Tag Archives: Image of God

Using Our Judgment

Lent
March 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 9:1-41

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ –John 9:13-17

How do we judge others? We do it all the time. Whether we like to admit it or not, we have little categories nicely arranged in our brains in which we can quickly slot situations or people. Most of us were probably taught not to be judgmental in the negative sense of the word characterized by a tendency to judge people harshly*.  Using our judgment is essential in all aspects of life. For example, we make a judgment call when we try to discern how to help someone.

Our scripture today illustrates judgment based on strict rules regarding working on the Sabbath. If one did not observe the Sabbath in the way taught by the religious leaders of the day, one was not from God. Strict rules, I guess, make decision making easier but are opened to interpretation. It is always interesting to me how rules apply to some but not to all. Jesus came to show a different way, a new way, and a very old way, a way that promoted wanting the very best for others as we want for ourselves. I do not know which is harder.

Who would not want a person born blind to gain the gift of sight whether it was the Sabbath or not? Apparently, those who base their personal worth on their ability to obey laws. Their self-image results from what others think of them. It does not result from their being a child of God. Perhaps we just do not want to accept that all humans are children of God, made in God’s image. We denigrate ourselves when we denigrate any other, and we denigrate our Creator.

Prayer: Lord, help us to see your image in the other as well as in our mirror. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/judgmental

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Community of God’s Caring Children

MagdaleneWashesJesusFeetLiving in the Spirit
June 11, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 7:36-8:3

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ –Luke 7:36-39

Question: if this woman was such a sinner, how did she even get into the Pharisee’s house? How did she learn in the first place that Jesus was in the Pharisee’s house? Since she came prepared to anoint Jesus, she apparently assumed she would be admitted to the Pharisee’s house. I rather like John Crossan’s idea that much of the gospels, not only share the parables of Jesus, but are also written in parabolic form telling the stories about Jesus. Is this notation about the women, Luke’s subtle way if saying that this particular Pharisee was not all he was professing to be?

Jesus clearly saw the image of God in every person with whom he interacted. This Pharisee apparently did not. Perhaps this sinner did not matter to the Pharisee because she was a woman. Perhaps it was important to him to highlight Jesus’ lack of good judgement because he associated with “sinners”. We humans seem to have a need to rank one another. To establish our self-worth based on how much better we are than someone else or some group. There seems to be a lot of that going around in the United States today.

It is apparently very hard for humans to accept that all are worthy and that none of us are any less or more than any other. God makes each person an integral part of a synergistic community of caring children of God where the total is greater than the sum of its parts. What we do with that opportunity is our challenge.

Prayer: Lord, help us build a world based on being a community of your caring children. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Made in God’s Image

BigotryLent March 11, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Some were sick through their sinful ways,
   and because of their iniquities endured affliction; they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them,
   and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
   and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. — Psalm 107:17-22

I believe that sin is separation from God. The Greek word often used by Jesus in regard to sin essentially means missing the mark*. In modern language we might talk about being out of synch with God. The word “iniquities” used here seems to relate to guilt and punishment*. These words are being used in this Psalm to describe actions of one against oneself. Apparently those being addressed had lost all hope and were starving themselves to death. Most of us probably do not relate care-of-ourselves or lack of care-of-ourselves to sin. Yet Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:31) Now Jesus is not talking about having an overinflated ego. I think he is calling our attention to the fact that all our neighbors are made in the image of God as are we. We should not take that lightly.

The United States has experienced a flood of racial bigotry recently, with people using words that kill the hearts and souls of our neighbors and setting horrific words to music they probably learned in Sunday school. It is enough to make Jesus weep. I wonder how much of this need to be better than another is a result of people not recognizing that they do not have to be better than anybody else to receive the full love of God. In fact their lives will be so much richer in love when they share fully in the love of God and the love of all of God’s children.

Prayer: O God, forgive us for not loving with dignity and worth all your children made in your image including ourselves. Amen.

* http://biblehub.com/greek/264.htm
**http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5771.htm
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

People are People

SheepLiving in the Spirit
November 18, 2014

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. — Ezekiel 34: 20-24

One of the hardest lessons we learn in life, if we ever learn it, is that we are all just people, one like the other. All are created in the image of God, none more, none less. Ezekiel likens us to sheep. Some are fat some are thin. Some are bullies some are bullied. And ultimately we will all be judged by God, not by how we compare with others, but how we have grown into that image of God, or not.

The prophets of old foretold the coming of one like David, a great leader, yet a servant of God. One who cared about his people and fulfilled the kingly role of assuring the needs of his people like a shepherd caring for his or her flock. The prophets were speaking out of the oppression of the failure of Israel and Judah including exile. We, Christians, in hindsight see Jesus written all through these great writings. Both perspectives bring hope to weary people who long for a Savior.

In a week or so we will once again begin the journey of Advent. A time of waiting for such a Savior. I like Advent, we need to be reminded again and again that our Savior has come and with him came a new day. A day when we are called to live into our being children of God and becoming a vital and living expression of the gift of that Savior to the whole world.

In Jesus’ darkest hours, the time preceding his crucifixion, he ended words of consolation given to his disciples with these words, I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ (John 16:33) I take great heart in these words. I encourage all to own this statement and in every way possible to live into expressing that reality in our world today.

Prayer: O God, enable me to see Your image in each and all people with whom I have contact. Free me from any need to judge another and help me be a conduit of your love in fulfilling my call to be a part of the Body of Christ in our world today. Amen.

 All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.