Created In God's ImageEVERYONE, BODY AND SPIRIT, IS MADE IN GOD'S IMAGE
(Ch. 1) In class on Sept. 25/27 and on Oct. 2/4, we will talk about how each person, regardless of their sex, race, age, etc., is equal in the eyes of our Creator. That means, every human being, including you, deserves to be treated—by you—with respect. We will also study the communion of the Trinity. You probably don't know what those words mean (it's OK—sometimes I think I'm not really sure myself), but basically, "communion" is like the words "community" and "union" joined together. A community is a group of individuals who share something in common, like you live in the same city, believe in God, wear the same uniform, and so on. A union, like the teachers union, is a group in which everyone is working toward the same goal. The goal of Christians is to love and serve God and our neighbors, for example. The goal of a sports team might be to win games.
For example, our class, your softball or volleyball team, your family, our parish, and all these "communities" are models of the togetherness God created in the Trinity. On a softball team, for example, not everyone is a good pitcher. So, those who have the talent to pitch, pitch. Others play third or short or center. Or, in school, some people have the talent to teach, so they teach. Others are principals, cooks, students, and so on, because that is what God's purpose is for them at this time. These smaller communities are miniature versions of the larger body of Christ created by God, which means the whole church, because each person does his or her part to contribute to the whole "community." So, this will lead us to explore our role as a member of the much larger community of "humanity."
Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech (see p. 8)WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT SETTING GOALS
Some passages in the Bible seem to suggest that, since it is God's will, not man's, that has the real staying power, we might as well not do anything at all. For example, Ecclesiastes 3:14 [NAB] says, "I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever; there is no adding to it, or taking from it. Thus has God done that he may be revered."
Sometimes, especially if we're reading the inspired text carelessly, we forget to take this quote in its real context. Right before this, it says, "For every man, moreover, to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor is a gift of God." This part sets us straight: We are definitely supposed to set worthy goals for ourselves, goals that would be worthy of praying to God about.
The Holy Spirit, you know, is not a physical being, and so he can't actually "do" things like real work. But "through" us and with our help, the Holy Spirit will do anything he wants, if we believe in him. When we provide the physical part, like hands and legs, to "do the legwork" for God, we get a better understanding for what God is trying to accomplish on earth. We get to learn about and even experience just a little bit more of his master plan for the universe. From his point of view, he only has the Holy Spirit that he can send down to us. If his Holy Spirit wants a new church built, for example, don't be holding your breath waiting for a new building to spring up out of the ground—unless we provide the manual labor.
We are also supposed to celebrate our accomplishments. By enjoying life in this way, we celebrate the life God gave us and we glorify him in the process (or "revere" him, as the letter goes). Remember that God renews in us every day a unique ability to share certain gifts, to be a part of his master plan for humanity.
This passage also reminds us that it was God who chose us. He chose to act through us as individual, valuable human beings by sending his Holy Spirit into us when we were baptized and again throughout our entire lives. He constantly calls on us to be partners with him, to believe in him and serve him. This promise between you and God is called a "covenant."
Since God really wants us to serve him and his creation (he proved his wishes by sending Jesus to walk among us—and to die), he gives us "grace," which just means he comes into our lives through the Holy Spirit. When we do things to strengthen our relationship with Christ, we increase our "faith." You see, we're not just mindless puppets jumping at his commands; rather, we freely choose to use our gifts as they benefit him and his creation. We freely choose to grow in faith, and the faith that we build up through our lives is like our answer to God and our thanks to him for "gracing" our lives with his presence (the Holy Spirit).
What does this have to do with our communities? Well, consider St Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 1, verses 5–7. There it reads, "For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement."
We also have Colossians 1:24, where he wrote, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church..." [NAB].
Putting all this together, we can figure out that when we set goals and accomplish good things, we receive encouragement from the "church," which is the community of all your friends in Christ. It's exactly like when all your teammates (and parents, coaches, friends, etc.) cheer for you when you make a good set on the volleyball court or throw a runner out at second. That's how our "communities" are like models for what God created, which is the church. The encouragement, as the Bible suggests, will be just as strong as the comforting would be in a time of personal suffering.
So, why should you set goals? Because just setting goals, making an attempt to put the gifts that God gave you (your talents, etc.) to good work helping people, is like trying to learn what your role is in God's master plan. It's part of the reason he created you. He gave you those talents through the Holy Spirit specifically so you could put them to use and strengthen your relationship with Christ by helping the "church" and all the rest of his creation.WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES (THIS WEEK'S READINGS)
Our readings for this week (Sunday, Sept. 24) also teach us that we must treat everyone with the same respect, as equal "children" of God. For example, the Old Testament reading from the Book of Wisdom says that God will reward the innocent soul, and we should not just make fun of those who are oppressed, weak, or depressed, assuming God will help them. Rather, we should know that God helps them through us. Even the pslam response speaks of God's displeasure with arrogance and wickedness. God will defend our cause, and the causes of all his weak and powerless children, the psalmist writes.
But neither of these compare to what comes next. James comes right out and says that anyone who loves the things of this world is an enemy of God. We are not to be jealous or envious of anything man has made; rather we need to love what God has made, such as his children. And Jesus, in one of the most memorable quotes in all of history, says in the gospel that whoever receives even one child (a metaphor for a weak and powerless person) in his name receives the Lord himself. Then, whoever receives the Lord receives the One who sent him. Be impressed. Even though you may stereotype people of a different skin color or religion, they are still "equal" in God's eyes. Receive them into your heart, just as Jesus received the child in last Sunday's gospel before that child even said one word.
Jesus flat out knew the child was a child of God, for God created all human beings in his Image. In the image of God, he created them. Male and female, he created them. That's all you need to know about anyone else: that they are children of God. God will basically take care of the rest of the things about them in whatever way pleases him. If they are black, it's because God wanted them to be black. If they're Methodist, it's because God wanted them to be Methodist. Etc. Etc. Just receive them as another human being into your heart, and you receive the Lord. Receive the Lord, and you receive the Father. That's all there is to it, so says the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And that's all we need to know about what is true. Pay no attention to others who may speak evil words about those of a different color, a different religion, or a different socioeconomic status. All you need to know is what Jesus taught us, and it's right there in the gospel.
If you went to church last Sunday, perhaps your pastor would have explained these readings in a different way or emphasized different aspects of the gospel message. But these opinions are mine.QUESTIONS TO PONDER AND REFLECT ON
What do you want to be? Don't just say what you want to do for a job, but also think about your family, kids, etc., and what kind of person you want to be. This is serious now: Why do you want to accomplish these goals?
What "communities" do you belong to? How can people in those "communities" help you accomplish your goals? How can the special gifts and talents God gave you help other people in your "communities" accomplish their goals?
What do you think were some of Martin Luther King's goals in life? What were some of St Paul's? How did their "communities" help them work toward their goals?BIBLE PASSAGE TO HELP YOU PONDER
Romans 12:3b-7 [new translation] ... Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought to, but look at yourself and your motives honestly, according to the measure of faith God has given you. For as our body has many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ. Each individual in our communities is a part of everyone else. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us put them to use: if you're a minister, go out and minster to people. If you're a teacher, teach. If you have a gift of showing mercy and kindness to others, then do so with cheerfulness.