Lenten Meditation 5 March 2012
“But our creation story says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God, and out of generative love, as you see above and elsewhere (Genesis 1:27; 9:6). This starts us out on an absolutely positive and hopeful foundation, which cannot be overstated.” (page 28)
|Lucas Cranach the Elder: Adam and Eve (1526)|
Our author, Richard Rohr, uses the metaphor of “connecting the dots” to explore and discover the fullness of the biblical story. Virtually all of us remember the childhood excitement of having before us a page of dots, sometimes with numbers, which only became a comprehensible picture when we took our crayon and drew from number 1 to 2 to 3 and on to the end. Finally, a complete image emerged before our very eyes, an image that was unrecognizable before the lines were drawn. This is the means by which Father Rohr would like us to delve into the Bible. In order to make complete sense of the dot connecting he says, “To achieve that realization, I’d like to invite you to see both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures as one complete book, an anthology of inspired stories, with a beginning, middle, and end. Read it as one guided text.” (p. 30)
The first dot of the emerging picture is contained in the quotation above: the creation of humanity in the image and likeness of God. It is in what Rohr speaks of as “the objective unity with God” that underlines the Bible and which is the thread woven through all the stories of the Bible. We have fallen short of the completeness of our unity, a fall that begins with suspicion planted by the Evil One represented as a snake in Genesis 3. But the Fall didn’t just happen in Eden to First Man and First Woman; it occurs in our lives over and over again - some could argue at every moment. The most destructive action we can take is to deny our own connectedness with God, our being created in the “image and likeness” of God. This comes out in our proclamation of our unworthiness—or no worth for me, as if my relationship with God were dependant on my actions, my behavior, my sinless-ness.
I have frequently sat with an individual who is describing what he or she believes is his or her call to ordained ministry and heard that person say, “I believe I am called to be a priest (or deacon), but I am so unworthy.” My response has always been, “Of course you are unworthy! That is what Grace is about.” The understanding that one can enter into ordained ministry—or any other ministry--only if one has attained some level of perfection on their own merits is the complete opposite of what the Gospel is about. Left to our own devices, we fall into the morass of either self-pity or self-aggrandizement, both of which are destructive.
“God isn’t looking for slaves, workers, contestants to play the game or jump the hoops correctly. God is simply looking for images! God wants images of God to walk around the earth!” (p. 35). Now that is good news. Our call, our task is to represent God at all times and in all places. This is, I believe, what St. Paul is proclaiming with his “body” metaphor. We are the individual and corporate incarnation of the living God who created us, “male and female he created them” in God’s own image.
It is also foundational to our theology to remember that God saw everything created and declared it to be “very good.” (Genesis 1:31). Much of Western Christianity has proclaimed a world of depravity and sin since the Fall, as if the goodness of creation was totally annihilated by the “sin of Adam.” Does God destroy the first sinners and declare that humanity was a mistake? Or does God care for Adam and Eve by nurturing them and even sewing clothes for them, the feminine side of God’s nature. Yes, there are consequences for their sin (expulsion from Eden, travail in childbirth, toiling to till the ground) but God is with them and us and continues to draw all human beings into the objective unity which is our true relationship.
Do we have to strive to be worthy before God, or is it time to open our eyes to discover the God who created us in God’s image is welcoming us with open arms? I challenge you, this Lent, to live as a beloved child of God, one created in the image and likeness of God, called to be a walking, breathing, talking image of God for this world, broken and hungry for some Good News. Be the good news for all you meet today.