will never be lonely. We have a long history of using children to ensure our name will carry on after us. We also use our children to find purpose in our day to day. I’ve seen parents completely lose their identity trying to be all things for their kids so that their kids have every opportunity afforded them. Tim McGraw depicted in the

Tim McGraw in "Friday Night Lights"

movie “Friday Night Lights” a parent living vicariously through his son. He needed his son to succeedin football because somehow it was a reflection on him as a father. Some families work tirelessly to maintain an image of perfection around their home so others aren’t aware of their brokenness.

We work so hard to ensure we’re going to be ok, or at least appear that way. Perhaps we aren’t working hard enough though. Perhaps we see Tim McGraw’s character in “Friday Night Lights” and we, who know enough psychology to be dangerous, think we just need to work a little harder to process our wounds and insecurities. Perhaps, we’ve learned enough by now to know that it’s not our children’s, our spouse’s or anyone else’s responsibility to make sure we feel good about ourselves.

The truth is working harder is not going to get it. Unfortunately, being knowledgeable about or aware of these issues is not the same thing as a cure for them. The truth is, if we start with divorce we end with divorce. That is, if we start divorced from God we will end up divorced from everything else. The divorce rate is high not because we aren’t working hard enough or taking things seriously enough. We actually have too high of a regard for marriage! We idolize marriage! We look to marriage to satisfy what only God can satisfy – our loneliness, sense of purpose, fulfillment.

Let’s look at what Jesus has to say on the matter. In our Gospel for the day, Jesus is confronted once again by the Pharisees who are trying to trap him. Jesus does two things that mark a profound shift in his hearers’ understanding of marriage and community, more generally.

What’s not unique is that Jesus is asked to interpret Scripture. He’s a rabbi after all. This is nothing new. What’s new is how he interprets the text. First, Jesus declares his authority over Moses. “Because of your hardness of heart [Moses] wrote you this commandment,” Jesus told the Pharisees. These are students of the Law! If there were any people who knew about and revered Moses it was the Pharisees, and now they have to listen to Jesus refute him, suddenly suggest that something he wrote into the law can be questioned.

Then Jesus presents the real scandal. In verse six, he declares, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’” Not only does he declare his authority over Moses but he goes so far as to suggest that he has the authority to say what God intended. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the one “by whom and for whom everything exists.” He is the one who “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus has the authority to interpret God’s intention.

In fact, Jesus is God’s intention. In him we have God and humanity perfectly united. Jesus is a new creation story. In Christ, God spoke the world into existence again. Now, we understand God’s desire for the world by looking through Christ. We have to read Genesis one and two through him. He has completely redefined male and female. Jesus is now the one flesh spoken of in Genesis 2, and all those who come to him. True community is still male, female and God, that is Jesus and his church, not male and female coming together in marriage.

Notice how God creates community once again. Again, community is entirely God’s work. Matthew two tells us, “Before [Joseph and Mary] came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” & “When Joseph woke from sleep…” It was while the man was sleeping that God brought man and woman together around himself. Notice, too, that God saw that it was not good for humans to be alone. Matthew two says, “They shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).”

Jesus is the image of God. Hebrews one says, “He is the image of the invisible God,” “the radiance of the glory of God. The exact imprint of his nature.” Now, male and female, united in the one flesh of Jesus Christ constitutes true humanity, true community, the Church.

Rublev's "The Holy Trinity"

A friend of mine, Buddy Odom, said the other day that he can probably count on one hand the profound things he’s said in his life, and one of them was when he told his wife, “You don’t do it for me.” Now, if anyone were to look at Buddy’s and Kathy’s

marriage they would take notes. You would want to know the top five things they do for such a healthy marriage. And I suspect they would look at you confused. I think Buddy and Kathy have discovered that the “secret” to a healthy marriage is Jesus. They are one in him, and their marriage “works” because they push each other toward greater intimacy with Christ. Incidentally, Kathy, after hearing Buddy say this responded, “You don’t do it for me either.”

Marriage is an icon not an idol. It points to something or, better said, someone beyond itself, and in that way marriage must die to find its true purpose and meaning. Marriage must be placed in submission to the King and his Kingdom. We are called to be Christ. Marriage then becomes the Church in miniature. Marriage finds its meaning and fulfillment in so far as it compels each partner toward intimacy with God. True community is the marriage of Christ to his bride, the Church. We, the Church, are true humanity and moving toward true humanity – males and females who’ve left father and mother to become the one flesh of Jesus Christ.

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