The generations of creation witnessed God make order and beauty out of a formless void. Life was bursting forth and God longed to share it, to nurture relationships in the midst of this growth. So God formed a human shape from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Fueled by this sacred wind, the human shape came alive. God called this one Adam, which means “creature made from the earth”.
Then God planted a garden filled with lush trees, generous rivers, and wild animals. God placed Adam in the garden and spoke simple instructions: You are a co-creator, called to help tend and care for all living things. You are free to enjoy the fruits of this land, but do not eat from the tree of knowledge in the middle of the garden. I tell you this because if you do eat from that tree, you will die on the very same day.
God watched Adam living in the garden and saw that Adam should not be alone, a reflection of God’s own desire for relationship. The animals could not be equal partners, so God made Adam fall into a deep sleep and gently took a bone from his chest. God used the bone to form another human shape, called to life by that same sacred wind. Adam woke to find a companion, rejoiced, and called her Eve, which means “Life”. They were naked and unashamed of their bodies, delighted by their likeness, uniqueness, and expressions of God’s image.
So Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.
Dear beloved of God, grace and peace you from our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.
Over the next few months, we’re going to be looking at some key biblical stories and some of the characters that help those stories take shape. These stories are good stories, they’re lively stories, they are stories that are worth living with and wrestling with. In the characters we encounter we learn a bit about ourselves and the world that we live in. They invite us to ask hard questions and consider new possibilities. This week our characters are Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve show up in the second creation account present in the book of Genesis. Compared with the big sweeping creation story present in Chapter 1, which we heard last week, the second chapter of Genesis is much earthier. God is depicted as a potter molding the dirt of the earth to make living beings. God is also a farmer planting the first human in a garden to work it and help the garden continue to create life. It’s an organic creation story. A process story.
In reading this story, there is an arresting moment where God looks at Adam amidst the verdant and lush landscape that God has also created and says something isn’t quite right. God recognizes that it’s not good for Adam to be alone. God knows that Adam, like God, is a relational being. Adam is to be a connected creature.
After all, that is what his very name implies: Adam from the Hebrew adamah, the word for earth or dirt. Adam was created out of the earth and in relationship to the earth. Adam is then given the freedom and responsibility to tend it, care for it, all the while depending upon it.
The reader is then immediately informed, “and man (sic) needed a helper.” Doesn’t that make you wonder, help with what? Help for what?
The story doesn’t specifically tell us why, but life experience tells us that making our way in this world is hard. And it can be really hard without support, without partners to share the load. God appears to be affirming that for Adam to wholly live out his vocation he’s going to need creaturely connection, a partner.
With Eve, yes, and we’ll say more about that in just a moment. But the connection is also with the animals of the field and birds of the air who are formed by the very same adamah. Adam’s relationship with them is deep; it is kinship. Their connection is intimate, so much so that it is Adam rather than God who names the creatures. God will be the giver of names in the other stories we encounter this year — Abram, who becomes Abraham; and Sarai, who becomes Sarah. Jacob, renamed Israel. Saul, who with transformed vision becomes Paul. But here it is Adam who names, and in so doing, marks the creatures as God’s own.
But what is it about Eve? Once again God gets down in the dust and the dirt and uses part of what God has already made, Adam, to bring something new and different into existence. This is what both Adam and God have been waiting for. Eve is a companion, a partner, an equal. As the meaning of her name implies, she is life There are now two where there was previously only one.
Except there aren’t just two. Adam and Eve are a part of this incredibly rich, emerging ecosystem. There are fertile orchards bearing good fruit and healthy forests to provide shelter There are generous rivers that nourish the garden and allow life to thrive. And these rivers don’t terminate in the garden. These abundant rivers pour life into all of the known world. The Pishon and the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers are responsible for nurturing life in all of the Near East. And together the vegetation of the land and rivers of the watershed create the humus, the soil, out of which humans emerge. It is they who are dependent upon creation and it is they who are tasked with caring for it.
In March I traveled to Guatemala with a group of people from Bethlehem. We went to visit Community Cloud Forest Conversation. CCFC is an incredible program that is supported by Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry, one of Bethlehem’s long-time partners. Together with LPGM we’ve cultivated meaningful relationships in both India and now in Guatemala. There is a group that is making plans to travel to CCFC again this coming January and February. If you’re interested in learning more, please talk to me.
I bring up my trip to Guatemala because while I was there, I learned about the Motagua River. The Motagua begins in the Guatemalan Highlands, about three hours from CCFC, and over the course of 302 miles, it makes its way to the border of Honduras and Guatemala and then empties into the Gulf of Honduras and the Atlantic Ocean.
For years the river has been highly polluted. Raw sewage, plastic waste, industrial waste and black water from Guatemala City all makes its way into the Motagua River and then eventually the ocean.
Once pristine beaches in Honduras are littered with plastic, syringes, even bodies. Environmental ministers of both Guatemala and Honduras blamed one another for the pollution. This river which once played a critical role in commerce and connections has become a river of death. And people are pointing fingers at one another, saying it’s so-and-so’s fault.
But we’re created for more. For relationship. For life. We’re created to help ensure that life continues. The story of Adam and Eve isn’t a story about our need to find a soulmate. It’s a story about humanity’s interconnectedness. It’s a bold claim that we belong to one another. It’s a story about the interconnected web that is the created order. That our wellbeing depends on one another’s wellbeing and the wellbeing of all creation.
We heard another story just a few minutes ago, a reading from the Gospel of John. A lot of time has passed — centuries and cultures have come and gone — but yet, in some ways it seems the story remains the same. Here again, we meet a human — in this case, the socially scorned Samaritan woman — utterly dependent upon the riches of the earth, whose spiritual well being is integrally connected to the vitality and integrity of the physical world.
She has come to the well because she has need of what only earth can provide and in her visit learns she also has need of what only Jesus can provide, living water. In our culture and in our century we hear living water and think baptism! It’s almost as though the actual well is merely scenery. We might be tempted to think that what matters here is just the spiritual stuff. That the spiritual realm is the only thing that counts.
But to understand this story solely in spiritual terms is a mistake. Let’s face it, water is invisible to most of us in that we don’t think or have to think much at all about where it comes from and whether it’s clean enough to use and consume. Did you ask those questions of yourself this morning as you showered, brushed teeth or brewed coffee? I know I didn’t.
But the invisibility of water would not have rung true in ancient near-eastern contexts. The Samaritan woman was very cognizant of how valuable this water was; indeed, she knew this particular well, she knew its story. She knew how it had sustained life for generations before her. And like in biblical times, water is far from invisible for many of our global sisters and brothers today. Even in places like Flint, Michigan, water is anything but invisible. According to recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, by the year 2040 nearly half of the world’s population will experience the effects of water scarcity. That’s roughly 4.5 billion people. In these places, much like Jacob’s well in Samaria, embodied, physical matters will also prove to be spiritual ones. In fact, they already are.
The same God who fashioned Adam and Eve out of the dust of the earth to be relational creatures has made you and me for that same work. The same Jesus who finds the woman at the well to meet her physical, emotional and spiritual needs meets us in the very places where we feel isolated from love and life. You are God’s beloved, you are a part of a rich and potent creation that has the innate ability to create and sustain life. We are a part of an incredible system that can thrive. We get to live for one another, not only ourselves. In Jesus we are set free to reclaim our God-given identity as agents of creation and life and connection. We are called to join the generous rivers, the lush gardens and the plants of all shapes and sizes in carrying life into all corners of the known world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.