Friday, June 12, 2009

Dirt & Ribs

Sons & Daughters, what's the first book in the Bible? Genesis! Right you are, and what happens in Genesis? That's when God makes everything. Yes. The first two chapters of Genesis are about Creation. We're going to look at Creation, especially the last thing God created, because it's not obvious, but it's very important.

Genesis, γένεσις, is the Greek word for origin, birth, beginning, creation. It's related to words such as gender and generation.

Trick question: in the beginning of the first chapter of Genesis, what are the first three words? Umm, God made everything? Not a bad guess, but no. The first words in the beginning of the first chapter of Genesis are: In...The....Beginning! I win! fair! Yes fair!

So, we read: 'In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. The Earth was without form and void.' We've talked about this before: what's a void? Emptiness! Yes, that's how Genesis explains that there wasn't anything yet...not even space or time. There wasn't even nothing, which is hard to imagine.

So then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. This is important to remember: the things God creates aren't neutral, they're good. Even rocks. You have to remember that so that you get the point the story is going to make later. By the way, the two Bible languages are....? Greek! Yes, and.....Hebrew! I'm impressed, y'all got them both this time. What's the other language the Church uses, especially at Mass? Come on, (I sing) "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata..." Oh, Latin! Yes, Latin. In Latin we say 'Fiat Lux' for 'Let there be light' (I write it on the board). Como se llama 'light' in Espanol? (One of my Spanish-speakers will answer, 'luz' which I write under 'Lux.') See, Spanish is close to Latin, it's one of Latin's beautiful daughters. Who's heard of Chrysler? Yes? What does Chrysler do? They make cars! Yes. An Italian car company owns Chrysler now (I'm adding the Chrysler stuff in today, and will use it this upcoming year); its name is Fiat, just like in 'Fiat Lux.' In Latin, fiat means "Let it be done" or "Let it be made." It's the sort of word used by a king....or God. I believe the car company is named Fiat because it "lets cars be made." Italians familiar with God saying 'Fiat Lux' at the start of creation would find Fiat a very grand name for a carmaker. And let's remember, Italian is yet another one of Latin's beautiful daughters.

So, God says 'Fiat Lux' and there's light on the first day. What does God 'fiat' next? Earth? Good guess, but not yet. He fiats the sky on the second day. On the third day? Earth? Bingo! and the sea, and plants. And he saw that it was.... good. Trick question: God made light, darkness, earth and sea. Then he made plants. What makes plants different from those other things? Plants are alive! Yes. And what's more like God, things such as the earth, or living things like plants? Living things. Yes. On day four, God creates the sun, moon, stars and planets. And he saw that it was...? Good! Yes. On the fifth day God creates birds and fish. On the sixth day God makes all the animals. What's more like God, plants or animals? Animals! Yes. They have what in Latin is called an anima (goes on the board), a life force that plants don't have. So things that have an anima are...animals! Yes, they're animated! So as creation moves along, the things created are more and more like....God! Yes. The things created later are closer to God. And God saw.....that it was good! Yes.

Now I want us to slow down. What's left for God to fiat? People! Yes, people. And as creation developed, the later something was created, the closer it was to God. So God created man last, in his own image, in the image of God. Man is as close to God as creation gets. And remind me please, God saw .....that it was good! Yes.

But let's look at how made man. He didn't just say, "let there be man;" He didn't fiat a man. How'd he make a man? He used dirt! Yes, Genesis says: "God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." God's breath, his respiration, is in man. The Latin word for breath is spiritus so man has a spirit, not just an anima like animals do (breath, respiration, and spiritus go on the board).

I forgot, what was the name of the first man? Adam! Yes...trick question: why is his name Adam? OK, this is a hard one. Genesis was written in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for the earth, the ground, is Adama (goes on the board).... He's Adam 'cause he's made from the ground! Yes, genius! Adam was made from Adama, earth! Isn't that cool? Remember what Isaac means? Laughter! Yes, and there are other names in the Bible that help tell stories like this, we'll see some more of them later on.

So God made Adam carefully, and made just one of him. And being the last thing God made, Adam was closest to God, most like God. Then God put Adam in Eden to be happy. And of course, all this was very good. But then God noticed something was not could that be? Tell me what was not good? Adam doesn't have Eve yet. Yes. So even though the whole universe was good, if Adam is alone, that's....not good! That's right! It's awful! God said "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a suitable helper." And what did he do then? Make Eve! No, not yet. First he brought all the animals to Adam, "but for Adam no suitable helper was found." No kidding. I can imagine God suggesting I'd be happy with a dog instead of a thanks. So what now? God makes Eve! Yes, from what? Adam's rib! Yes!

Now we need to slow way down. The next few lines of Genesis are to me, the most beautiful in the Bible. Genesis says: 'So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.' OK. Trick question: why did God take a rib and not, say, a toe? No guesses? How about an ear? Or a hunk of Adam's butt? Ewww, that would be gross. Yes, Eve should come from a dignified part of Adam, and a part that wouldn't disfigure him or kill him to lose it. For example, since we know Adam will love Eve, what would be a good part of Adam to use to make Eve? His heart? Yes; but if God took Adam's heart and closed him back up, what would happen? He'd die. Right again. So God used a rib from Adam's side, in part because Adam and Eve would be equals, side by side; and losing a rib won't kill you. And can you guess what side of Adam the rib came from? What's by my ribs on my right side? Your lung? Yes, and on the left side? Your other lung. Yes, and something more important...oh, your heart! Yes, so what side do you think the rib came from? The heart side, Adam's left side! I think so too. Genesis doesn't say either way.

Also notice after God takes the rib, He closes Adam back up, so we know He didn't replace the rib. Is Adam complete without his rib? No! Right, Adam's missing his can he have his rib again? By having Eve! Yes, he can hug her against him like this (I pretend to hold my wife close to my left side) right next to.....his heart! And when Adam does this, is he missing his rib? No! Right; with Eve by his side, Adam is complete. But when Eve is away, he always misses her.

Speaking of Eve, was Adam made last after all? No, Eve was last. Yes, and Adam was made of....dirt! And Eve from...Adam's rib. Which seems better, to be made from dirt or someone's rib? A rib! And in the creation story the later you're created the closer you are to God, right? Well yes, but....aren't they equal? Yes, I think so; Eve was made from Adam, so they are one flesh, but on the other hand, women get to have the babies! I think they have a little advantage there. I'm a bit envious of that.

Let's look now at the last line of this passage: 'God brought her to the man.' I like this line because God brought my wife to me, too, like a wonderful gift. I know just how Adam feels when he says, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" I think of my wife the same way. She's a part of me now just like my arms and legs, and heart.

Then we read: 'Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Cleave is an odd word; here it means to cling or adhere to, like this (I press my hands together in prayer), and that's what married people do. They become one. And we know when married people become one, the result is.....babies! Yes, more people. All creation didn't stop on the sixth day. So I think that the last thing God created wasn't Adam....what was created last? Eve! No, Eve wasn't last either. The last thing God created was
Adam and Eve being together, being one, which we call what? Marriage! Yes, the last and highest of God's creations is marriage. Marriage allows God's creation of the creatures most like him, made in his image and likeness, to continue into the future.

It continues in and through you, sons and daughters.

Dear reader, you may have noticed I left this out: 'And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.'

I don't think it's something 6th graders are ready for.