Genesis chapter 1 verses 26 and 27 speak loudly into our world this morning. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our own image, to be like us … Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them.”
Priests for Equality, The Inclusive Bible, pub. Rowan and Littlefield, 2007
Today is Trinity Sunday. Very simply we are encouraged to see three faces of God: God the nurturer and sustainer of everything – our loving parent: God brought into our world - Jesus the Christ – the best example of how to relate to our neighbour; the example brought to life through and within each one of us by the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, this simplicity has become wrapped up into complex terms that are hard to grasp: impossible to understand. John Wesley made this very clear.
Historically, there have been times when expressing the nature of God differently has seen the Christian world violently torn apart by the trial of those labelled ‘heretic’, accompanied by rhetoric of those in power – we will ‘dominate’.
For some days our television and social media have made us all very aware of the reaction to inequalities in our world. This has been very much to the fore in my mind as I’ve prepared for today. The call for social justice, particularly for those who are at the sharp edge of discrimination and prejudice in the world and voiced as being real this week within Aotearoa has been loud. The expression of human-kind being created in the image of God is calling out to be reclaimed.
In my former life as Principal of Wesley College, I regularly witnessed how the Church, my Church, excluded, side-lined and silenced young ones who did not fit the mould determined by their ministers and church leaders. It seemed to me that the gospel message of love and forgiveness had been replaced by one of ‘damnation awaits’ those who do not comply and follow a prescription for life that had been written for a world that had ceased to exist.
There was a time when I read Bishop Jack Spong’s book Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. One of the sentences that I read was: ‘the unique thing about Jesus was that his real humanity came to be viewed as the vehicle through which God entered the life of this world.’ This Bishop, deemed a heretic by some, was instrumental in liberating my thinking: I warmed to the thought that I did not have to leave my brain at the door of the church and then enter into a world that did not resonate as being true. Dogmatic terms could be challenged. It was OK!
This morning, we have the chance to individually come to terms with a personal description of where God is for each of us. That description, and how we apply it, will enable us to discover who we stand alongside when matters of prejudice and discrimination are evaluated. Consider for a moment what we learn from the story of Ruth, the story of Job, the man from Uz; the story of the Samaritan in the gutter; and of the African eunuch in Acts chapter 8. The threads of these Wisdom messages that are woven through our scriptures allow us to evaluate these writings fully: we see that a story may begin with prejudice, discrimination and animosity, but that the Spirit moves God’s people towards openness, welcome, inclusion, acceptance and affirmation.
My prayer today is that this may be so.