June 16, 2019

Trinity Sunday C

Made in His Image

Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”   John 16:12-15

If I asked you, “In whose image were you made?” I am sure that each of you would say rather spontaneously and without any need for prompting,  “I was made in God’s image.”  The Bible begins with this affirmation and we internalized it at a very young age.  “Male and female He created them.  In the image of God He created them.”  

But it is one thing to learn this declaration, quite another to understand what it actually means, and still another to live, ever more deeply into its truth in our day-to-day lives.  So what does it mean for us to acknowledge that we were created in the image of God? What does it mean for you to live as one fashioned in the Divine likeness? What is actually involved in bringing forth in our lives the reflection of God, in whose image we were made?  

It seems to me, at the very least it means to be and become holy, as God is holy. Isn’t holiness the good work that God has begun in each of us? Isn’t this God’s purpose for us? Isn’t this the goal of each and every genuinely and authentically purpose-driven life?  If we are holy, we image God.

This Sunday we celebrate the image of the God in whose likeness we were made.  That image that we have come to know, in its fullness, in the Word made flesh and in the gift of the Spirit who abides with us, is the image of a loving relationship of persons.

Yes, the holiness of God is thoroughly bound up with relational intimacy among persons committed to living in communion.  And the holiness we seek to reflect in our lives is thoroughly bound up with our capacity to realize relationships of loving intimacy in communion with each other.  

Today we celebrate the mystery that before and beyond all else, God is a loving communion.  God is the eternal loving that is now, ever was and ever will be between the Father and the Son and the Spirit.   We have been created in the image of a loving communion. Yes, the word Trinity, does not merely say something about God’s mystery, it also says something about our mystery. It is time that we seriously own our Trinitarian image.  Living in loving community is absolutely essential to who we are.

To be created in the image of God is to have been created in the image of that mysterious life-giving and life-sustaining relationship that expresses itself in self-giving love – you know, cruciform love.  Before there was a cross on Calvary, there was always a cross within the mystery of God. That self-giving-unto- death relationship is the womb from which we spring. That cruciform relationship is the home for which we long and to which we journey.

If we have been made in the image of God then at the deepest level of our humanity we are only genuinely ourselves, we are only who we have been created to be, we are only fully in possession of our mystery when we are expressing ourselves in loving relationships in community.

What are the deeply loving relationships in which you are expressing your life?  How deeply loving are those relationships? If we love, do we only love so much or so far?  Where do we draw the line when it comes to loving others? Do we see ourselves as expanding, widening and pushing the boundaries of vulnerability and intimacy?  Do we only love our own? Are our efforts to love intimately limited to marital, familial and friendship relationships? Do we ever allow ourselves the expansiveness of the divine imagination when it comes to love?       

Interestingly, the rugged individual, who stands over and against all others, the winner before whom all else are deemed losers, the self made man who really needs no one and needs only his own grit and hubris to realize his potential, the one whom western culture holds up as an icon of what it means to have arrived – that one, is an empty lie.  The John Wayne icon is a pathetic distortion of what it means to be truly and deeply human. And yet we are daily reminded of the appeal of such an icon. We simply were not created to give center stage to unbridled individualism and ego strutting. Center stage in God’s economy belongs always to loving self-giving relationships.

Human excellence, moral and any other, conceived as a private, personal, individualized achievement is not enough. Our faith teaches, and Christians are called, to imagine and work for a society in which the bonds of solidarity, with those both like us as well as those different from us, take as their standard the endless, ineffable, self-giving love that is the very essence of our triune God.

Consider the immensity of God’s love. He is a God who loves us so much…He created us.  He is a God who loves us so much…He became one of us. Yes, He went so far as to make our pain and our death is own. He is a God who loves us so much…He remains with us— abiding with us and continuing, in astonishing ways, His creating work in us.  And He is a God who loves us so much that he invites us into His ever-expanding communion and community of love.

The reading from Proverbs sets the stage. As the “wisdom of God,” the Holy Spirit speaks of the joy of being present at the beginning of the world. “When the Lord established the heavens, I was there…I was beside him as his craftsman…and I found delight in the human race.”

I love the image that conjures up – a joyful, happy craftsman, almost like one of the seven dwarves, whistling while He worked. He finds delight in us – even though we are often less-than-delightful; even though we are often disappointing; even though we are prone to selfishness and sin.

But, incredibly, He loves us anyway.  And He is a God who loves us so much, that He cannot contain Himself.  “Everything that the Father has is mine,” Jesus declares in John’s gospel, and then goes on to say, that the Holy Spirit will also share all this with his disciples.

God wants to share Himself with us – to give all that He has.

Here is a God so generous…He gave us Himself, in flesh, to suffer with us and die for us. Here is a God so generous…He continues to give us Himself, under the appearance of bread and wine, here at this altar. Here is a God so generous, He shares with us gifts: wisdom and understanding…courage and piety…knowledge and counsel.  

Here is a God who loves us beyond our wildest imaginings –

And He wants us to discover that, and celebrate that and to make that love the template of our lives.  He wants us to love as we have been loved. He is constantly calling out to us, with and without words, to realize that image of self-giving, communion-building loving in which we have been created, through with we have been saved, by which we live Risen with Christ in the Spirit.

This Trinity Sunday we are reminded again of the limitless possibilities of God – one God who cannot be contained, but must co-exist as a community of persons.  We are also reminded of the limitless possibilities of those created in God’s image who also need not be contained in our efforts to live more fully into the mystery of being a community of self-giving persons.

A community of self-giving persons does not just happen.  It requires commitment and those decisions, choices and actions that bear witness to that commitment.  

It means making Sunday worship our first priority on the first day of the week.  You know, showing up, when it is convenient and not convenient, and never scheduling something else that would consign making love with God to second place.   

We cannot grow, as a community of self-giving persons, if we treat this community as a convenience store, a spiritual 7/11, that we drop into when we feel that we need or want something for our selves. Everyone here needs everyone else here each and every Sunday morning.  Church is not about me but about us.

It means continually assessing our way of being in community with each other.  This is not just a social club but rather it is a venue to get to know and care for each each other as people of faith and to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the mystery of Christ at work in our lives.

Lastly, It means hearing any call to service as a call that is being directed to you and knowing that if you don’t respond the need may go unmet.

In whose image are you being made?

 

The Rev. Frank J. Alagna

June 16, 2019