St. Matthew’s Sermon 10-20-2019


St. Matthew’s Sermon 10-20-2019

Creating God in Our Image

Jeremiah 31:27-34, Psalm 119:97-104, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. (Gen.1:27)

Deep and contentious are the arguments rising from that, the 27th verse of the entire Bible. To some it tells us emphatically that we look like God and God looks like us. Personally, I don’t know what God looks like, I won’t even declare that God is male; as it reads “…in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Even if you challenge the New Revised Standard Version that I used and translates “man” as “humankind” every other version raises the same challenge. Even the King James Version, the standard of most fundamentalists and evangelicals reads “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”.

So, is God male? Female? Both? Neither?

For me, the gender of God isn’t the important issue, but the realization that God, in all ways, is far beyond our human comprehension is the important part of the message. Recognizing God as the one who can create, nurture, and inspire, that is worthy of awe and praise.

What I’ve found while engaging in such conversations (and sometimes arguments) is that those arguing against me so often have a deep-rooted agenda based not so much in truth as in patriarchy, even male chauvinism.

Sadder still, these same contenders, when drawn further into discussing the physical attributes of God will also show their racism by declaring that God is not only a man, but a white man. In fact, there was quite an uproar in recent years when the movie “The Shack” cast Octavia Spencer, a black actress, as God, affectionately called “Papa”.

To that, one self-proclaimed leader of the Church responded…

“Young’s pretentious caricature of God as a heavy set, cushy, non-judgmental, African American woman called ‘Papa’ (who resembles the New Agey Oprah Winfrey far more than the one true God revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ—Hebrews 1:1-3), and his depiction of the Holy Spirit as a frail Asian woman with the Hindu name, Sarayu, lends itself to a dangerous and false image of God and idolatry.” (Joe Schimmel, emphasis mine)[i]

That citation he uses to bolster his claim to know what God does (or does not look like) reads in part… “[Jesus] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being…” Okay, that settles the male or female question, if you take the verse as describing physical attributes, but is the commentator assuming that Jesus was not “…heavy set, cushy, non-judgmental, or dark skinned? Do we really know what Jesus looked like?

Of course, we’re just scratching the surface of the many contentious issues arising in regards to interpreting Scripture. Many literalists, to justify their stance, will cite from today’s Epistle reading the words of verses 16 and 17… where the author writes…

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work”.

Yet these same people will fail to read and to wrestle with the warning that is written just 3 verses further where we find the words…

“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths”. (4:3-4)

…they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires… Now there’s something demanding our attention; far more important than arguing the physical appearance of God or Christ. It’s an emphatic statement of warning for when we are reading the inspired word of God.

Every one of us is susceptible to reading what we want to read and ignoring what we don’t want to wrestle with. We all have a tendency to hear the Word in tones that emphasize what we already believe and to overlook whatever would challenge those long held beliefs. We are all too often able to read God’s Word through the lens of what we know and experience in our own current situation of life without being able to recognize the alternate reality of other times and places. (And I don’t exclude myself in these statements).

It’s a wonderfully comfortable place to be when we do this; we find ourselves completely and unquestionably aligned with God! God loves the same people we love and hates the same people we hate! God’s will is our will! God looks, acts, and reacts just like us! God suits our own desires! …and we have committed the greatest sin; we have created God in our image.

If we recognize our propensity to limit our understanding with our personal biases and the biases of those who taught us; and if we are willing to get out of our comfort zone and wrestle with our own biases, we can begin to clear the way to better understanding; we can pull away the screen that inhibits us from seeing the difference between truth and myth, and we can get back to more important things like expressing awe and praise worthy of the love, wisdom, and glory of the true God who far surpasses human understanding!

Amen.

 

Jeremiah 31:27-34
31:27 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals.
31:28 And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD.
31:29 In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
31:30 But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.
31:31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
31:32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Psalm 119:97-104
119:97 Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long.
119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me.
119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your decrees are my meditation.
119:100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
119:101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
119:102 I do not turn away from your ordinances, for you have taught me.
119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
119:104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

 

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,
3:15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
3:17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:
4:2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
4:3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires,
4:4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.
4:5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

Luke 18:1-8
18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
18:2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.
18:3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’
18:4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,
18:5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'”
18:6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.
18:7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?
18:8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

 



[i] https://shadowandact.com/christian-leaders-up-in-arms-over-casting-of-black-woman-as-god-in-upcoming-film-the-shack/