Transformative Christianity (Pt 1): God's Self-Portrait
Not too long ago, Corey and I were discussing his childhood. He mentioned something fascinating to me. He said he remembers the moment he became self-aware. He talked about how when he was 3 years old he woke up from a nap while we were driving in our 1998 Subaru Forester and sort of woke up to the realization that he was who he was, an individual with a mind, with thoughts, and feelings. This blew me away. Still does. I don’t have this kind of memory.
In some ways, the story of humanity’s creation in Genesis 1, that poetic narrative amounts to a discovering and a revealing of the truth about who we human beings are. The writer, inspired by God, wakes up to the realization that God created us in a special way, unique to the rest of creation, God created human beings in his divine image.
Have you ever looked at a famous painter’s self-portrait. Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait comes to mind. Now, we have all of Van Gogh’s other beautiful paintings. You see something of Van Gogh in those paintings – Starry Night, Sunflowers, Irises, Café Terrace at Night. But you see Van Gogh himself in renowned Self-Portrait.
That is how Creation is. We see God in the beautiful landscapes, in the deep blue ocean, in the majestic lion and humble sheep. But we see that of God most clearly when we look at one another and ourselves.
We, each of us, in some sense, are God’s self-portrait in and to the world.
This creation, this painting of us, it was a very intimate act like any self-portrait is. God looked deeply into himself, perceived the truth of himself, and then painted himself, herself, whatever personal pronoun we night use. And that self looks like us!
Isn’t that something?
This truth from Genesis 1:26-27, that we as human beings are created in the image of God, imago dei, is foundational to everything that comes afterward in this book we call the Bible.
And let me say, as I begin this sermon series on Transformative Christianity, let me be clear. This truth, in Latin imago dei, in God’s image, is foundational to the series of sermons I’m beginning today. So, we begin with who we are and who we were created to be.
Who are we?
First of all, we are earthlings. In Genesis 1, we have to wait to day 6. Even on day 6, humans have to wait till the other land creatures are created. all the way to verse 26.
As I mentioned last week, we are part of the whole of creation. As for the non-human parts of creation, what does God affirm about creation? This affirmation about creation, we see it repeated in Genesis 1. And God saw that it was good.
Our Good God, the who is Good itself, creates the universe, and of course, it is good! Creation shares in God’s goodness, folks! Indeed, this is good news.
As for humans in particular, we are created on day 6 after the other land-based creatures. Yes, after the creation work on day six, we see that refrain but put in a slightly different way. Verse 31 - “And God saw everything he made, and, indeed, it was very good.”
But humans are more than created as good. We are created with a touch of divinity.
David says in Psalm 139, “I am fearfully, awesomely, or better translated, reverently made.” “I am wondrously made.” How could this not be if I am created in God’s divine image.
David in Psalm 8 wrote these lyrics –
“what are humans that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
you have made them a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.”
Then, in Psalm 82, we find this incredible line spoken by God. Verse 6 –
“You are gods,
offspring of the Most High, all of you.”
Wondrously made. A little lower than God. Gods with a small g, children of God all. How can this be? What’s happened? Why, as the psalmist states right after Psalm 82:6, in verse, why then do “we die like mortals and fall like any prince”?
Will discuss that week more in depth. But regardless of the answer, we were created to be more than we are in actuality.
Just because we are not living up to God’s billing, doesn’t mean God made a mistake. It also doesn’t mean the billing no longer applies. The idea is we must start living up to God’s high billing! We must begin transforming into who we were created to be. We must begin being who we truly are underneath all the muck and mire.
Christianity – the whole shebang of the Christian faith described in the Bible – begins in the Garden of Eden high in the mountains, with humanity as God’s self-portrait walking around in the world. In the Garden of Eden, humanity lived the way God created us to live. Connected to the Creator, living in accordance with our divinelike, offspring of God status, fully content with the world.
Yes, humanity falls from this high status.
But the full story of the faith, the full story of humanity too, is the story of a big, roundabout return to the Garden of Eden. That is humanity’s destiny – a return to Eden! Returning to connection with the Creator. Returning to a life in accordance with our divine, offspring of God status. Returning to full contentment with the world.
Reconciliation. Restoration. Return… That is the destined finale God has for us.
Of course, we’re not there yet. The story is not done. But we know that a return to the Garden and divinity will be the end of the story.
What enables that return – well, that is where the transformation lives. And what enables that return is literally a crossroad. But that’s getting way ahead of the game in the first of this sermon series titled Transformative Christianity.
So I hope you come back next week when we will discuss what Western Christianity eventually deemed and still deems the Fall. You know the story – Adam and Eve, the serpent and the apple… Well, we’ll discuss the Eastern Christian take which I think makes a whole lot more sense.
Until then, here’s your takeaway
You – yes, you – are God’s own divine self-portrait. So be that picture of God to the world around you. Live into your goodness. Live in accordance with who you were created to be, the divine, offspring of God.