Which song are you singing?
Week 37, Day 3 Reflection on Genesis 2 Some people say a man is made outta' mud
A poor man's made outta' muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong
You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don'cha call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store
I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number 9 coal
And the boss man said "Well, bless-a my soul" ("16 Tons"--Words & Music by Merle Travis)
Most people are born into poverty. 16 Tons is their song. We don’t always notice this because we Americans make up only 4 or 5 % of the world’s population and we live in the richest nation this planet has ever seen.
But half of our seven billion neighbors live on $2.00 a day or less. They wake up in the morning, their hope shredded before breakfast—if they have breakfast. Their job, if they have a job, is often a body breaking, soul sucking endeavor. At night they fall into bed—if they have a bed, with even less hope than they had in the morning.
But imagine, for a moment, that 16 Tons told the story of your life—that you, too, were born to meaningless, back breaking labor; that your life would be drained dry and tossed away when you wore out.
And then imagine that you believed all this was god’s will; that it was god, not the boss, who was sucking your life out. Imagine that from the day you were born till the day you picked up the shovel you had been told by your parents and your priests that you were created for this and nothing more—born to serve the gods, without question or hope, from sun up to sun down, from first breath to last. How would you feel?
“Saint Peter don’cha call me cause I can’t go…I owe my soul to the company store.”
This is the song that has been sung from time immemorial and into our day. The Babylonians, who ruled the world at an important period in the history of Israel, told the story this way: The god Marduk slew the god Quingu, mixed his blood with the soil and shaped the mud into a man. This first man, and all his descendants, were then destined to serve the gods—forever—by laboring for the king.
In this story ordinary people, not the rich and powerful, of course, but everyone else, are created to be slaves—cogs in the machinery of the empire with no value except what their overlords can squeeze out of them.
That’s the Babylonian story. But it’s also the story kings, emperors, presidents, prime ministers and corporate overlords have been telling since civilization began. It’s the tune sung in Asian sweat shops, Florida tomato fields and California orchards. You’re only worth what the company can squeeze out of you. And when nothing remains, you will be left behind.
But imagine this was your life, too; that you were born to sing that song. How would you feel?
And then imagine one day a new minstrel comes to town singing a new song; same tune, perhaps, but different words telling a new story; or a sort of familiar story told in a new way.
What if her song said you are something special—that you were made in love, gracefully shaped by the Creator’s hands and kissed into life by the Divine Spirit; created to walk with God?
Her song might sound like this:
The Bible says people was made outta love
Kissed into living by the Good Lord above
Given a home in a garden fair
Working with God and taking care.
You tend to the garden, you plant the seed
You eat the fruit and you hoe the weeds
In the cool of the evening God says let’s go;
Let’s you and me take a little stroll!
The Bible says man, he was made to shine
The woman beside him—they was two of a kind
Born to live and to love and grow
With the breath of God fillin' up their soul. ("Take a Little Stroll"--Lyrics by Brad Brookins)
This is the Song of Creation in Genesis 2. It was written to correct the awful song/story of the world that has driven so many to despair. Go back and read it again this morning, listening for a new tune.
Prayer: Sing to us, Loving Spirit. Cleanse our hearing of all the false songs, purge our memories of the despairing stories and awaken us anew to our rightful place as part of your beloved Creation. Amen.