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Daily Encouragement - June 9

Genesis 1:26-28, 31

Then God said, “Let us make humankind[a] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 

So God created humankind[c] in his image,

    in the image of God he created them;

    male and female he created them.

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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Psalm 8:1, 3-5, 9

O Lord, our Sovereign,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

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,

    mortals[a] that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

    and crowned them with glory and honor.

O Lord, our Sovereign,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

More than once over the past few weeks, as I’ve watched the news and read a plethora of daily updates on my cell phone, I have found myself wondering if I was watching the death of America, or at least the death of the Dream of America. Of course, there are aspects of our national experience that undeniably need to die out, racism being one of the most heinous. Strangely, I’ve also felt as though I was being transported back to the days of my childhood, when the Civil Rights Era (as it is now called) brought into the light the deep divide between races created by systemic racism and white privilege. Recent events have made me wonder if anything in our nation has changed for the better in the last 50-60 years. As I’ve watched and listened to various commentators, I’ve become convinced that systemic racism isn’t a white issue or a black issue; it’s an American issue, because it cuts to the heart of what it means to be an American. More importantly, if you’re a Christian, then systemic racism presents is a faith issue, because it cuts to the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

As Trinitarian Christians, we believe that the Triune God is the “Creator of all that is, seen and unseen” (The Nicene Creed), including human beings, who are depicted as being the pinnacle of God’s creative artistry. Why? Because we bear the “imago Dei” - the very image of God. It’s astounding, isn’t it? The Psalmist certainly sounds amazed as he contemplates, with awe, the great majesty of God’s heavens, the moon and stars suspended in space, and then asks a penetrating question: “Lord, what is humankind, that you are mindful of them?  What are mortals, that you care for them?” If you’ve ever looked at the night sky, and felt your own smallness compared to the vastness of the universe God has created, then you know how the writer felt. But as the Psalmist recalls the rest of the story of creation, he ponders an even more mind-bending reality: “Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands.” An inescapable reality follows: when we disrespect other human beings, we are disrespecting their Maker; when we respect other human beings, we are showing respect to the One who made them and us. When we cherish any aspect of God’s creation, especially other persons made in God’s image, we are giving honor and glory to God. 

Of course, you could take it farther, theologically speaking, and Trinitarians do. Every person we encounter bears the image of God; and every person we encounter is someone for whom Christ died (whether they know it or not is another matter). So when we honor others, regardless of their race or clan, we are honoring the Cross of Christ; when we dishonor others, we are scorning the sacrifice of the Son of God. If that doesn’t make you draw a deep breath, nothing will. Except, perhaps, the further astonishment that every person who belongs to Christ is someone in whom the Holy Spirit has taken up residence; quite literally, they and we are “temples of the Holy Spirit.” (I Corinthians 6:19). No one with a grain of sense wants to mess around with another temple of the Spirit! 

Except, of course, for the daily reality that at least some of the other humans we encounter are enough to make us want to scratch our heads and wonder whatever happened to their “Imago Dei.”

We shake our noggins and think: was Jesus off his rocker to be willing to die for him (or her)? And how could the Holy Spirit be willing to live in such a dingy and disorderly Temple? Good questions; and every one of them might be asked of us as well. We don’t always live like who we really are - children of the Living God. But that’s no excuse to forget the One who made us, the One who redeemed and redeems us, the One who sustains us and empowers us. Because the One who made us isn’t finished with us - or anyone else - just yet. Best of all, as Jesus himself puts it, “I am with you always, even to the end of the Age.” We are not alone in this. Thanks be to God!

“The Gift of Love” Verse 3 The UM Hymnal

Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,

our spirits long to be made whole.

Let inward love guide every deed;

by this we worship, and are freed.

Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood

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