The text for this sermon is Genesis 1:1-2:4. Generally, I strive to use inclusive language, that is not use male or female pronouns to describe God. It was just too awkward linguistically to do this for this sermon. I apologize. As the sermon makes clear, male and female are made in God’s image. God has no gender.
I don’t know about you, but when I read the creation story, it is all about me. I guess I am like that in everything, really. When I look at a group picture, I scan it to find myself, only to make a judgment of how fat I look or especially bald. My mother’s most memorable and best stories are always those that involve me. Even your comments after worship are filtered by my mind into two baskets, those things in worship that I was responsible for and those that someone else was responsible for.
In a life lived where everything is about me, it should come as no surprise that I am most interested in what this first chapter of Genesis has to say about…Karl. I have to admit, at first I was disappointed that we were the last thing to be created. We don’t even get an entire day of creation to ourselves. We are the last few hours of the sixth day right before God takes a nap on the Sabbath. I do my best work early in the day and early in the week. God’s got the weekend on his mind by the time he gets around to us.
Bible scholars smarter than me tell me that I am missing the point. In this creation poem God’s work builds and culminates to these last few hours of the sixth day. God has spent the entire week preparing for us, like a lifelong bachelor fixing up his apartment for the mail order bride arriving on the next train. God’s greatest work of creation is his last work of creation, me. After making us, God just doesn’t say it is good, he says it is very good. When you people tell me you like my sermon, I notice how you say it. It was…good, pastor, you say with a big yawn. Or, pastor, that sermon changed my life. It was very good. You see the difference. Humanity gets a very good.
Of course, you don’t have to be a smart bible guy to notice there is something different about humanity’s role in this creation story. We get the most words devoted to us. Starting in verse 26, when God is done creating everything including much to my wife’s dislike, creepy, crawly things, God turns his creative eye to us. We are the only part of creation that God runs by what he is going to do before doing it. Something as important as sky, he throws up without talking to anyone. If only he had said something to someone before he threw sea monsters into the oceans. Why did he think that was a good idea? For us, he turns to whoever hangs out in heaven with him and says here is what I am thinking.
God’s plan is to make something in his image and to have this last creation have dominion over everything else. Both proposals are interesting. The image thing has been debated about for years. It likely doesn’t exactly mean physical image because men and women are both made in God’s image. As any twelve year old boy can tell you, there are some major parts differences between men and women.
Being made in God’s image seems squishier than physical resemblances. Since we are the only creature on earth that asks questions about our existence, searches for meaning in our lives, or wonders about God, even pursuing a relationship with God, logic tells me being made in the image of God has to do with this. These differences are what separate us from cattails, cows or crows. God does not speak to anything he created like he does us. God does not give any other created being responsibilities either.
I have got to remember, too, that being made in God’s image does not mean I am God, but a reflection of God. As I see my children mature and enter adulthood, I see my image in them, not just Nathan losing his hair, but his love of people, conversation and being the center of attention reminds me of myself. Nathan is not me, yet he will always be a reflection of me. We are not God, but a reflection of God. When we trust those parts of ourselves that are Godly-love, hope, faith, empathy, forgiveness, patience, etc…-our reflection of God is seen clearly by others.
It is the responsibilities he gives us that are the most unique part of being in God’s image. He gives us dominion over creation and later tells us to subdue it. Most of us have a negative reaction to these words. A call for humanity to dominate and subdue creation is cringe worthy in light of the damage we have done to our environment justified by these verses.
God’s intention seems to be that since we are made in his image, how we live out our dominion over creation would reflect his image, too. We are not to treat the world like a brand new corvette given to a 16 year old, ours to abuse or misuse at our pleasure. Nor, does it seem the intention of God is just about managing creation like a supervisor while the boss is busy doing paperwork in the office. Made in God’s image, we have more ownership than that.
Dominion and subduing has to do with nurturing, loving, pulling out of creation the fullest intentions that God had in these first days. It is sort of like parenting. Few parents feel like they have dominion over their kids, especially when it is Friday after midnight and you still have not heard from your 16 year old daughter. Yet, the best parents take seriously their responsibility to lead their children, keeping them safe as they grow and mature to become individuals reflective of the unique gifts within them. The worst parents abuse this privilege, seeing their dominion as a ticket to break child labor laws or even a punching bag for their own mental health issues.
If you are ego centric like me, you appreciate this creation story. We are the stars, the crowning achievement of God’s handiwork, a little less than God ourselves as Psalm 8 sings. We are not an afterthought in the last hours of creation. The creative God has made all of this for our benefit. We are the part of creation he loves the most, and he is hoping that since we are made in his image we will love his creation with the same passion he has. God has great hope for us, because God knows his greatest work of creation is you, me, your neighbor, even your crazy aunt, all of humanity, really. Amen