Sun, Feb 07, 2016

Created in the image of God


Sunday Estomihi KMP 7.2.2016
Psalm 33, 6 -9 and Psalm 8, 1-9, 2 Cor. 5, 17 -21
This year Pastor Peter and I have embarked on a theme which is to accompany us throughout this year. Theme: Forming identity while building character. For the last three weeks we were dealing with the content of Genesis 1, 2 and 3. While we still have these 3 chapters in mind, today I would like to focus on two important issues which I feel we need to know and think about. First Psalm 33 that we heard underlines this to some extent. I refer you to your pew leaflets which helps us a little to understand the worldview of the writer of Genesis. The world was surrounded by water. Heaven, the dwelling where God lived was above the water. And from that dwelling God spoke and creation came into being, according to God´s word. Within the masses of water was a glass dome, under which the Earth was created. The Earth rests on pillars standing in the water. The dome separates earth from the waters. And on the glass dome God placed the lights (ie. Sun, moon and stars). In the core of the earth is the so-called underworld, or hades. Into this dome-like world. God spoke into being the plants, the animals and everything that is in it, finally also mankind, whom God created in his image, as male and female (about this I have spoken last time, which symbolises equality in creation, and close relationship between God, female and male.) When it rained, God opened windows of the dome, to let the waters in. When enough water fell on creation, God closed the windows above. When floods came into the world, God opened the windows above and the floodgates at the bottom. Of course there was order, and God saw his creation as being good and very good. In this world view, the question is also asked, how does God communicate with humanity who is created in God´s image? To cut a long story short: birds flew around, and out of that thought humanlike birds flew into the heavens and to earth to have communication flowing – i.o.w. Angels who are messengers of God. Wow, such simple understanding of reality then. Human kind was placed into the earth, the Garden of Eden, to be stewards of God´s good creation. Second Psalm 33 we read in verse 4 – Why do you care about us humans? Who are created in God´s image? So, you and I are created in the image of God. What?!!! Looking like my dad or for that matter my mom is one thing, but we are made in God’s image? What does that mean?! What in the world does that say about you and me? And what does it say about the homeless woman standing at the robot as you come from the freeway?... that SHE is the image of God?! And what does it say about the refugee mother from Ruanda, walking hundreds of kilometres with her baby tied to her chest?...that SHE is the image of God?! And what does this say about the illegal immigrants who invaded Europe and also our country? They too are in the image of God! Look down your row…turn and see who’s behind/next to you….an unfamiliar person?...someone looking very sad? Each of these faces that we see on the news or in person, each of these precious people are made in God’s image. And so are you! So what does that mean? Well, it depends on what you think God is like, right? If you see God as judging, controlling, dispassionate, and we’re made in that image, that wouldn’t exactly be good news. But if you understand God to be the one we see in Genesis today, and the one we just heard about in Psalms 33+ 8, then we’re in better shape! So let’s take a look at this God in whose image we have been made….. In Genesis, we see first a God who is the Creator, therefore, we too can create. We can mess things up, and we’ve done our share of that; but we have been invited into the process of upholding, caring for and completing creation! Think about that: Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto, Van Gogh’s painting of The Starry Night, Michelangelo’s marble body of Jesus on Mary’s lap, or even the art I see by the children, it all is a part of the ongoing creation story! What an amazing thing for us earthlings to create in God’s image. Yes, you and I can create beauty in all kinds of ways, for WE are a part of this continuing creation story. So, to be in God’s image, is to create. In Genesis, it also looks like, to be images of God, is to look at everything and everyone God made and to say, “It is good.” To love the created. To be in relationship with the creator and the created - with creatures, humans and animals. To work on behalf of the created world. So recycling, ecologically sound farming practices, climate change, are really straight out of Genesis, if we read it properly and not some agendas of politicians. God gave us POWER to create and He gave us RESPONSIBILITY for that creation. So we are to make choices and take actions that would be in keeping with the Creator God in whose image we are formed. Jesus continued to reveal to us what God is like, and therefore who we are also created to be. And Jesus did this by telling stories. Like the story of the Good Samaritan…where the priest and other supposedly “good” folks, walk right past the man who lies beaten at the side of the road. And along comes a Samaritan….someone from the country next door, someone who has a different religion, someone who is considered “unclean” and it is THAT person who is able to see the beaten man as “neighbour”. This story really messes with the notion of exactly who is created in the image of God….for the Jews, of course, thought it was them! But then we start wondering if it isn’t the beaten man lying at the side of the road that is the image of God. But then---stories mess with us---the hero turns out to be the Samaritan! Who exactly in this story is created in the image of God? “Well,” Jesus said, “Decide for yourself.” If we are created in the image of God, then we are compassionate, we are not self-centred; then we are blind to race, creed, gender, sexual preference, nationality, socio-economic status, all the things that divide us. For then we are seeing as if we had the eyes of God. Maybe that’s what it means to be in the image of God! If we are created in the image of God, it means YOU are welcome at the table! Yes, this table with bread and wine. And if you are the very image of God, what does that say about your life?... about your story? It means that YOU matter, and your story is valued. For you are a reflection of God’s very image. The writer of Psalm 8 is someone who is standing outside looking up at the sky on a clear night, ablaze with stars…and he asks, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?” in comparison to the vast creation which he recognise around him, the psalmist feels very, very small. “Who am I, God,” he asks, “that you even notice little me down here on planet earth?!” Then the Psalm goes on and says, “Yet, you have made us just a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor.” Like the writer of Genesis 1, the psalm writer proclaims the likeness of humanity to the divine. Imago dei. It is a bold statement- So God creates humankind in God’s image, and the first thing it says God does, is God “blesses” them. To bless someone is to invoke divine favor upon them, AND to empower someone. So God gave US the power to create (or destroy)…gave US the power to love, to forgive, to have compassion and empathy, to heal, restore and to serve. THIS is the image in which we were created and this is the power that we were blessed with. And it is a gift. And it is good. It is very, very good. And it is an awesome privilege and responsibility. For you are not only created IN the image of God, you are created to BE the image of God….to bear fruit for the sake of this world God loves. To use another term – we are stewards, responsible in God´s creation and also for God´s creation. Prayer

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