The Image of God Creation
6 Genesis 1:24-31
Our Deepest Fear, by Marianne Williamson
What happens today, the sixth day of creation? We do. Eventually, at about, I don’t know, lunch time or so, after the cattle and the creeping things, finally, we arrive on the scene. Remember it’s already pretty full. God has been busy. In the beginning God spoke light into being, and separated the light from the darkness, and then separated the waters into waters above and waters below, and then in the space between God collected the water into seas and let dry land appear, and then spoke plants and vegetation into being, plants bearing seeds. At this point it was evening and it was morning the third day. On the fourth day, God created the sun and the moon and the stars for times and seasons, a rhythm for life on earth. And then on the fifth, God created the creatures of the water and the birds of the sky, and on the sixth God created cattle and creeping things, and the wild animals. God blessed the creatures and instructed them to multiply. Keep making animals and sea creatures and birds. And then with the time that was left in the sixth day, God created human beings. Just sort of fit us in, which was kind, really.
“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” What does ‘made in the image of God’ look like? Look around you. We don’t all look the same, though we do bear certain similarities. So being made in the image of God is about something more than appearance.
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? It’s the first time a new parent looks at their child and sees all those people who have come before, a bit of this parent, that grandparent. Intellectually we know that genetics work that way, but it’s different to actually see it in the face of your child and know it within: made in the image of family, of loved ones, of God.
Or that moment when my friends looked at their adopted son and realized that he looks like them, really, you can see each of them in his facial features, and his expressions: made in the image of God.
Or that moment when someone in India commented that I look like my cousin sister – by marriage. Something in our smiles is similar – because we are made in the image of God.
And it extends beyond our immediate family, for it’s also that moment when Ken and I were looking at photos of children in an orphanage in Honduras, to whom we had just sent hand me down clothes, and saw a little girl in an outfit that had been our daughters’. For a second we thought it was a picture of our daughter, and then were struck at a profound level that while she wasn’t ours, in another, deeper sense she was. And the
impulse to simply go get her and bring her home was incredibly powerful. Made in the image of God.
Being made in the image of God has much more to do with those things that we have in common, our values, our joys and sorrows, than it does with our outer packaging. It has to do with what we hold in common as a people.
I took a course in college offered jointly between the religion department and the history department; the course was called “Holocausts and the Moral Imagination.” The premise of the course is that the atrocities we have committed against each other in our history become possible when we lack moral imagination. When we can somehow convince ourselves that other people are less than human. That kind of dehumanization is easy to recognize when it comes to situations of genocide, or slavery, or ethnic or gender based bias of any kind. It’s harder to pick up on when the situations are less clear cut.
As we move full tilt into the upcoming Presidential election year, listen to the way candidates characterize other people when they talk about issues. Hear the implications of conversations about immigration, asylum seekers, refugees, the middle class, the less than middle class, those on any kind of government assistance, issues around poverty and education. Listen for those nuances that seem to say that ‘those’ people are somehow less than.
Remember that it’s when we begin to see others as less than human that the fabric of our world begins to unravel. At its core the point of our political process, however flawed, isn’t which side wins: red or blue, but rather how we make decisions about our lives together. How we collectively care for all of us, and how we treat those who might be seen as the least of us.
We hear that in the Gospel lesson today, in which Jesus is talking to his disciples in response to people’s concerns about righteousness; and how to be seen as someone who is righteous. They had been in conversation with those who had some pretty specific ideas about that and Jesus is countering their argument.
Being righteous has more to do with seeing God, the image of God, in the least of us. Righteousness, rightness with God, is found by giving food and drink to those who are hungry and thirsty, clothing those who are naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoner. Not because these are “good things to do,” but because in doing so we are caring for God’s self, for the image of God within every person.
How do we do that? When we are so very small and the world is so very big and full of people in need? We start by paying attention – by looking at people, acknowledging them as individuals even as we work to make changes to make their lives better. Next time you drive into Portland, look around you and see the people walking in the parks, and realize that while you might not stop to give out handouts, you should see them, really see them. Look at them, treat them as people. And support the programs that reach out to help –
Preble Street, the Wayside Kitchen, the local shelters, or our own St. Elizabeth’s Essentials Pantry, now a Jubilee center.
I remember serving at the pantry quite some time ago, and meeting an older woman, eclectically dressed who was carrying a fife. We shook hands; she introduced herself. Then she turned to the woman behind her and started explaining how this was really just her nickname, and then saying her name. And the Ugandan woman behind her who was struggling with English paused and then said this multi-syllabic Russian name, very carefully. The Russian woman’s face lit up, “You’re the only one who says it correctly!” The best gift given out that day at the pantry was given from one woman to another on the receiving side of the table.
To see one another, to recognize the dignity of every human being, is to live out this day of Creation – we are made in the image of God. Maintaining the fabric of the world is grounded in our ability to see one another as made in the image of God. And to believe that we, as walking, talking images of God, can make a difference.
From our second lesson today by Marianne Williamson: ‘You are a child of God. .. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
We are made in the image of God, the God of Creation: a wildly imaginative, abundantly creative God of life and light. Who blesses us and sends us forth to be the image of God for the world.
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.