“So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God, God created them.” Genesis 1.27

What’s tricky about this verse of scripture is the word “image.” What does it mean? How can we understand that word to make sense of who humanity is in relationship to God? Is an “image” the same as that which it “images?” If so, how are they the same? How are they different? How far does the “image” metaphor go in the Divine-Human relationship? Does humankind “look like” God; or, rather, does humankind “behave” like God, or both? Maybe an “image” is no more than a photograph of someone; a reminder of some time in someone’s life, but not much more than that? Tough word this “image”…

Fortunately, we have Rod Stewart to help us out.  One of Mr. Stewart’s greatest hits is called “Every Picture Tells a Story.” (If you’ve not heard it, check it out here.) As we move through that ballad, notice that the picture ends the song, it does not begin it. That is, the picture tries to recapture all that is the love this guy had for a woman. It does not replace the love, but rather, as a picture, tells the story of love. Now, THAT, might be useful…

You see, if humankind is a picture of God, (replacing “picture” with “image”), what we do is tell the story of God’s love. The goal of humankind is not to be “like” God, but rather, to participate in the life and being of God’s reality so that we can tell the story of who God is, what God does, and maybe even why God does it. (Admittedly, gentle reader, that last one is a bit dicey. But hey, you just listened to a Rod  Stewart song, how much more dicey can we get?)

So using this idea of “image,” the role of humankind in the Divine-Human relationship is to tell the story of God’s love. How are you telling the story of God’s love these days? For example, Darkwood Brew has been busy during the 50 days of Easter asking people to show God’s love by helping out the environment. Every time we plant a tree, tend a garden, reclaim the carbon from our atmosphere, we are telling the story of God’s love. It’s just a picture, a snapshot of a much greater love, but it does tell a story…

Our lives then tell the story of God’s love for humanity, for the world, and even for each one of us individually. Perhaps the greatest soul singer ever, Sam Cooke   penned a beautiful way to see how we tell the story of God’s love. But Cooke, unlike Stewart, saw the love that comes from suffering, from despair, from being down to being raised up to new life. Sam Cooke, as a black man in a racist country, knew that newness comes from a love much deeper than any picture can reveal. That newness comes from a trust, a love that goes deep into the heart of despair, rests there, and then arises to a brand new day.  Check out this song “Change is Gonna Come.” Jesus of Nazareth knew what Mr. Cooke is talking about. The story of love may be a long time coming, but it’s always worth the wait, that’s why we take the pictures.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

Scott Frederickson, Ph.D., a Lutheran theologian and educator, blogs regularly at “Thoughts from the Prairie Table.”


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