Created in the Image of God
Created in the Image of God
God works and moves in ways that I will never understand. Over the past week we have held in tension our ongoing anxiety of a global pandemic and have confronted questions and issues of race that have long been in front of us. The lectionary texts this week help us consider these issues in light of God’s word in scripture.
This week I sat down and looked at the lectionary texts. These are the passages that are used on a three year cycle that take us through most of scripture. I wondered how they would speak to the context we find ourselves in, living through a health pandemic and witnessing the pandemic that has always been with us on the issue of race.
I researched and reflected on the sermon during the early days of the week. By Wednesday afternoon I am writing with a hope to finish on Thursday. This allows me to record the message on Thursday afternoon and edit this video worship service together on Friday. I wondered this week how that would go. Would the message I write still hold up on Sunday? Or would the world change again?
And then I realized that this last thought, which I have shared with you, is a result of the immense privilege that I enjoy as a white male. Because the world hasn’t changed, I have only been made uncomfortable in it. I have been made to feel the great unrest and discomfort which many people of colour have always felt. The social constructs which I enjoy have been disrupted by people who have never enjoyed that same level of comfort, this again demonstrates my privilege.
I am a white male minister. I enjoy privilege, just a surely as I will draw my next breath. I have never lived a moment of my life in fear because of my gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. I believe no one should live in that fear and I acknowledge that the reality is far different from that.
When I read the lectionary passages this morning, I found a great deal of harmony in them. That there was a unifying message which also speaks to our present time. My prayer is that my sermon can be one of the many voices that is echoing right now, allowing us as people of faith, to acknowledge hurt that exists and how we might think about dismantling systems of oppression. I’m guiding in all of this by my love for God and for all people, that together we might create a peaceable kingdom.
Before his death Jack Layton wrote, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” I would agree with this statement, but we must do more than simply be loving, hopeful and optimistic. These outlooks on life must lead us towards action. Love is a verb, an action word and so we must take action. It isn’t enough to say I am not racist. I must support the work that deconstructs the structures of white privilege that exist within society.
In the reading from Genesis this morning we read, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27)
As a denomination the Presbyterian Church in Canada has affirmed that, “… all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating for superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust” (A&P 2019, p. 35).
Yet I have a colleague who is a Presbyterian minister, a woman of colour, who has been discriminated against in the church that I serve. This is not ok, this is not the church at its best.
If we profess to be members of this church, that’s what we believe. That all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating for superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust. But it isn’t enough to believe it. We must systematically dismantle these systems of oppression. We must call them out when we see them. As people of faith we are called to bear witness to the events that we see and a witness reports what they see.
We are created in the image of God, all of us.
It’s no longer enough to be a comfortable Christian. It’s never been ok, but the church itself has enjoyed its privilege. It’s time that as an institution and as people of faith we scrutinize, we question and most importantly that we listen to the voices of those who have been oppressed.
In his parting words to the church in Corinth, a church which was having a bitter dispute, Paul urges them to live in peace.
This past week a man ordered police and soldiers to clear peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets so that he might visit a church. Included in the number of people assaulted by gas and rubber bullets was a priest and a seminarian who work at the church. The Rev. Gini Gerbasi, who was that priest who was cleared says, “They turned holy ground into a battleground.”
Still other Christian leaders say that man ‘wears the armour of God.” (The Guardian)
And I have to ask how can that be? I lament the moral corruption that I see, the abject hatred and violence which is advocated for. And we must not think we are better because we live in Canada. We have our own problems with racism and hatred, much of which has been reported in the news of late. We can’t be complacent, we must ask what do we think the kingdom of God should look like?
Is it a kingdom that weaponizes police forces and the military against its own populace? Is it a kingdom that can’t see the inequality that exists within it? Is it a kingdom built on power structures?
Today I stand behind a table. It’s a communion table and it reminds us of the last meal that Jesus took. A simple meal of bread and wine that he shared with his friends. Called the last supper because the next morning he would be arrested by authorities secular and religious. He would be tried, found guilty, and hung on a cross.
He dared to point out the injustices that exist in the world and how they run contrary to the kingdom of God. He dared to remind people that the socio-economic and military policies that existed then were unjust and I dare say that some 2000 years later we have done no better. Injustices occur daily and many of our laws benefit the wealthiest in society. We strip protections for the poor and vulnerable. Our elderly are neglected and cast aside. We are sold promises which focus only on our own needs, pitted one against the other.
I know we won’t always all agree with one another. That tasks to building an equitable kingdom are large and daunting. We are like the disciples before Jesus commissioned them: Some believed; some doubted. Even still, Jesus asked them in the name of God creator, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and teach the world all that Jesus had taught.
And Jesus taught about love, peace, and mercy. He broke down barriers of race, ethnicity and gender. Go and do likewise. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.