When I sat down to look at the readings for today, Genesis 2 and Mark 10 it reminded me of a trip I took to Ireland… It was a long time ago, in the days before Sat Nav was readily available, it was difficult to find a detailed enough road atlas and so the map I had was not very good and I needed to stop and ask for directions.
As it happened there was a gentleman walking by the side of the road so I slowed down, put the window down and asked for directions. He looked at me and in a beautiful soft Irish accent replied
“to be sure, I wouldn’t start from here”
If there was ever a statement that summed up today’s reading it’s that “I wouldn’t start from here!”
Genesis 2 has been the subject of many giants of Christian thinking who have come up with some very clear conclusions…
Calvin said that because woman was made ‘from man’ then women are made in the image of God only in a secondary sense.
Calvin of course didn’t come to this theological opinion entirely alone; he followed in a long line of distinguished men from Tertullian born just 160 years after Jesus died to Aquinas in the 13th Century.
Tertullian spoke of women as “the devil’s gateways, who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God…because of the death you merited, the Son of God had to die” harsh words indeed.
Just over 200 years later Augustine was born and things didn’t improve much “The woman herself alone is not the image of God: whereas the man alone is the image of God” and by the 13th Century Aquinas had developed this theology to argue that “woman is defective and misbegotten”.
I’d be inclined to disagree with all of them!
I’m with Luther myself, round about the same time as Calvin but Luther looks primarily at Genesis 1 and says, men and women are made by God in the image of God (both of them).
So therefore God created - and it was good, it is human beings who then got it wrong – Luther doesn’t say it quite like that – and Jesus mended it, giving us a way to get back to that goodness and equality that was the way God intended it to be.
The Hebrew Talmud, which Jesus would have known, is the teaching of the Rabbi, and within it is a similar idea, the commentary on today’s reading Genesis 2 says this:
"The woman came out of a man's rib, not from his foot to be walked on. Not from his head to be superior, but from the side to be equal. Under the arm to be protected and next to the heart to be loved."
This tries to keep the sense of equity in Genesis one with the how of Genesis two it is certainly speaking from the same heart as our own wedding service does where Bride and Groom both offer to love and protect, there is this sense of equity.
Then though we heard our Gospel, Jesus answers difficult questions on divorce, most of us, including myself if I am honest, don’t really like to tackle these sensitive issues but Jesus is compassionate and focusses on God’s love for humanity.
The Pharisees are not actually concerned with the rights and wrongs of divorce, they want to ‘test’ Jesus, they are trying to catch him out and they think this will be difficult. They are using a painful human situation as a ‘test case’ to get at Jesus. It is such a contrast to the compassion of Jesus.
Sometimes when there are arguments about right and wrong, people and our concern for them can get lost in the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ arguments. We as a national church have sometimes lost the compassion of Jesus in our concern to be ‘right’ and ‘Biblical’ when we read back some of the debates on Women Bishop’s that is painfully obvious – and as we enter new debates in the coming years it will be important that we hold onto the compassion that Jesus shows, that we don’t fall into the trap of ‘testing’ like the Pharisees did.
Jesus speaks with compassion and focusses on God’s gift to each of us. Jesus tells his disciples to be like children, who I believe, are by nature, for the most part, accepting and welcoming, small children make friends easily and care deeply, let us pray that we too may be like them. Amen.