Soul Food – The Image of God

God is coming! God is coming! All the element we swim in, this existence, echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can’t you feel it? ~ Walter Wangerin, Jr.

As I entered the date on the draft of this meditation, I realized that I had just entered December 2017. WHAT!!! How can this be? As I glanced through a year’s worth of some of the weekly meditations that I write, I realized how much has happened in all our lives, our country and our world this year and it has flown by somewhere close to the speed of light. Or maybe it just seems that way to me since I’ve been sick almost half of this year. But here we are at the beginning of the Church year which begins December 3, with the first Sunday of Advent. Wow!

In Advent, we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is the most amazing, unique event that has ever taken place on this earth. God came to us as an infant human being. God wanted to dwell with us since before creation, and Chris Webb tells us in his book, FIRE OF THE WORD, He first had to create a space for us to live together and then He had to create us. Although, shortly after creation, humans rearranged God’s plan, Chris and some other theologians believe that Jesus’ coming in this way was not Plan B. I am convinced that God knew that the rearrangement of his plan would happen before he created anything, but He did it anyway because, as at the beginning, with the creation of the first human beings, God yearned to live with us. And in the fullness of time, it came to be with the birth of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Who is this God—Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who chose to come to dwell with us as a human being? Why would God choose such a thing, knowing how we are? Who is this God, who then chose to die for us and send his Spirit to remain with us so that we might know how to live with Him? Who is this God, fully human, fully God, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate?

Years ago, when I was studying at seminary, my advisor assigned a paper for me on the Image of God. She said that she could tell that the image I had was changing and knew that this assignment could help solidify where I was. I pulled the paper out of storage to read what I thought 30 years ago. There was some research from various sources in which theologians were trying to describe what this Imago Dei (Image of God) is and looks like. Their debates were interesting but very complex, and I finished the paper by saying that my Image of God looks like Jesus as revealed through scripture, personal experience, and in the church—His body.

When I was a child, I thought that God was the great vengeful judge in the sky making tic marks in his black book when I did something bad. He would hold the book over my head to keep me in line. Jesus was a friend who loved me and would come to live in my heart if I asked him—whatever that meant. Jesus would talk to God about what was in the little black book if I told Him I was sorry for what I had done wrong. I knew that God created the world and all that was in it, but I was not aware that He was in any way involved in it. Although, sometimes, when I was outside lying in the grass, a great peace would fill me. Overall, my Image of God was negative.

When I was in my 20s, I had an experience of God that caused me to reevaluate my belief. Our infant daughter, who was dying, was instantly healed through prayer. I came to believe that there was a God who cared for me, personally. Shortly after this, we left the Holiness tradition where we had grown up and became Episcopalians. In THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (no black book with tic marks), we found that God wasn’t holding Sin over our head, nor did we always have to start over. Through the Confession of Sin, we were able to stay in a relationship with Him—loved and forgiven.

The next change in my Image was when I became involved in what was called the Charismatic Renewal. Suddenly, I knew that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus. I could talk to him; he would talk to me, guide me, comfort me, heal me and use me. And, I found that He was present in the church community of which we were a part. My Image was still rather of a Santa Claus sort—I would present my requests and God would, sometimes, give me what I wanted. I knew that there had to be more to all this, but it was very exciting to observe and be a part of what Jesus was doing in all our lives.

Over the next several years, my Image of God continued to grow and change, but it is still Jesus who is the Image of God for me. Jesus, when asked by the disciples to show them the Father, says in John 14:9, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” I have found that having a personal relationship with Jesus and with His Body, the Church, still is where I see who God is most clearly as we relate with Him, with each other and with the world.

It would be a good spiritual exercise this Advent, as we go about preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, to think about our Image of God. What is that image? How do we see God? What do we want Him to be? What do we yearn for God to be for us? What will we let him be for us? Do we really know that Jesus really loves us and there is nothing at all we can do that will change that?

Have a Blessed Advent and a Joyful Christmas Season,
Donna

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