Blogging Towards Sunday, July 21, 2013
Genesis 1:26-31 & Matthew 15:21-28
This week we continue our series based upon your questions and suggestions.
We’re wrestling with a question, asked by Louise Hirschman in response to the sermon last week on creation, modern scientific determinism and the probability of quantum physics –the larger question of the relationship between faith and science and how we practice both in the 21st century scientific worldview that dominates our culture. Louise asked what does it mean “created in the image of God”? In light of the Trayvon Martin trial and response to the legal declaration of George Zimmerman as innocent, it seems appropriate to address a small aspect of the complex issue of race relations and inequality in our country through the lens of Christian faith, in particular the focus that we all are created in the image of God. LOOKING AT GENESIS 1: in whose image? I like the wording of the Message translation by Rev. Eugene Peterson of Genesis 1:26-28 as it’s both familiar and provocative in word choice: God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature,
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female. God blessed them:…” Curious things to notice about the text:
- Verse 26 has God speaking to himself as a plural – “us” – “our”. Jewish scholars would say that this is a linguistic consequence of the use of the title “Elohim” for God in the text: a title which is plural. Christian theologians most often see this as a potential reference to the trinity, to the notion that God in himself is community.
- Who exactly is created in the image of God? The man? The woman? Or is it both of them together that are the image of God? Or are they only the image of God when they’re with God?
- Peterson translates “in the image of God” as “he created them godlike.” What does that mean?
- Are we just like God?
- Are we made of the same material, or matter as God?
- Are we a reflection of the divine will, or nature?
- Are our actions equal to those of God?
- In Genesis God is the creator, maker of the universe. Does that mean that we are to be creators, makers?
- God assumes responsibility for what he creates. What does that mean for us if we together live in the image of God? How are we responsible to God; to and for each other?; for all of the gifts of creation?
LOOKING AT Matthew 15: what is Jesus saying about race?
- This is a very curious story of an encounter with Jesus. The woman is was Greek, Syro-Phoenician, so she’s a goyim, or a non-Jew, or a Gentile. She is not among the chosen people, for whom Jesus came, and whom God according to the Torah, had chosen as the children of his covenant. Or was she? For what is she asking?
- Dogs were not well loved or respected by the Jews. They were foreign creatures. So if we read the encounter thinking of how we leave scraps happily for a dog, we’re misreading.
- How does Jesus respond to this woman? What does the woman seem to talk him into believing or accepting?
- How does Jesus respond differently than the disciples do to this woman?
LOOKING AT RACE AND FAITH IN AMERICA: how do you react to these quotes?
- “To engage in a serious discussion of race in America, we must begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American society – flaws rooted in historic inequalities and longstanding cultural stereotypes. How we set up the terms for discussing racial issues shapes our perception and response to these issue. As long as black people are viewed as a ‘them’ the burden falls on blacks to do all the ‘cultural’ and ‘moral’ work necessary for healthy race relations. The implication is that only certain Americans can define what it means to be American – and the rest must simply ‘fit in.’ – Cornel West. Race Matters
- “Jesus reveals a wholly new determination for the life of a child of the covenant. He is defined by his people, yet determined by his God. He is one with their story. But he has become the new storyteller…The world of his people will be turned upside down if they enter into his words. This will be the new inside Israel that cannot be placed inside old interpretation – new wineskins are demanded for new wine. The more specific implication of the new is the reconfiguration of patterns of belonging around Jesus himself. He presents a new intensity of covenant love greater than the power of death, love that leads to new life. This new must be chosen. It requires social death for the sake of new life.” Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination. Theology and the Origins of Race. p. 263
Questions for wondering and exploring:
- How do you struggle to live as godlike, or created in God’s image?
- How do you live as a child of the covenant? Who is part of this family?
- What responsibility do we have to our God?; our history?