Made in God’s image

Good morning, Friends!

Last week we talked about Adam and Eve. It’s a big subject, and we only just got started on it. There’s all kinds of questions that we never got around to. For example: what did God say after creating Adam? God said, “Hmph. I must be able to do better than that!”

And what did God say after creating Eve? “Ah! Practice make perfect.”

I heard somebody say once that Adam and Eve had the perfect marriage. Adam didn’t have to hear about all the other men she could have married, and Eve didn’t have to hear about the way his mother cooked!

But there’s a great deal more to the story than that, and I’d like us to look at it again today.

God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

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

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

– Genesis 1:24-28  

In the book of Genesis, it says that God took six days to create the world. Each day, God did something different. God created light, the heavens, the earth, the oceans, and vegetation. God created sun, moon, stars, fish and birds, and animals of every kind, including people, men and women.

At the end of each day’s work, what God created was good. At the end of the week, God saw that it was all very good.

And then, on the seventh day, God rested. God went out on the back porch, laid down in a hammock, got out the Sunday paper, and started the first crossword. And fell asleep. And didn’t wake up until supper time.

Seriously – a lot of people work much too hard and for too many hours. God took a whole day off to rest! If our lives are so busy that we can’t manage that, then we need to re-arrange our lives. There’s something very wrong with a world when people are so busy that they can’t rest.

But there’s something else really interesting going on in this story. Because it isn’t just about Adam and Eve. It’s about us. It’s about every human being who came into the world since then. It says that we are all made in the image of God.

What’s that mean?

We’re used to having other people tell us that “you’ve got a lot of potential!” Or somebody, usually our parents or one of our teachers says “You can do better!” What almost nobody ever says to us is, “You were made in the image of God.”

That’s a very daring statement. It sets human beings up on an incredibly high level. Like one of the Psalms says, God has made you just a little lower than the angels. God has made you strong, and given you life.

It says that when Adam was created, God breathed his own breath into that first human being. Every human being since then has that same breath.

Did you know that in Hebrew, the word for breath and the word for the Holy Spirit are the same word? That’s right! God breathed the Holy Spirit into the first human being, and you have that same Holy Spirit breathed into you. That’s what gives us our life. That’s what makes us alive.

But what does this “image” business mean, anyhow? Is it like some kind of an ID photo that you carry around in your wallet? I don’t see one! Do you?

The “image of God” is something different. It means that we are created to be like God in some mysterious way. We share some of the same characteristics, we all have a stamp that says, “God made me to be as much as possible like Himself. . .”

So what are those characteristics of God which we’re supposed to have? Well, let’s think about that for a minute. God is knowing or rational. Check. God feels and cares. Check. God is patient, forgiving, and slow to get angry. Check. We’re all supposed to be like that! God is just, merciful and holy. We’re supposed to be like that, too.

God is creative – that’s why creativity is so special. It means that we share in something which God does or is all the time. Any time we make good things – good music, good food, good art, good homes, good families – any time we make something good or pleasant or inviting, we are echoing what God did back at the creation.

Mother Teresa used to say that all she wanted to do was “to make something beautiful for God.” That’s what human beings are supposed to do. That’s what creativity is.

It doesn’t matter if you’re building furniture, or planting a garden, or teaching kids how to act out a Bible story. Being creative is one of the things which God does. And when you’re creative, no matter what area it’s in, you are sharing in God’s work.

At the end of each day, God looked at what got created and said, “That’s good!” Any time you can look at something you did and say, “That’s good!” you are reflecting the image of God.

It doesn’t matter how small what you do is. Brother Lawrence was a humble monk who lived in the Middle Ages. He was very quiet, but he was so wise that people came from all over to listen to him. The book that he wrote is famous.

Brother Lawrence was given the job of working in the kitchen in the monastery. He used to say that he could chop vegetables to the glory of God. He said that he felt closer to God when he was all by himself in the kitchen, than he felt when he was worshiping on Easter Sunday with all the other monks.

Adam and Eve had their work cut out for them. God put them in the garden and said, “You’re in charge now!” God said that their job was to take care of everything that was there.

God didn’t just say, “Help yourself! Take whatever you want!” God gave us the responsibility for all those things that God created. It’s not the freedom to use everything up or to destroy the world. God gave us the responsibility to use everything well. We’re made to be stewards and protectors of everything that’s good. We have no excuse for misusing or abusing the world — it was given to us to care for, not to ruin.

Any time you save something – a part of nature, the air you breathe, the fresh water you drink – any time you save something, you’re doing what God told the first human beings to do. Any time you keep the earth clean and make it possible for life to continue, you’re saving something God made.

We can use this earth, but we’re not supposed to destroy it. Our job – the job God gave us – is to look after the earth. To preserve it. To help the next generation understand that it’s their responsibility, too. That’s part of what the “image of God” means.

God made us creative. God made us to be stewards. God also made us to be loving. That’s because God is loving, too. Any time we love, even if it’s something small, we share, we reflect back that image, that nature of God.

Whenever we love – ourselves, each other, our neighbor – we get to know God better. Anyone who hates is a million miles from God.

One of the rabbis who wrote about the same time of Jesus said,

“The Lord with his own two hands created human beings in his own likeness. Small and great the Lord created. Whoever insults a person’s face insults the face of the Lord; whoever treats a person’s face with disgust treats the face of the Lord with disgust. Whoever treats with contempt the face of any person treats the face of the Lord with contempt.” (2 Enoch 44:1-3)

God loves everybody. God loves you, very much. God loves you in spite of all the mistakes you made, in spite of all that you’ve done or not done. God loved you head over heels before you were born.

God loves you because you’re different from everybody else. You are! You are unique, and God wants you to succeed and flourish and let God’s light shine through you.

God loves you so much, and if you don’t know that, or if you forgot it, you’re missing out on the whole deal. God loves every one of you. And part of our job, is to reflect that love back, every day.

You are not ordinary. You are made in the image of God! You share a common ancestry with all the people of the Bible, with all the people of faith. They reflected the image of God, and so do you.

The apostle Paul tells us that Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. . .” (Colossians 1:15) Translate: if you want to know what God looks like, take a long look at Jesus. Like Father, like Son. If you want to live up to the image of God, imitate Christ. Jesus Christ is the closest we’ll ever get to having a “picture” of God.

We are supposed to see God in one another, and to lift up that image of God to one another. God is invisible, so all that we can see of God is in the love and mercy and justice and forgiveness we offer each other.

And finally, if you read the Bible, there’s a promise. Paul says, “Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

That means that one day, if we live up to what we are supposed to be, if we seek God with all our hearts, if we look for God in everyone we meet, God won’t be hiding any more. We will see God face to face. And what a day that will be!

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