Year A, Trinity Sunday
I have preached many sermons in which I have talked about how we are all made in the image of God. Sometimes when speaking to individuals, or blessing someone at the altar rail, I provide the same reminder. I love the idea that we are each made in the image of God. I also believe that if we were able to see one another in that image of God, there would be no violence, no hatred, no racism, no sexism. There would be peace.
This week when I was studying this text and reading various commentaries, I saw something else. First, let me just give you a little information to impress any Bible nerds in your life. There are two creation stories in the Genesis. The one that is usually depicted in art, literature and cartoons is the 2nd creation story, not the one we heard today. That one has God molding man from the earth and then creating woman from the rib of the man. This first creation story has God creating both man and woman at the same time. “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” Then later, “So God created humankind in his image.” I have always liked the 1st story because of its emphasis on humanity being made in the image of God. But here is what I noticed this time around, God doesn’t tell one human he/she is made in the image of God. He tells both. He tells humanity, that we are all created in the image of God.
That is more than just inclusive. It doesn’t just mean each one of us is made in the image of God (which would be radical enough), it means that the together we form the image of God–that we are dependent on one another to reflect that image of God. We cannot fully represent the image of God as individuals….we have to do it together.
You see when I first looked at this text with the news of racial injustice, the killing of people because they are black, the peaceful protests that transformed into riots… Well I knew it was obvious how I would preach this sermon. I would remind us all how important it is to love one another and protect one another as each one of us is made in the image of God. And I am sure that would have been a fine sermon. But the problem with that sermon is that ignores how connected we are, how dependent we are on one another.
We, as the human race, are made in the image of God. But we can only fully and completely reflect that image of God as one, as people working together instead of tearing one another apart. The best analogy is that of a quilt. My brother and sister in law adopted twin girls from China. They asked my mom (who was a novice quilt maker at the time) to make a quilt called the 100 wishes quilt. It is a Chinese tradition that when a baby is born, friends and family send in a piece of material with a wish or prayer for that child. There are 100 patches all sewn together representing the love of family and friends. Because the patches come from so many different people, they don’t match. They are not coordinated. Yet when the quilt was complete, it was beautiful, all of these different pieces coming together to represent our love for these girls we had not yet met.
When God created humans, I believe that was his vision, it was a wild assortment of patterns, all coming together in a creation that would provide protection for not only one another, but the whole earth. Yet this beautiful quilt that God created is being torn apart.
Now I get it, black people are not the only ones suffering right now. I understand that. But I also know that slavery dug its nails deep into the fabric of our nation from its very beginning. White Americans (for a really long time) refused to see God’s image in our African brothers and sisters. The American quilt was torn before it was ever sewn together. So my friends, we have work to do. First let me assure you, this is about more than politics. This is about God’s creation. This is about how we show God’s love for who and what God created. We cannot claim to be the image of God if we are not including others in that image, others who look differently, others whose lives are more vulnerable than ours.
Now I am going to own up to something right now. I am totally biased. My beautiful son is black and I am worried for him. I heard George Floyd call out for his mother and I heard my baby’s voice. But I am not the only one who has a black son. You all do. Joshua was baptized with many of you present. You braved a huge storm to sit outside and support us. You were asked, “Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?” You said, “We will.” I know that the spirit of St. John’s is a strong and indomitable spirit. I know how deeply you each care for the people of this church, and the Hampton community which is marvelously diverse. I believe that with God’s help, we can sew this quilt back together.
I am asking for your help. What does that look like? For us, it starts by taking politics out of this conversation. While our church isn’t very racially diverse, we are politically diverse. There are no sides here. A group of pastors from the downtown churches are in the process of organizing a prayer walk to Emancipation Oak on June 19th, which you may know is an important date.* I would love to see as many of us there as possible. I want us all to walk together because when we do so, we will not only see God’s Image–We will be God’s Image.
* On June 19th of 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to the enslaved Africans Americans in Texas—which was the last confederate state to have the proclamation announced.