The Image of God

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

For Contemplation

Religious philosophers have struggled with understanding how human beings are made in God’s image. They describe this world of images like the images in a mirror, a reflection of a different reality, dependent on God, yet at the same time separated from God. Zen philosophers have imagined an ideal state of being as similar to glass that lets the full image of reality/God pass through, hopefully without distortion or without being diminished in any way. Our purpose is to keep the glass clean, or as one Zen philosopher stated, to realize that in the highest state of being, no glass exists, just the direct experience of reality/God. Many Christian mystics sought to experience God directly. Their experience of oneness with God is pure, unconditioned love.

The omnipresence of God tells us that all of God’s creation must be made out of God’s own being. Our connection to that reality—our connection to God—is intimate and unbroken. The conditioning of this world prevents us from experiencing this connection directly. Once we realize the intimate connection we have to God, we also realize that our essence is the same as God’s essence. But we also realize that we are not God; we realize the magnitude of the gift of life and acknowledge the gift of life with humility. We realize that God is love and in our highest state of being we become a pure expression of that love.

Grace, the oneness of God, and oneness with God are intimately expressed in human beings, and this is the reality expressed in Genesis 1:26: that human beings are made in the image of God. Grace, from the forgiveness that heals the smallest wound to the most exquisite awareness of God’s presence, expresses the oneness of God and human beings.

Prayer

We give thanks God, for this gift of life and for the incredible power that you have given us to participate in all that you have created. May we be a clear channel of your love and your being in this world. May the reality of your love penetrate our consciousness such that we may exist in a state of oneness with your intention and purpose in this world. May our experience teach us how to properly acknowledge the gift of being made in your image. When others see us, may they see the full expression of your love for the world and all that is in it. Amen.

From The Readings

A brief summary of the dream referred to in the following reading: Jeff walks up to a Target store but realizes he doesn’t have his shirt on so he feels self-conscious. He decides to go in through the side door so others won’t see him.

2011-102 If we look at the dream, we will see much for Jeffrey to see. Jeffrey feels stronger, like he felt when he ran without his shirt—less self-conscious. But his strength, his spiritual strength, he sometimes feels is not understood by others, and so the self-conscious part of the dream is not wanting to be seen by the church members without his shirt—to see him in his strength. He sometimes feels that he will be weak and doesn’t want to be seen as weak. But he has a certain strength that comes when he is questioned—it rises up in him. And he needs to learn to distinguish between what is God’s Holy Spirit rising in him and what is an ego-centered defensiveness. He sits on the line between the two and sometimes falls in one direction; other times in the other direction. If he will be good at reminding himself of his devotion, he’ll get used to the light, because the light for him is so bright. Others cannot stand in this light. But his bare face is exposed to the light. Others need a mask. They must paint their faces or present a different image to God than their own. But it is good to remember that many times when we look at God, we look and see ourselves reflected because we are made in the image of God. So in some ways, the mirror image is reflecting so much light because there is so much light in Jeffrey, he can’t look up. He’s afraid to look up, afraid to look at himself in these ways. He also must understand that when he preaches there is no separation between God and each human being, and so he sees this in a way that confirms God’s inner presence; but he must also remember there is and can be the presence outside the person, outside of himself that is there to go with him, like a companion, through each step. And he is the companion—Jeffrey is the companion to the members of his church. Teaching moments for him are more frequently in the smaller groups or one-to-one. Less teaching is needed from the pulpit or in the sermon. In the dream, he goes through the door, not afraid to confront, but he misses the target by going to the side door because he wears no shirt. He thinks no shirt, no service, no entrance; yet it is his strength he can take in the door at the Target. He can take his strength in—he does not have to give up his strength to go in. For him, those other paths are side doors. He can go in the main door.