Sunday, June 19, 2016

"All people are created in God's image" a sermon in response to the shootings in Orlando and Charleston

(again, I preached without notes, so I said something like the following)

I began by reading Bishop Eaton's letter:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them." Genesis 1:27
We are killing ourselves. We believe that all people are created in God's image. All of humanity bears a family resemblance. Those murdered in Orlando were not abstract "others," they are us. But somehow, in the mind of a deeply disturbed gunman, the LGBTQ community was severed from our common humanity. This separation led to the death of 49 and the wounding of 54 of us.
We live in an increasingly divided and polarized society. Too often we sort ourselves into like-minded groups and sort others out. It is a short distance from division to demonization. Yesterday, we witnessed the tragic consequences of this.
There is another way. In Christ God has reconciled the world to God's self. Jesus lived among us sharing our humanity. Jesus died for us to restore our humanity. God invites us into this reconciling work. This must be our witness as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The perpetrator of this hate crime did not come out of nowhere. He was shaped by our culture of division, which itself has been misshapen by the manipulation of our fears. That is not who we are. St. Paul wrote, "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ" (II Corinthians 5:17-20).
Our work begins now. We need to examine ourselves, individually and as a church, to acknowledge the ways we have divided and have been divided. We must stand with people who have been "othered". We must speak peace and reconciliation into the cacophony of hatred and division. We must live the truth that all people are created in God's image.
 This morning your churchwide staff came together to mourn and to pray. We prayed for those killed in Orlando and remembered the Charleston Nine killed only a year ago. We prayed for the family of the shooter, for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and for our Muslim brothers and sisters who now face the threat of retaliation. And we prayed that the Prince of Peace will bring us to the day when we stop killing ourselves.
Your sister in Christ,
Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America”

“All people are created in God’s image”
Because all people are created in God’s image, Luke writes about Christ crossing over to the other side, to be with the Gerasenes—crossing over to a people different than his people in Galilee, crossing over to them, they who too are created in the image of God… Yes, the earliest followers of Jesus, spent a lot of time crossing over to the other side—finding people created in the image of God where they would not expect it!
Heck, look at the Acts of the Apostles, the whole thing is one big catch-up game, the Disciples, the Apostles, catching up to the Holy Spirit, who continually goes and reaches the other side and dwells with people the Apostles didn’t realize were made in the image of God!

“All people are created in God’s image”
This is echoed in Paul’s words written to the Galatians.
Some scholars call this section the earthquake of the antimonies—what does that mean right? It’s two apposite categories which together make a whole… for example Jews and Gentiles—in Paul’s time those two categories would encompass the whole of humanity—you were one or the other…
Until, until Paul recognizes Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as shaking the very foundation of these antimonies… in Christ there are no longer Jews, nor Gentiles. In Christ we are no longer Slave, or Free. In Christ we are no longer male and female. And this list can grow—we can affirm In Christ we are neither black, nor white. In Christ, we can affirm we are neither gay nor straight… yes, in all people, ALL people, resides the image of God!

As I intoned this morning to start the service all of Psalm 22, God explicitly enters into the image of humanity in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, who cried the cry of dereliction from the cross—My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?
            Yes “All people are created in God’s image” so fully, that God joins in our cries, joins the cries of those caught in the horrific and the tragic…
Christ’s cries joined our own in Orlando at The Pulse one week ago.
Christ’s cries joined our own in Charleston at Emanuel AME one year ago.

“All people are created in God’s image”
--Let us honor the image of God found in The Pulse and in Emanuel AME by lighting a candle for each one of those who died in Orlando and Charleston.

(As we lit the candles Tom played “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know”)