Separated, alone, isolated is not how God made us. Created in God’s image, we are made to be with God and others. Being separated, alone, isolated is against our very nature. Being alone takes its toll. Yet, in the COVID 19 pandemic world, we can feel very isolated, separated and alone. We miss the smallest contact, the smile of a stranger, conversation with a clerk, the presence of others in a store or waiting room. A piece of who we are is missing or neglected.
As many of you know, last week, our church had its annual United Mission Week. For those of you reading this that aren’t aware, each year, our Student Ministries team facilitates a week-long local mission experience for our students and their families. It’s usually an incredible time of fellowship, fun, and hard work for our students and volunteers. As is the case with many things right now, we had to modify the experience.
We live and make decisions in view of the glorious appearing of Christ and the reward that is in store for His faithful. God is going to fulfill what he said. Paul lived for the reward and received the tangible benefits of the reward everyday. Our endurance is dependent on living in view of the promises of God. His glorious appearing that will come. The reward in store which isn’t just for later but right now.
Ever so often, I experience a moment of worry and panic. Honestly, that moment is often precipitated by reading or watching the latest news. Feeling that “our world is falling apart” might be something you also experience from time to time. We often worry because we want to fix things that feel out of control. We worry even more when we have lost trust in the one who has power or authority over the things that feel out of control to us.
Thomas was one of the disciples that was not at the tomb after the resurrection. We assume he was hiding. Thomas had a hard time believing. He had been disappointed before. Jesus comes to him personally, offers peace and a closer look, “Put your finger in the holes in my hands, and your hand in the spear print in my side”. Jesus comes not judging, not demanding, not accusing, not rejecting. “Just reach out, Thomas,” Jesus said.
Our streets are filled with protesters seeking justice. Our courts hear the cry for justice daily. Facebook posts, tweets, billboards, and ads are crying out for justice. But as judges and juries know, justice can be elusive. How do we grant justice to all? How do we determine what is just? How do we, “Walk humbly with God and love justice”?
This past week, I've had two friends for whom I care for deeply affected by tremendous loss. These losses came suddenly, and they have been like thieves in the night lurking and pouncing on their joy. It occurs to me that, for many of us in varied ways, this is our present reality. When will we ever return to worship? How will we walk into this new school year?
You were created in the image of God. This is one of my favorite things to remember and proclaim. Because each of us, no matter our beliefs, race, background, gender, abilities, desires, mistakes, successes, or any other distinguishing factors, have been made in the image of God. Even if you don’t believe it, I know it to be true.
We relate to one another as extended family. We are brothers and sisters. As such, there is a closeness and vulnerability that comes. Paul is talking to the church. As family, we often see when one another messes up. If we don’t, then we should. Perhaps we’re not living close enough to each other and sharing our lives if we never notice when a brother or sister stumbles.
After joining the United Methodist Church, I learned about the term Imago Dei, Latin for ”image of God.” Even though I grew up in a very loving church family, I grew up believing that, as human beings, the essence of our being was no good, simply sinful from creation.
But our citizenship is in heaven. In the Roman world to whom these words were originally written, citizenship was a big deal. The designation meant identity, allegiance, and privilege. Not only did being a citizen give someone a higher status, but it gave them many rights others did not have. The estimate was that less than half the Roman empires population were official citizens.
It is clear through all Christian scripture that all of us, all humankind, were chosen by God in creation to be God’s children. We were created in God’s image. So why have we been, why are we such a mess?
There is a lot going on in our country at this moment. Protests surrounding race and equity issues continue, communities are engaged in necessary but difficult conversations, and discussions about going back to school and the office are racing through our communities. We are heading somewhere, but in so many ways, we just don’t know how to get there or what the journey will look like.
Understanding the depths of God’s love for us is hard for our human brains to grasp. It is much deeper and stronger than we can comprehend. We must try to believe it as truth, nonetheless. If we desire to experience the full life, we need to settle this issue in our soul. It’s true. God loves you. Everything God does is an expression of that love.
Our God who has chosen you and me in his love before all creation. He has done more for us than we could ever do for our kids. He loves us more than we could ever love our kids. He calls us each by name. He is the good shepherd and he is the gate. The life we are chosen for is only through Jesus. Anything else isn’t truly life. The good good life, the full full life isn’t in thinking more of ourselves or less of ourselves, it’s in thinking of ourselves less and fixing our eyes on Jesus and attending our ears to his voice. Going through the gate is the life we are chosen for. Go through the gate.