Saturday, July 11, 2009

Genesis 1:26-31 - Sermon - Was God Lonely When He Made People?

Genesis 1:26-31
Was God Lonely When He Made People?

My sister and her husband are expecting their first baby any day now. Their due date was Friday. All my friends from high school, college, and seminary are all diving into the adventure that is known as parenthood. Many of them have asked Alycia and I to describe what it was like when we first had Dean. I tell them, “If you want to know what having children is like do this. Write down everything you do in life, every minute little thing on a piece of paper. Then get in your car and drive down the highway. When you hit the speed limit, roll down your window. Then take that piece of paper with your life on it, ball it up and chuck it out the window. That is what becoming a parent is like. The wonderful part is that you will never want that piece of paper back.”

There is a common story that when you have a child, when you come face to face with your replicated DNA for the first time it is love at first sight. You instantly fall in love with this other human being. I have heard this is true, but it wasn’t my case. It was a couple of months after Dean’s birth that I realized how much I love him. When Campbell was born it came a little quicker but for both cases it never happened right after they popped out. It came while I was holding them later on and they looked up into my eyes and I realized that they were looking past my eyes and into my soul. I found myself being attached so hard to these wiggly, messy, stinky, soft, cooing creatures and that I would never be the same because of it.

When you fall in love you think that you are oozing joy and happiness. When you get married it feels like you cannot love your spouse any more than on your wedding day. But then you find out that living life together creates even more opportunities to love one another and your life is filled with a deeper type of love. Once you think you are full and can’t take it anymore you have children and you realize that your soul can take a whole lot more love. Then your second, third, or even fourth child comes and once again your soul opens up and more love is poured in. Opening yourself to love another human being demonstrates the capacity to which we can love and how endless it truly is. Our love doesn’t have a limit and when done right can be boundless. But where does this ability come from? This boundless love is found best in the one who created us, who has opened his heart for trillions upon trillions of children.

After creating the whole world in five days, the Triune God states, we need to create something in our image, in our likeness. The Message translation says, “make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature.” Why though, why did God make us? When he finally finished the duckbilled platypus was he bored and wanted to try something new? Did God merely want to create something, set it down and see what happens? In the book The Shack, the one we are reading in our Summer Online Study, a man has a weekend with the Trinity. During one of their conversations Jesus looks at him and says, “As the crowing glory of creation, you were made in our image, unencumbered by structure and free to simply ‘be’ in relationship with me and one another.” God didn’t make us because he was lonely, but because he wanted to be in relationship with us.

This leads down another set of questions, which is a natural direction to go. What is the purpose of life then? Why are we here? What is it about humanity that makes us so important to God? I Googled the question, what is the purpose of life? In a Yahoo Answer it stated this, “Unless you believe in God, you will agree that there is nothing out there in the universe that can impress meaning in our lives. Yup, life is meaningless.” I kept digging. Hindus believe that the purpose of our life is to escape the cycle of misery. Buddhists believe that life means suffering and that suffering comes from attachments. The purpose of life is to detach yourself from these things in order to be free from suffering. Any Presbyterians in the house today? What does the Westminster Shorter Catechism say is the purpose of life? [To glorify God and enjoy him forever.]

Life was given to us by our God and we were created in God’s image and likeness. Within that statement holds the keys to our purpose here on earth and how we can live into that relationship with God. Geoffrey Wainwright, a professor at Duke Divinity School, writes in his book Doxology, the fact that we are created in God’s image describes the ontological or structural possibility of humans communing with God. The fact that we are created in God’s likeness describes the moral similarity with God and shows us the way to grow as we live in communion with God. To put it another way, the fact that we are made in God’s image tells us why God created us. The fact that we are made in God’s likeness gives us purpose as God’s children.

One summer while in seminary I did a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) course. This is basically group therapy that uses ministerial experiences to gain wisdom and understanding about who you are and why you do things the way you do them. My group all were involved in work in an urban setting. Some worked a homeless shelter all summer, but I got to play with kids. I was assigned to work with the Recreation Center at a low income housing development in Durham called Oxford Manor. Kids were there from about 7:00 am to about 5:00 and while there I helped them out with projects and played. It was fun and I learned a lot.

One day I decided to have them draw pictures of God. Now I thought this would be a good way to engage their creativity but to also have an opportunity to talk about God with them. I’ll show you some of those images...[talk about them until the heart picture]. This one is one that shocked me. After I had finished I asked them to come up and present their picture to the group and explain why they drew what they drew. This small Hispanic child, probably about 6 years old drew this picture and this is his explanation. “I drew two hearts that are the colors of the rainbows. They are the same. The large heart is God’s heart and the smaller one is us. Our hearts are the same and we are always in God’s heart.”

After earning a Bachelors degree in the Bible and Religion and then a Masters of Divinity, I learned the most from a 6 year old Hispanic boy in a low income housing development in Durham. I have yet to find a better way of explaining how we are made in the image of God. Our hearts are the same. Our hearts are the same. This tells us why we are created by God. God created us to have the same heart as his because he wants us to remember that we are always in God’s heart. The linking of God and our heart means that we are in relationship with God. We were created in order to be in relationship with God. We have children because we want to love someone else by being in relationship with them since they were created. That is how God looks at us.

That explains why were created but what does it tell us about our purpose here on earth? Is life meaningless? Is it only the process of escaping misery or suffering? Remember, the Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the purpose of life is to “glorify God and enjoy him always.” The relationship we can have with God because we were made in his image is the “enjoy God always” part. The “glorify God” part has to do with being made in God’s likeness. Remember being made in God’s likeness allows us to grow from being in relationship or communion with God.

There is the old saying, “You are what you eat.” If that is the case, I’m fast, cheap and easy. After being in the wilderness for forty days Jesus is tempted by Satan. Do you remember his first temptation? After not eating for forty days, Satan tells Jesus to turn stones into bread. What was Jesus’ response? He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. In John 4:34 Jesus says, My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. If we are going to be what we eat, Jesus says we need to be feasting on the Word of God. If we are going to grow into the likeness by which we were created, then we need to understand that likeness. To grow, understand, and learn about this likeness means we have to dive into the Word of our God.

When we dive into the Word of God we learn about who God is. We learn about the nature of God and the essence of his heart. We learn to look at all the different colors of his heart and how they can be found in our own. We are what we eat. If we are feasting on the things of this world, that is what we will become. The world tells us to only concentrate on getting what we want. It doesn’t matter who you step on to get it, just get what you want. The world tells us it is the survival of the fittest and that the more things you have the happier you will be. Yet do those things look like God’s heart?

By feasting on the Word of God we understand that God tells us that the “meek shall inherit the earth.” “To love your neighbor as yourself.” “To be still and know that I am God.” It runs counter to what the world teaches and the only way we will learn that is to dive in and digest it all. As we do we will transformed into the likeness of God.

"At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.’ Hungry not only for bread-but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing-but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks-but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise." These are the words of Mother Teresa, a woman who lived out God’s likeness in her life and one that radiated the image of God.

Was God lonely when he created us? No. But God desired something special. God wanted to create something that would have some of his nature. God wanted something to be in this world that could radiate and live out his likeness. God knew the wonderful things that could come out of a relationship with these creatures and the astonishing things these creatures are capable of. As you were being knitted together in your mother’s womb, God was proud of the life he was creating. God looked upon you and gave you his image and desires you to live into God’s likeness. God was there when we were born. When you took your first breath you were already loved more deeply than you could ever know. You are special because God made you, because God loves you, because God says the same thing at every birth as he did when he first created humans, he looked at you, YOU, and said, “This is good.”

And all God’s people said, AMEN.


DMH said...

Genesis 1:26 is often used to prove the trinity. However, it cannot be used to prove trinitarianism since the writer of Genesis (an early Israelite Jew) wasn't a trinitarian and had no concept of a three-in-one God. So then, who is the Elohim (plural for god) referring to when he says "we" and "our" in Genesis 1:26?

Unknown said...

Is what you are saying, one has to believe in what one is writing to be considered a source?

Whether the writer of Genesis knew it or not he was providing proof the the Trinity. For those who believe in the Trinity, God has always been the 3 in 1 God, even in the beginning of time. Believe in this Triune God provides a way to look at the world and ancient Biblical texts.

If it doesn't point to the Trinity I don't know what it points too. I guess you would have to ask one who doesn't believe in that?

DMH said...

You wrote: "Whether the writer of Genesis knew it or not he was providing proof the the Trinity. For those who believe in the Trinity, God has always been the 3 in 1 God, even in the beginning of time"

But a Jew, reading Genesis in pre-Jesus times, wouldn't see the "us" or "we" as referring to a trinitarian god. The author was a Jew, so Genesis 1:26 had to make sense to the Jewish people first and foremost(not christians who came along thousands of years later). In its most straightforward form, Gen 1:26 reads: Then the gods (elohim) said "Let us make man in our image..." This makes complete sense if you realize that the ancient Israelites were polytheistic, which, of course, they were.

Unknown said...

The Jewish people have always been monotheistic. Which is what separated them from many of the other religions of their day. Besides this text where else do you see them as polytheistic?

DMH said...

Well, Elohim (gods) is used over 2300 times in the hebrew bible. However, if you want specific examples, take a look at these examples. Is the God of the Hebrew bible Elohim or El or Elyon or Yahweh? There are examples all throughout the OT that mention all of these gods. The way in which they are used in scripture makes it impossible to believe they are referring to the same God. Baal is mentioned several times in the OT. Baal was worshipped at various times by the Israelites. Asherah was a goddess, who was the consort of El. Chemosh, Dagon, Molech and dozens of others.