Stoned In Eden. Then What?

Priest and Bride

I wanted to skip writing about stones, river and more dirt.  My questions were: Can this be exciting? Can it be practical? Can I pull off looking like a smart pants as I write it?  I think the answer is yes to the first two and if I’m lucky on the third (or better that it should not matter).  But I must confess that the mysteries of God overwhelm me at times and I hope to unpack it enough for any reader and I can be thirsty for more of who this God is.  

“A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates (Genesis 2:10-14).  

I am finding an emerging pattern as I look at related narrative later in the Bible of Eden being like Church.  There is sustenance, structure and communion with the Creator through creation.  

Sustenance in the context of communion comes to mind because there is a river from Eden that branches out to four major rivers.  And that sustenance perpetuates things in the world that draw the heart of creation to that which is divine.  The first branch, Pishon, goes to a land that has gold.  “And the gold of that land is good” may seem out of place since one would think that all the talk about “it was good” should have ended after the seven days of creation.  But what can stain gold?  Nothing. What can stain holiness? Nothing.  That is why if you see the Eucharist in the monstrance made of gold, it can be reflected that the holy presence is not meant to leave a mark on absorption except in being received into that which is organic.  

But before we go to far ahead to the Eucharist found in the mass, remember that along the way in salvation history is the temple.  The temple of the Jews is something that prefigures Christ and the Church.  

Scott Hahn noticed this and writer in “Kingdom of God As Liturgical Empire” the connection.  

The temple is adorned with gold, onyx, and “all sorts of precious stones” found also in Eden (1 Chr. 29:1-2, 2 Chr. 3:6; cf Ge. 2:12).  The Chonicler calls the gold used in the temple “ fine” (tob; 2 Chr. 3:5-8), the same work used to describe the gold in the land of Havilah, near Eden (Gen. 2:12).  Theses stones are also associated with the gold in the land of Havilah, near Eden (Gen. 2:12).  These stones are also associated with the high priest of the temple (Exod. 28: 4-43; Beale 2004: 41-42).  

So Adam was in a  place that foreshadowed the temple which in turn foreshadowed the fulfillment of the kingdom in Christ.  

But the foreshadowing of Church is here too.  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (v. 15).  In the same book listed above, Hahn shows that the linguistics of “to till and keep”  connect to related wording in Hebrew for what a priest would do in performing his priestly duties.  

But the delegated authority on earth given to Adam keeps on going.  

 “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name”

So is that priestly? No.  But pope-like.  

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”(Matthew 16:18-19).  What should be in appearance at first glance, naming animals, ends of having objective connotations.  Likewise, what should be subjective for Simon Peter, binding and loosing (a term in the first century used for establishing what was accepted doctrine) has its own objective context since heaven will see things the same way that Simon Peter declares.  

So what do we learn from this?

Though God was getting ready obviously to create Eve, He does not yet as Adam sets the names down.  If God wanted Even to have the same declarative authority as Adam, they would have done it together.  Keep this in mind as you look at how the “new covenant is concealed in the old” (Augustin) and consider that women’s glorious calling is something other than the priesthood.  I would submit that as we see later, her nature was to perceive and intercede.  She does this with Satan tempting her and then bringing the forbidden fruit to Adam.  This is not something to celebrate but to point out that she performed a perverted function of her calling.  To come to grips with what the real mddl would look like is through the next passage and a little bit of a linguistic bridge.  

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman
    for out of Man this one was taken.”

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:21-25).  

The key sod here is “Woman”  “Yeah, classic case of religion keeping women down!” Not really.  

1:  If she was taken from his head, she would be over him.  If she was taken from her feet then she would be under him.  But the rib was considered a central part of his essence.  

2: The word for woman when it was translated from Hebrew into Greek in the Old Testament around 200 BC was Guneh.  But very important to know was that this was a title of distinction and used only the handful of times related to Eve.  But in the New Testament it was used with Mary the mother of Jesus and her only.  

John wrote of the wedding at Cana where they needed wine after running out.  Jesus said, And Jesus said to her, “Woman [guneh], what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:4-5).  We know then that Jesus proceeded to exercise His authority and water was changed into wine.  Furthermore, many of the early Church fathers referred to Mary as the New Eve who did right in saying yes to a holy angel where the prior Eve said yes to a fallen one.  There is even a thread between the Eves if you look at the Queen Mother role where many times people would come to the king through his mother.  

So if Eden leads us toward priestly and royal thinking, what is it for? For us it is a coming together in biblical imagery that is sacrificial by Christ the New Adam and matrimonial with Christ as the Bridegroom and us the Bride.  But to appreciate that, you would have to go to the end of the Bible.  

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift” (Revelation 22:17).  

Beethoven And Two Trees

Two_trees_at_the_Lake

Life is a precious thing.  It is common to refer to life as a gift.But for it to be a gift there has to be a Giver.  If there is no Giver, then seeing meaning of living life for the next day and intrinsic value to that life, particularly human, is difficult to say the least.  People in this modern age get lost on the details of the story of creation particularly on Adam and Eve on whether it was literal days or an instant.  

Though I tend to lean from my background to Adam being created in an instant, what is most important is that breath of life that made him fully in God’s image.  Adam was breathed into with a spirit, had the identity of soul and was in a human vessel.  But that crucial piece of the spirit came by the Holy Spirit’s work that no longer hovered but entered to animate.  Pagan philosophers would say about an Unknown God that “In Him we live, and move and have our being.”  Keep this in mind when you peek closer at this narrative.  

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Since we can see the Genesis story of creation as a story of beginnings, plural, we should remember from the prior days that water speaks of grace and the land speaks of unity and self-giving in making life continue.  

then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

With those elements combined for the body of humankind the message is that all three of these values are inherently emphasized for the purpose of humankind in giving glory to the Creator.  With those elements combined in a content without sin, the Holy Spirit can do a work that is powerful yet intimate.  

every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food,

If we blink, we miss the message of beauty and sustenance and their respective purposes but I had an experience that taught me how they can always work in the human condition.  I am a counselor in a substance abuse residential treatment facility.  It is not a Christian based organization and in that setting it was my turn to facilitate a discussion on spirituality and recovery. I was asked in that session how someone can utilize spirituality and the “Higher Power” used in 12 Step language when they are not so keen on any specific Being.   

I responded to the client that this is a hard question but a fair one and took my best shot.  I told her a story I heard from a mentor who was a pastor and held a Masters in Addiction Counseling who affirmed the Good News of Beethoven.  His client was not wanting to connect in any remote understanding of a Higher Power but loved listening to Beethoven.  He could listen for hours to the symphonies and it would carry him past his cravings.  The point I made is that the nature of beauty as we perceive it has a power of lifting ones soul and mindset above a realm of monotony and reinforces a sense of gratitude and mindfulness.  

We know that the story does not end well in this garden.  But if it had ended better it would be in part because they continued to be thankful for the good trees, keeping in mind of the good will of the Creator and let them be inspired to consume from the Tree of Life.  It could said in our hindsight, if we have received the wholeness of the news of Jesus, that they could have eventually partaken of the The Tree by the inspiration of the trees.   It was “in the midst of the garden” in a similar beauty that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  There are always signposts to the right path if we open our eyes.  

So here we have another beginning: a choice. 

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

So in that choice is life and death.  Sometimes I tell my clients that they can see recovery as being ones who could potentially conquer the world but not meant to touch a dozen, deserted island north of Russia.  When I say that, I think often that my description is like Adam and Eve’s choice.  They had a way to go that was different than sin.  It was progressive by implication and vast in scope.  In this age we have so many aspects of God to partake of in the sacraments, the scripture, loving communities (if we look intentionally).  They all of dimensions that connect us in the spirit, soul and body.  Will we come to see the way out of sin as  “pleasant to the sight and good for food”?  Therein lies the journey. 

Day 7—- Rest and Realization

I am

We are so limited by nature in that we mostly run our societies by that which can measured.  How much will it cost?  How long have I invested into this relationship?  What have you done for me lately?  We are measure-holics.  But if we walk in a higher life, we know that there is an intrinsic values to us and those we deal with, then we forget, then hopefully find our way again.  But what should be the source of understanding this? I can point to the whole story of creation but especially the day of rest.  

2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

This passage is more profound than one would think.  In the Old Testament the number seven is not just a number but used in how someone speaks in covenantal terms.  Frequently when someone in the Old Testament swears an oath the wording can be literally translated as “sevening ones self”.  So if one were to keep that in context, God is making a covenantal seal on His creation.  Not “Peace on earth and goodwill towards men” but the next notch below in that there is an implied commitment.  It is that He would relate to His creation in the language of covenant that says “I am yours and you are mine.”   

But the rest is what?  It has to be interpreted in the context that God rests in that day to make it holy.  But is God doing something when He does nothing?  He really does if one understands how God transcends reality by being All- Sufficient in His being.  Being All-Sufficient means not having to prove anything overtly.  We as human beings really value someones identity and contribution by how someone is quantitatively viewed in what they are doing and giving.  From there we objectify each other and get things flipped around to love things and services  but use people(e.g. What someone does for me).  But the best beginning of being “right side up” rests on how we  can love people and use things as we see how meaning comes from God.  

An example is much later in salvation history. When Moses asks God what His name is before he comes to Pharaoh, He is told to say, “Tell him I AM sent you.”  All other gods that mankind perceives are limited in power, have beginnings and have ends.  God transcends space and time.  Yet in the beauty of creation, He begins to condescend in true covenant.  And covenant to Him is not “What I have is yours”, but “I am yours and you are mine.”  His rest is a signal to creation to know that He is setting an imprint of His covenantal nature for all to see.  

But is it fair to make the jump from God being known as one who transcends and condescends? Well, yes.  He transcends our reality in the essence of His being but He chooses to condescend (think condensation of vapor into dew).  But if we are not directly sensitive to the presence of God, the other way to get our attention is through seeing the handiwork of creation.  As we see thousands of years later from someone who had a doctorate in being stubborn and going against the ultimate image of the living God: Paul the apostle and former persecutor of the Church.  

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.”

His power and nature are still the same and understood even today in fundamental principles.  If you have been reading these blogs of this series long enough, you know that the fulness is not just saying about creation “It is good”.  Ultimately we see that He goes beyond saying something is good and works goodness in how “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  In Jesus we see the fulfillment of the power and nature of the deity as He was shown to the world.  

By Jesus being the means by which we can know that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, we can partake of His divine nature in the extension of covenant in thanksgiving. The word for thanksgiving in the New Testament is eucharistia.  Sound familiar?  So especially in the sacrament of the eucharist there is a substantive means in communion to enter and re-enter that rest as the Real Presence is in the material realm.  

So in conclusion, if we have those moments of being caught up with ourselves as an end but are tired of it, look toward heaven and be renewed of His purposes on earth.  And while we are at it, we can close our eyes and rest in an introduction to true peace anytime and anywhere.  

Day Six- And Now The Ultimate Ying and Yang

male-vs-female-eyebrows-cropped

We are designed for communion.  That can be scary because we are in a fallen world where coming into a group or staying in a group requires vulnerability.  Vulnerability means risk.  Is the risk worth it?  Is the risk of rejection worth the benefit of being accepted?  I would propose yes because we are only in going through the struggle of that tension living out what we are made for.  

But first a review of the breadcrumbs of the first several days in this Genesis story.  The first day was light which speaks of truth.  The second day was water centered which speaks of grace as shown later in the material of water in baptism.  The third day is about he blend of giving of self in the context of unity.  The fourth day is about the establishment of authority in the material world (maybe even a shadow of hierarchy).  The fifth day is about the song in nature of God’s call and provision in a divine gathering in.  Each of the principles can be considered in the point of view of the Creator in a divine zooming in not only like a geography lesson but a self-revelation of what God is all about and His purpose.  

His purpose according to the later part is about a Bride.  But to appreciate that, one must make a journey in prayer and in all the scriptures in the ongoing discovery of reconciliation; but first we start with creating the center of the here and now: land and humankind.  

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 

So God created humankind in his image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness

Just this line is loaded.  God, singular, uses the possessive pronoun of “our”.  But from this perfect family within the all sufficient trinity, the seed of a community on earth begins. We see how “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something but someone.  he is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons.  And he is called by grace into a Covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead: (Catechism of The Catholic Church, 357).  We are made for communion.  

This communion is communicated by an implied language of covenant in word and action.  By saying “God created them; male and female He created them”, there is laid out a pattern of the initiator and the initiated.  The basic imagery in the male and female parts is that of compatible parts.  When the process happens, it speaks of being unitive and procreative as the default pattern.  This communion is one of fellowship and passion; both of which lead to mission.  When a couple today are united properly, good things come from that. 

But in that communion there is implied a cycle of fully loving the other and the other loving reciprocally without holding back.  When God the Father says about Jesus at the baptism by John, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. what is shown is full expression of love for the other without holding back.  Any healthy family on earth ideally should reflect that unselfish love in heaven.  This is one of many things to reflect on when we pray “on earth as it is in heaven”.  

So now God’s work is getting grounded—on the dirt.  He has done a work in the sky and seas but the focus of His creation would be in man.  In starting with the animals that are on the ground there are solid families as a norm with father and mother together though not always.  But as for loving without holding back the couple have a fruitfulness that is uninhibited by the care of this world.  Unless there is a fall from grace.  

But what does the “saw it was very good” line mean?  It means that God favors this step more.  He favors when things get personal for Him.  For this unique creature to have communion is not just something to God but everything.  The deeper we go into this, the deeper we know that God is passionately invested into us.  God is the wild man.  He has a wondrous love for every member of humankind that is beyond our understanding in our fleshly minds. But what is left to us is to wonder….

Day Five—God Is A Community Organizer

bird-eats-fish-bigGod organizes the spheres of His influence often gently at first.  A still small voice works well.  But as God works in His creation too as he makes the creation interact.  Creation needs to work together.  Any community that is healthy has to see within itself the parts that are compatible and complimentary.   

20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

So now we can see that God is continuing to extend the creation to creatures that can think and among them creatures that reproduce sexually and asexually.  The sexual aspect on the earth speaks to collaboration between the initiator and the responder.  He calls it good but goes on to charge them to be fruitful and multiply.  Something that could be easily missed is that this charge is for reproduction that comes from collaboration between the complimentary genders.  By nature, one side initiates and the other side receives.  There is room for acceptance in nature in that the initiator  may not be received and the receiver may not be initiated upon.  

But on the other hand, such collaboration does happen in creation or we would not have a planet full of living beings much less 7+ billion people.  It is a beautiful things that creation carries on itself with a system of harmony in sexual reproduction in being fruitful.  

Birds or fish do not get married, but it is pretty cool that God starts this collaboration of conception mostly with non- land mammals.  Here God is emphasizing the spiritual with settings that are not based on where we are prone to look at in our first emphasis as land bound creatures.  We are carnal and God is spiritual.  God is able to create the creatures that are dirt-centered but He is in no rush.  It is as if God uses the sky, theologically called the first heaven to remind us of the third which is where eternal fellowship occurs with Him (the apostle Paul talked about being caught up to the third heaven).   To accept compatibility is to accept that God is our Ultimate Other and He wants a relationship with us as His designed receivers.  He is returning for a pure and spotless bride.  

waters bring forth swarms of living creatures

Through much of the Bible, the oceans of the earth symbolize the nations that are not in covenant.  In the gospels we see fish referred to as a symbol for those who are not participating yet in the gospel of the kingdom.  What is normative in our involvement of fish is for them to come from their water realm onto our table.  What is normal for those that are outside of the base of salvation history is to come to the shore of the kingdom of God through the gospel and not for man to stray from the gospel and try to breath water and act like a fish.  “While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30.  

and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.

Frequently through the Bible God uses birds to speak grace to us, so really God is not being vainly repetitive here. We saw in the prior post about the third day that God had the incremental unfolding of baptism on His mind when he created the sky as a dome that would be a barrier between the water basin that wrapped around the earth and the waters below.  For birds to be described as flying “across the dome of the sky” is like God putting grace upon grace.  

For this grace of God shown through birds, one does not have to look long to see this throughout the unfolding agenda towards, and in, the gospel throughout the Bible.  Noah used a raven and then a dove to see if the earth was become habitable again.  Turtledoves were what were offered up for a sacrifice by poor parents of a newborn who could not afford the more expensive animals (e.g Joseph and Mary consecrating Jesus in the temple).  And of course, the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus “as a dove” as the Father confirms His sonship for the world to see.   

When one sees this passage with other hindsight of salvation history playing out, one can see that we ought to be like fish as individuals or even countries that know what it is to repent and turn to God.  But at the same time, know that God gives us signs of His good will along the way and that are not dirt-bound but heaven sent. 

Day Four—Inconvenient Rule

sun-moon-northpole

“My theological studies of the last 35 years have taught me two things: There is a God and I am not Him”.  ——The priest to Rudy in the movie “Rudy” where the young man wants all of the answers from the priests wisdom.  

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Back to that dome (see post about the second day)!  The dome that we know from day two which separates the water below from the water above symbolizes the shadow of God’s grace or graces to come.  But the lights that are there are time marks for the seasons give structure to the years as a big cycle and days that give context to a week long cycle.  For everything there is a season.  

But God does not stop there.  He shows that God sets up the sun and the moon to be light to the earth, rule and separate light from darkness.  So what do those things mean?  The light is illumination.  We all need that when we come into conversion into the truth that there is a God, He loves us, He hates sin and has a path for second chances.  

But does God want to rule over us?  Trick question.  He is in charge whether we acknowledge it or not.  Come to think of it, we all will acknowledge it some day.  If thinking of “rule” as a four-letter word offends you, ask if there is something fundamental in this world that too quickly makes us jump to being offended by it.  If we have had human authority fail us, how can we be sure that God does?  

But what happens if we do not fight the natural flow of the Creator?  Well, with His enlightenment and His rule we can experience the separation of light from darkness where we understand what is meant to be understood and what is not understandable we resolve to be okay with.  We could shrug our shoulders and admit that there is a God and we are not Him.  

Light is supposed to pierce through darkness.  Light is not swallowed up by darkness.  If the third day (see prior post) is a shadow of the gospel then the fourth day is a shadow of our own conversions and continual conversion as one continues to be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) through His light. 

And God saw that it was good. So too is getting out of our spiritual ruts and facing a holy and loving God for all that He is.  If we search our hearts, what have we got to lose?  Addiction to self.  But to gain is the kingdom.