(sermon note: 10-04 sermon note)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/5de3ghL6Fh4)
26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a little girl who asked her grandfather, “Grandpa, did God make you?” “Yes,” he replied, “God made me.” The little girl asked further, “With your wrinkles, and your grey hair, and your funny smell sometimes, and everything?” “Yeeees,” her grandfather chuckled, “with all my little quirks, God made me.” “Oh, well, he did a really good job!” she said as she hugged him. A little while later, she returned and asked, “Did God make me?” “Yes, my dear, of course!” her grandfather responded, “God made everyone.” The girl looked at her grandfather, then looked at herself and sheepishly said, “God’s been doing a much better job lately.”
Kids can be wonderfully literal – and there is some truth in what the little girl said to her grandfather. But it isn’t the whole truth. And how could it be? She doesn’t have all the information. Much of the world is still a mystery to her. Perhaps she doesn’t yet know that, one day, if she’s lucky, she too will have wrinkles, grey hair, and yes, maybe even an occasional funny smell. Perhaps she hasn’t considered how big creation really is, how vast and varied it is, or how intricate and marvelously complex is its miracle. I’m an old man, and I sure don’t! How could any of us, even being made in God’s image, ever know it all?
So what does it really mean to be made in God’s image? Is it literal? Does it mean God has hair and armpits? Two hands and a head? Maybe. What about our different faces and voices? Is each, in its uniqueness, made in the image of God? These are tough questions, worth thinking about in our daily efforts to better know God in our hearts and reflect His will in our choices. But unless we actually see God, face to face, and take a selfie, no one will ever know for sure. These types of questions, no matter how thought-provoking, don’t really bring us any closer to understanding what it means to be made in God’s image. To understand what it means, we have to think about not what God looks like but about the nature of God himself.
Think about the little girl from earlier, who wanted to know if God made her. Now imagine she’s all grown up. She’s a grandmother herself. She has the wrinkles, the hair – everything. Her own grandfather is with God, smiling upon the goodness of her heart. She remembers, fondly, what she’s made with the raw material, the life, God has given her – a family, a home, a career, her children and grandchildren, all that she’s built and experienced, and all that she has made and stood for. She ponders this with the wisdom and understanding that can only come from leading a full life. As she ponders, her grandson approaches her and asks,, “Grandma, did God make you?” She smiles at him. “Yes, my dear, God made me.” But before her grandson can set up his punchline, she continues. “He made you, your sister, and everyone else, too. He made pretty much everything you see, except the things that people made. Those things, he left for us to do – so we could know what it means to be made in His image, and to live as He wishes. He wants us to know the joy of creation.” “Huh?” her grandson says. “Go make something,” she says. “Think about something God might like, and make that. You can start by helping me finish this half-hug I made for you.” He does because he thinks it’s something God would like.
Genesis teaches us that God began his work with a void, a place absent of any and all creation. God wanted to fill that void so He created; first the light then the heaven then the earth, the land, sea, birds, fish, and all the other critters who walk or crawl. The order was important. God created the light to sustain life; then the places where life can flourish; then, at the end, life itself. It all makes a lot of sense. God had a big project so He worked from general to specific. Otherwise, the project would have fallen apart. At the end, all that’s left is a finishing touch. He created man. Man was and is special to God. Every other creature was winked into existence, like magic, but man was made from the dust, from the very raw material of creation itself. This was not only to set man apart from all the rest of creation but to remind man of his responsibility as caretaker of all God has wrought as we reflected on a few weeks back.
Our reading for today reminds us just how special we are. Not only were we created differently and given a unique responsibility as caretakers of everything else God created but God created us with a very unique purpose in mind. You see, there is an inherent gift to being created in God’s image that no other creature has, and that gift is our ability to create. Each of us was created so that we might, in turn, create for ourselves. We were created to be like the Creator! What an awesome purpose for existence! And you thought being caretakers of his creation was awesome enough! No, God blesses us with not only awesome responsibility but also awesome purpose. We are called to create in this world–create children, careers, lifestyles, goods, homes, families, friendships, pasts, futures, peace, ideas…realities themselves! We are all called and purposed to create, in one way or another, and there’s no ignoring this calling. We have to create in this world…it is our purpose!
Some of us fool ourselves into believing that we don’t have to create, that it isn’t our purpose in life. Some of us get overwhelmed by all that we create. Some of us are blissfully unaware of all that we create. And then there are some of us who actively and wisely create. There are some of us who are acutely aware of all that we create and create well in life. This is how God wants us to create. In Colossians we hear, “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for me, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (3:23) When you create, create in a way that pleases God. Create diligently and with a mindfulness of God. Even the little things we’re stuck doing every day while we’re all stuck at home, the stuff that drives us crazy from time to time, even those small tasks, when done with mindfulness of God can feel joyful and meaningful. We create our reactions, and those reactions shape who we are – we are the sum of our choices. When we act in opposition to creation – when we destroy through thoughtlessness, when we tear one another down instead of building each other up, when we close our minds and hearts to those who need us, when we care only for ourselves – we act in opposition to the will of God. To be made in the image of our Creator is to be made creators, ourselves, and we are responsible to God, to the place He’s given us to live, and to one another – who all share in the spirit of creation – to honor that with what we make, what we say, and what we do.
Exodus says, “He has filled them [and us!] with the skill to do every sort of work.” (35:35) God has not only given us responsibility and purpose, He’s given us the abilities to carry out that purpose through a variety of skills. God wants us to create and God enables us to create. When we create, we become closer to God. Think of those times you’ve lost yourself in an activity, when hours went by like minutes and you came away feeling energized. That’s you using the gifts God has given you! 1 Timothy tells us, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (4:14)
As we reflect on our responsibility, on our purpose, and on our abilities, let us always seek to do God’s will in our lives. Let us seek to live in his love and share that love with all those around us. Let us create boldly, wisely, with awareness. Perhaps most importantly, let us be ever thankful for our being created to create. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.