Being Human

We approach the season in which faith communities set out to remember something that we human beings usually try very hard to forget. We will gather on Ash Wednesday, kneel at the altar rail and willingly experience the imposition of ashes on our foreheads with these words also imposed: “Remember that thou art dust and to dust you shall return.” Who wants to remember that? We would rather work, play, buy things (buy lots of things) rather than face “that one.” But there we are, ashes on our foreheads as a community, carefully keeping a biblical narrative. The narrative goes something like this, doesn’t it? In the beginning, before anything was made, the earth was a desert. There was no plant, no animal, no man, and no woman. Then the Creator God plants a garden in Eden, placing in it trees and shrubs and fields of wheat. At the same time from the same ground, Father God shapes an earthling—from the humus God begins to make a human being. The God then breathes God’s own ruah, God’s own spirit into the earthling and he becomes a human being. In the same garden the God sees that humanity is still incomplete. So God the Parent creates the woman to complete humanity. The human beings live in the Garden together. Now in the middle of the garden were two trees. One was the Tree of Life. God told the human beings they could eat from that tree and from any other tree in the garden—except one tree. The one tree was not the tree of death, not the tree of evil. It was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Knowledge was not an academic knowing, no, it was knowledge as “experience.” The knowledge of good on the earth was the experience of the virtuous and more broadly of all things enjoyable. The knowledge of evil was the experience of the wicked and more broadly of the experience of pain or harm. God told the human beings: “Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Do you remember what we human beings chose to do? We chose to eat from the tree of the experience of good and evil, winning and losing, pain and pleasure, agony and ecstasy. We chose the so complicated life of Being Mortal. Then, as soon as they ate the fruit from the tree of the experience of good and evil, of agony and ecstasy; the human beings heard the God walking in the garden. They hid in the bushes. They knew fear. Maybe God who had loved them would now hurt them. They looked at each other. Maybe this partner who had loved them would now hurt them. They made clothes out of whatever they could find to protect themselves from each other and from the world. But the story is not over yet. No. God, the Parent went looking for the children. “Children! Where are you? Are you all right?” The human beings crawled out of their hiding places. “What is this?” said God the Parent, “Why are you afraid?” God shook his head. “Now it is going to be different,” he said. “Working the soil will be harder now. You will still love it, but the weeds and the grasshoppers and the frost will bring much struggle into making a living. Being with the each other will be harder now, too. It will be love and it will be struggle between the two of you from now on.” Then the man and the woman left the Garden to build a life together as mortal human beings. They would go on living in the world of pain and pleasure, success and failure, life and death. Through it all, God the Parent of course, would go on watching over them. She would smile broadly at the things they would learn, and would weep when they knew pain. She still loved these mortals; she always would. With ashes and words we will remember this story. I would invite you to keep the story with you during the coming Lenten season. How is God still speaking to you in the story? Is this story a call to be generous with our fellow mortal human beings—mortal life isn’t easy for anyone is it? Is it a call to be patient with ourselves—we too are “only human.” Or is it a call to trust that God who is our Mother, our Father, our Creator is still watching over us—wondering what amazing wonder or what awful mess we will get into next!


Edvard Munch - 1928

Edvard Munch – 1928


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