Of all the topics in our recent series on Celtic Christianity, I really looked forward to Pastor Laura’s message on “The Image of God.” My own understanding of who I am, who others are in relation to me, and how I wish the church could be are all tied to this idea of how I image and understand God to be.
You and I could sit and chat over coffee for days on this topic, easy – so I won’t get it done in one blog post. It’s enough to say that over the years, I have seen how many different communities’ images and understandings of God can color and flavor how they believe – and how they behave.
A friend told me that in the Bible , humankind was made in God’s image – which meant that you, me, and Aretha Franklin and Richard Nixon and Richard Simmons were all “created in God’s image.” So I am pretty much past the whole idea of the phrase “in God’s image” meaning just “God must look just like us.”
I see God as Spirit….and I see God as Love. So if we are “created in God’s image,” I believe we are created as spirits who love.
When we do that–when we live and act as loving, caring, committed people–my experience is that others can see the resemblance to the One in whose image we were created. I believe it’s what our community at National Avenue does best.
Chris and I saw this in action the first Sunday we walked through the door at National Avenue. Louise Jackson saw us come in, hand-in-hand and before we could slip quietly by the greeter-lady, she just reached right out to us. (Anyone who knows Louise can picture the scene…) In her typically-subtle way, Louise roped us both in, smiled and said, “Hi fellas! We’re just SO glad to have you here!”
And we saw that resemblance–the resemblance to a loving and welcoming God. We both knew God’s love had spoken through Louise. We were “home” in that instant. (We never visited another church.)
Maybe a week later, we heard Pastor Laura telling how different churches have tried to limit and control access to Communion over the years–and we also heard how it grieved her. (Chris and I both have had experience with folks trying to keep us from sharing Communion–and it was not pleasant for either of us.)
As Laura walked down the center aisle in the sanctuary, and talked about how this was God’s table and how this table was open to all (especially to anyone who had been told it was only open to some)… we saw the resemblance. We saw and heard the spirit of a loving God in this tiny dynamo of a lady.
When I’ve seen Susan Wheeler and others preparing to serve food with loving care for people who have no home and no food, it’s not hard to see the resemblance to the God she serves. When I read Terry Heitman’s Facebook comments about how serving meals at Bill’s Place has touched him each time he’s been there, I see the resemblance, too. When I see the service results of National Avenue’s youth, selling blankets or washing cars or sleeping in a makeshift shack to raise funds and awareness for Nicaragua, I see that resemblance … and I weep with joy.
When the choir, or the bell choir, or the talented soloists and musicians of our church begin to sing or play, I am again moved to tears of joy (and a wee bit of envy)–and I hear the message of a loving God within me. When people go out of their way to reach out to Chris and me … to include us, to welcome or encourage us… once again, we feel the arms of a loving God surrounding us.
It’s not hard to see God’s hands and feet–at the end of the arms and legs of so many members of National Avenue Christian Church. We are not without flaws (no church is)–but this church works real hard to be a community that points-with-its-actions to a loving, caring, welcoming and accepting God.
My prayer is that others who come will see that resemblance –as we have.