The interactive workings of the mind, heart and Scripture is fascinating.
About like seed planted that suddenly appears above ground,
About like seed planted that suddenly appears above ground,
as Someone once said...
Image by donielle via Flickr
Image via Wikipedia
I've noticed a lot of movies and tv shows I watch explore the question, "Who are you?" - the most recent being Kung Fu Panda 2. Though I had seen such movies as Star Wars deal with the question, I was not explicitly aware of it until Babylon 5. The driving story arch across the first seasons had to do with two sets of aliens guiding and using humans and other alien races in their conflict with each other. One asked "Who are you?" The other asked, "What do you want?" The results were disastrous (genocide) when the second question was answered before the first.
Image via WikipediaThis morning these thoughts all came together for me with the John 18 reading from Monday. For Adam and Eve's forgetting they were God's creatures, for David's forgetting neglecting his duties as King when it came to Uriah and his wife,
for the way you forgot
you are the child of God
when pursuing what your sin wanted
earlier today -
turning a deaf ear to the Truth,and for every time in between,
Jesus remembers who He is as King under God when He speaks to Pilate (John 18:33-37) so that He would be our perfect substitute in the image of God and man.
Below is the sermon I preached for Trinity Sunday, which was influenced by my viewing of Kung Fu Panda 2, based on what the Sober Peasant preached some years back.
Holy Trinity Sunday (and Father's Day)
Image of God Restored
America based its right to declare independence from England on the principle that all men are created equal – and yet many of the signers owned slaves. When the Constitution was adopted years later, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person. Thanks be to God that those days have passed, yet today US laws still see some people as more valuable than others – namely, too many see those in their mothers’ wombs as less than a person. And who is considered more important – a sports star or a resident of a nursing home. Even in our personal lives we make value judgments. Is a person worth our time? Our effort? The request for money from a charity. The friend who needs help – or the neighbor you don’t like. And we decide that not all of these are equal. Some are more worthwhile.
Today we are reminded that in the beginning, God created man and woman equal but different. Both equally loved by God, but He puts them together differently with complimentary parts and roles. Adam to be husband and then father of the whole race of humanity, and Eve to be wife and mother to all the living. Created differently, but yet equally created in the image of God. Blessed differently, but equally together and not apart. “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” (Genesis 1:28).
But what does it mean that “God created man in His own image”? No other creature or thing was created with this. God deemed everything else good, but not even the angels were created in God’s image. This honor was only given to humanity. This image of God business means not that we looked like God does, but that we had His perfect righteousness. We had His right knowledge of the way things were, the way we were, and the way He is. We had true fear, true love, and true trust in God and in each other. We cared for each other rightly and could receive that care. We listened to one another and heard everything right as we said everything the right way. And God shared with us His authority over the world He made. Just think about Adam giving names to all the animals – or how still to this day people name their children and their pets.
Yet as you know, that perfection is long gone. The image of God was lost at the Fall. Even when God tells us precisely who He is in the Scriptures, we get Him wrong – let alone what type of false God people imagine when they live apart from the Bible. Instead of a loving Father, God is often seen as a demanding and sometimes mean, or sometimes weak deity. How could anyone love someone like that, or put our confidence in him, her, it, they, or whatever type of supreme beings you could come up with. Often times those gods become a version of me, only much better. And so my will becomes the gods’ will and I choose what lessons I want to learn – instead of having a loving Father who teaches me according to His will how I should go. And not for His benefit, but for my good in the end.
Sin has broken Creation – just consider the storms that worked through here the past two mornings, and the far worse destruction in Joplin and Japan. Yet even more tragic than that is how sin has torn us apart. We are now different than what Adam and Eve were – and we judge and love and care for other people differently than we should. From the moment Adam and Eve sinned, they became sinful, ashamed, and corrupt. They had lost the glory and image of God and they became embarrassed by their nakedness.
Not wanting to be seen, they hid themselves from each other with fig leaves, and hid themselves from God with bushes. Fig leaves and bushes are just as flimsy as the excuses we use and the other things we hide our sin and brokenness behind. We want to keep others from knowing who we really are, so we put up masks so that people will think differently about us. We find substitute images for the image of God that we lost. So that you look holy, or brave, or kind, or at least not so damnable. The Declaration of Independence is right in this – we are all equal – equally deserving of Hell. Equally corrupt before the throne of the Almighty Judge – every person 100% sinful. We might successfully fool some people into thinking better about us, but all our lies work about as poorly as fig leave and bushes when it comes to God.
Yet as you have heard, the God who originally created us in His image does not leave us fallen and broken. For the God who creates is also the God who re-creates. He – not us – is working to restore His image through Christ in our fallen and broken bodies and souls. For we did not bring Jesus to us, but the Father sent His Son. As the true and exact image of God the Father, Jesus shows us is a true man, unbroken by sin. Jesus is the Righteous One who knows the Father, has complete confidence in His Father, and does His Father’s will at all times – not grudgingly, but willingly.
Jesus comes not primarily as an example to imitate, but to restore to us the holy image that we lost. He took from us our sinful ways of dishonoring Our Father in Heaven – and, considering that today might have you thinking of your earthly fathers, Jesus also took from us all our guilt for breaking the Fourth Commandment, and all the others too. Jesus claimed our broken image and the punishment and death we had earned for His own. In return, as we heard last week, Jesus gave us His Spirit. And through the Holy Spirit, the image of God is again given to us. The Spirit of God who was present and active at Creation, hovering over the waters, is now present and active in you, re-creating you, making you new, re-shaping and conforming you to the image of God. He flew down into you at the Baptismal waters of His Triune name. The Father who sent His Son sends His Spirit now to you. And the Holy Spirit now joins you to the Son who takes you to the Father. To forgive us and bring us back to the place God gave us in the beginning.
You see, we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday not simply to proclaim who our God is – the Three persons, and yet one God; each fully and equally God, none less valuable or important than the other; and yet not three Gods or Lords, and not three parts of God, but one God. Although we certainly do that, Holy Trinity Sunday is first and foremost about who God is for us, what He has done and does and will do for us; and how the Triune God continues to apply Himself to His lost world for the life of the world – to restore His image in us.
And with that understanding, we might look at the Holy Gospel in a different light. Not so much about what we do as the Church that baptizes and teaches and makes disciples; but rather what the Father and Son and Holy Spirit are doing through His Church. Creating disciples, baptizing, teaching, feeding, forgiving, raising to new life – God doing His stuff in His ways through His Word, water, His body and blood. Creating something valuable out of nothing. Making us precious in His sight though we were worth less than nothing because of our sin. He who spoke to create the World now speaks through our voices to create again disciples, Children of God in His image, conformed to the likeness of Christ.
Thus we worship the Triune God not simply here, but daily in our lives by living out that image we have been given again. Working against sin to love and care and judge and value others the way that God has been and is and will be for us. Giving to those the world counts as the least. Determined to see each life as worth our own. Living as Christ in the world, the Righteous One who judged you and your eternal life to be worth His precious blood and innocent suffering and death. He suffered the shame and nakedness of His Crucifixion – and then He rose from the dust of death to life, so that all who believe in Him would be raised to live with Him forever.
As Christian Churches around the world today say, “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to Him for He has shown His mercy to us!” Amen.