Friday, October 08, 2021

Aren't We Blessed?

Here you'll find the video of this past Sunday's modern worship service with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. Below it is the text of the message presented there.

Genesis 2:18-25

The word alone first appears in the English language some seven hundred years ago, around 1300 AD. It’s actually a contraction of two Old English words, all ana or all one. It means, totally one. To be alone is to be completely and totally by oneself.

Our first lesson for this morning, Genesis 2:18-25, begins with God saying, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) 

There are people who might dispute that. There are parents with young children who might think they’d like nothing better than being alone. The same might be true of anyone being daily accosted by customers, bosses, teachers, deadlines, competitors. Relationships bring demands, disagreements, jangling telephones, interrupting texts and emails, people in need, distractions. We all reach a point when we say, “I wish I could have just five minutes by myself!”

Even Jesus, God the Son, knew the pressure of relationships and the need for downtime. The Gospels record Jesus going off to quiet places. 

But when Jesus did that, He never sought to be completely on His own. He reached up to commune with God the Father. Jesus wanted the One to Whom He had the closest connection, the One Who understood Him the most. 

For everlasting eons, in the mystery of eternity, where there is no time and no space, the one God in three Persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--had never known what it was like to be alone. Within the one God, there has always existed oneness, companionship, love, empathy. 

When God the Son, Jesus, volunteered to enter His creation as a baby born at Bethlehem in order to die and rise to free you and me and the whole cosmos from sin, death, and darkness, it was the first time the Son had been separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus knew what it meant to be totally alone in a roomful of people. He went off to quiet places because He needed fellowship with those who shared His nature as God.

God declares that it’s not good for Adam to be alone because man is the only one of God’s creatures created “in the image of God.” Without someone who shares this unique and privileged position in the universe to accompany him through life, Adam is alone. God understands the joy of being in relationship with those of one’s own kind. So, out of love for Adam, God declares, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

There has been a lot of destructive mischief made of these words. In deciding to create a helper for Adam, God is not creating an assistant to Adam to whom the man can bark out orders. The word translated as help or helper from the Hebrew in which the Old Testament was written is ezer. In the Bible this word is usually not applied to subordinates. It’s a word most often used of God Himself. “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield,” Psalm 33:20 says, for example. When Moses named one of his sons, he called the child Eliezer, meaning God helps. During His earthly ministry, Jesus used the equivalent of this word to talk about God the Holy Spirit: “...I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17)

So, after no member of the animal kingdom was found who could assuage Adam’s aloneness, God performed the first surgery. He put Adam to sleep and opened up Adam’s side and took a portion of Adam’s body to make the woman. Adam declares: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23) 

Adam is doing a little wordplay here. One word for man in Hebrew is ish; Adam calls the woman ishshah. By the way he identifies the woman, Adam is saying, “This is the one to whom I am connected. I am not alone anymore.” In Genesis 2:24, Moses, the author of Genesis, comments“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” 

In other words, God establishes marriages and families so that we will not be alone. 

But this passage is about much more than marriages and families. It encompasses God’s plan for the entire human race: men, women, married, unmarried, widowed. Everyone. 

That’s because the oneness, the connection, each of us needs cannot be fully encompassed in marriages or friendships alone. We are all meant for relationship...with God and with others.

The first casualty of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, which happened shortly after the events recorded in our first lesson, was ruptured relationships. Adam blamed God and the woman for his sin. The woman blamed the serpent. 

When sin entered the human picture, every human stood alone in their own sin and their own death. Sin leaves us each profoundly alone, each of us striving to “be like God” and to prove ourselves to the world and, in some cases, to God. 

Many people picture hell as a place where the rowdy will party for eternity. But the Bible teaches that hell will be a place of intense loneliness in which those who spurn Christ’s call to repentance and faith grit their teeth in everlasting agony and regret. 

It is not good for any of us to be alone. 

That’s why the two tables of the Ten Commandments, God’s fundamental moral law, are summarized by Jesus in the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…[and] Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40) 

But you may have noticed something. Even when we earnestly try to love God and love others, we, our sinful natures, our judgmental attitudes, our competitive streaks, and our constant teetering between feeling inferior at some moments and superior in others, get in our way. We find it so impossible to get over ourselves that we, just like Adam and Eve, in our own power, can’t love as we’re commanded to love. 

Eternal separation from God and from others would be our ultimate destiny were it not for God helping us.

When, about twenty or thirty years after Jesus’ resurrection, the apostle Paul talked about Adam and Eve and marriage, he saw their story as a foreshadowing of a set of relationships God wants all people to have. Adam once exulted that Eve was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. In their oneness, Adam was saying, his body belonged to Eve, and Eve’s body belonged to him; they were one. And while this is meant to be expressed sexually in and only in marriage, Paul says it points to the oneness with God and others that’s ours through Christ and His Church. In Ephesians 5:30, after talking about the oneness intended for husbands and wives, Paul says that marriage is a like the lives of Christians with Christ and fellow disciples; “we are members of His body,” Paul says. The connection is to be so close and so intimate among those of us who confess Christ in the Church that, “[i]f one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

On the cross, Jesus bore the weight of our aloneness and alienation from God. “My God, My God,” He cried, “why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) But when the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24), Jesus, because He is not only truly God, but also truly human, bridged the chasm between God and us. He paid the penalty for our sin and has become for us “the Way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) He has prepared a place in eternity with God for all who repent for their sin and trust Him as their Lord and God. Not only that, He promises all who turn to Him in faith, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

And He does even more for us. 

You’ve heard me tell the story before of the little boy who was afraid of the dark and kept asking his father to come sleep with him. When the dad explained that even if he or the boy’s mom weren’t in his room, God was. “I know,” the little boy said, “but I want someone with skin on him.” 

Jesus is God with skin on Him and He understands what it is to be alone. To assure us that He will never leave us nor forsake us, He gives two incredible gifts. 

One is the Holy Spirit, Who will guide those who pay heed to God’s Word and partake of the Sacraments, that Jesus will never leave us. 

The other is His Church, the people with skin on them who are part of this congregation and every congregation in which a people being transformed and saved by God’s Word can confess that Jesus is Lord!

It isn’t good for us to be alone. 

For many, this will, in part, mean that God blesses us with the gift of marriage and family, what Martin Luther called “the little Church.” 

But for all in whom God’s Word and Spirit creates faith in the crucified and risen Jesus, it means that through life’s joys and sorrows and into eternity itself, we are part of a single family with God as our Father and fellow disciples as our sisters and brothers

Aren’t we blessed? Amen