Forming Faith Blog

God Creates Family (September 8, 2019)

God creates the first family (two girls creating a person out of modeling clay).
It’s All about Family

This week’s reading starts us off with another year of the Narrative Lectionary. And, what better place to start out than creation? Each of the four Narrative Lectionary years begins with an account of creation (or re-creation after the flood). This year, the focus is on God’s creation of the first human beings, the first family. God Creates Family is, in fact, the name of our first unit theme, which we use in our NL-based series of faith formation resources.

What Is a Family?

A family is a group of people united by blood or by commitment. Traditionally understood, this family consists of a man and a woman who make a commitment through the institution of marriage, as well as their children, siblings, cousins, grandchildren, etc. However, families have always been more complicated than that. Sometimes the bond between parent and child is a commitment of adoption or stepfamily, rather than biology. In fact, loving commitment within a relationship is the truer measure of a family than biology or a marriage license. There are times, even, when a friendship can be deep and committed such that those bonds are familial.

Family with God

Looking at family in terms of biology and commitment, this creation story shows us the familial bond between God and humans. While the first human was created, not born, God provided the breath, the spark of life. If we look back to the first creation story, we also see that humans bear the imprint of God’s image and likeness, perhaps analogous to the genetic “imprint” parents make on their biological children.

But the familial relationship between God and humans goes beyond any analogy of biology. God did not create humans and walk away or subjugate them as slaves, as many ancient mythologies stated. God made a loving commitment to be present through thick and thin. Throughout Scripture, we can see this commitment in the metaphors of God as a spouse, mother, and father for humanity, particularly God’s chosen people.

The First Human

The story here is not merely the story of God creating one human, but two. Much or little can be made of the connection the author made between the first human (adam) and the earth (adamah) from which they were created, something like the awkward “earthling from the earth.” I am personally energized by the interpretation that sex (male/female) was not established until separated the female and the male in Genesis 2:22. Others will disagree with this, and even I have doubts as to whether this could have been the intention of the original author(s).

The First Family

Regardless of the interpretations relating to sex and gender, God did not create the woman to be subservient to the man (as some have argued), but to be an equal partner in their joint commission of life and work. This corresponds to the assertion in Genesis 1:26-27 that both male and female are created in the image of God. This first man and woman are family biologically (they come from the same body) and through a loving commitment to one another.

Countering Misuse

As wonderful this story is in expressing the beautiful creativity of God,
the inherent dignity of humans, and the interconnectivity of Creator, created, and creation, it is important to acknowledge that this passage has been used to oppress others. Given the continued reality of gender inequality in our society, I would suggest making clear the equality of genders in your teaching, preaching, or worship leadership. While the connection for teaching or preaching may be tenuous, you should also be aware of the pressure this story places on those who do not identify within the traditional gender binary (only and either male or female). Finally, some use this story in the discussion of a “proper” nuclear family (biological and heteronormative). For many reasons, not every family resembles this, so an acknowledgment that healthy families are based upon loving commitments and can come in many different shapes and sizes would be helpful.

God’s Family, Church Family

The metaphor (and greater reality) of family is used both in and beyond Scripture to express the relationships between God and God’s people and people with each other (e.g. Matthew 12:48-50; Romans 8:14-16). Just as God gave the breath of life to the first humans, God gives us the Spirit (breath) of adoption. In addition, we sometimes use the metaphor of family for a local church community, our “church family.” But, for this phrase to truly be meaningful, we need to do the hard work of building authentic—and committed—relationships between church members, cross+generationally.

Sharing Together

 As mentioned in last week’s post, the best way to build relationships (cross+generational or not) is for individuals to share each other’s stories in three ways: tell and listen to each other’s stories, claim a common story (like God’s story), and share experiences together so that we become characters in each other’s stories.

Free Resource

This week’s free resource is a conversation-starter, a way for small groups to begin getting to know each other’s stories. “Know Your Neighbor” provides a way to for this within small groups, building relationships and getting everyone ready for the week’s story.

This activity comes from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship product, which provides worship guides for all Narrative Lectionary assigned readings. These guides provide an interactive liturgy and in-worship activities to get all ages learning, talking, and worshipping together. This product is available to purchase as a full year, by quarters (fall, winter, and spring), as well as packages of Advent & Christmas, Lent, and the major church festivals. You can also purchase worship guides individually.

God’s blessings and peace as you begin a new program year!

In Christ,

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)