A year ago, I was at my then- 4- year old niece’s birthday party. It was Peppa Pig themed, complete with Peppa Pig balloons, which she was playing with all by herself before everyone arrived. She kept saying how much she loved “MY” balloons, and I, in wise aunt fashion, kept reminding her that once her friends arrived, she would share her balloons with them. She didn’t like me sharing my wisdom with her and she continually said she wasn’t sharing. I tried explaining that sharing toys is one way we make friends.
She paused. Then she said very matter-of-factly, “I don’t need friends.”
On one hand, I was impressed with her process of thinking. On the other hand, I started to worry about the social development of my niece.
I’m happy to report that she did, indeed, share the balloons.
The truth is that we do need friends. Even the most introverted people, even the most stubborn 4-year olds need friends. We need people, we need fellowship, we need relationship, we need community.
Today, we are celebrating this from many different angles. It is World Communion Sunday, where we honor Christians around the globe and know that we are sharing a worship with communion. It is also the day in our stewardship season that we are honoring the “fellowship” piece of Lynnhaven Colony, which is such a huge part of life here. We want all to feel welcomed and wanted.
When we share wisdom and knowledge with one another, when we let others know about our joys and our sorrows, we are all better for it.
And this passage from Genesis is a literary description of where that all began.
Today’s verses are often used to speak about humans’ dominion over animals or as a way of explaining males are dominant to females. (Good luck with that argument around here.) As is often the case, though, much wisdom is gained from looking deeper, looking past the surface translation of an ancient text.
For instance, Phyllis Trible, a 20th century theologian who parsed out the meaning of the Hebrew text, suggests in her book, God and The Rhetoric of Sexuality, that “this week's ...reading is less about the creation of woman from man, and more about the creation of gender in the splitting of that first human into two beings.” (Worship Ways 10/7/18, ucc.org)
Wil Gafney, Hebrew professor at Brite Divinity School noted that the Hebrew word in Genesis 2:18 translated as “helper,” which can suggest an inequality of power between the genders, is used later in the Hebrew Scriptures to be divine and intended to mean an equal sharing of powers. (workingpreacher.org)
Between Trible and Gafney and others work, Genesis 2 is not about a hierarchy of power between males and females and more about the creation of a mutual relationship. It is about the “divine creation of relationship, of community, of intimate communication, of sharing.” (Worship Ways, ucc.org)
Our Genesis scripture today is not about males needing help from females; it is about God recognizing that, in the words of Barbara Streisand, “people need people.” That relationship is different than the relationship between human and God, different than the relationship between human and animal. People need God and need animals (which we will bless in worship next week!), but most importantly, people need other
This interconnectedness makes me think of a trending topic of late on what some are calling the “wood-wide web.” Peter Wohlleben, a German forester, wrote a book called “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate.” In it, he describes how trees, through their underground root systems, share nutrients; how they warn each other of potential dangers of infection; or how more mature trees will nurture younger trees who can’t reach the sunlight.
It’s an interesting study - to think of the support that trees give one another that is practically unseen to the human eye. And it makes me think of how humans support one another - in ways seen and unseen.
M.Scott Peck (“The Different Drum”) states, “Community requires ...the ability to be affected by the wounds of others. But even more important is the love that arises among us when we share, both ways, our woundedness.”
We need fellowship.
We need each other to help bear burdens of triumphs and wounds.
We need each other for prayer and sending spiritual support.
We need each other for honoring the traditions that are different than our own.
We need each other so that we can advocate for one another when one can’t speak or be heard.
We need each other so that we hear different perspectives and open our minds to all of God’s children across the globe.
What better way to illustrate our need to hear one another’s stories than to actually hear from some fellow worshippers! (see more on Facebook Live!)
Scripture: Genesis 2:18-24