Text: Genesis 1
We humans are created in the image of the Trinity.
The life and work of Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee bears this image of the Holy Trinity, our God who celebrates diversity and the drive to be in relationship with and live peaceably with others.
A Liberian peace activist, in 2011 Leymah Gbowee won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to put an end to the Second Liberian Civil War. She said that she was tired of African women being cast as the perpetual victims of endless wars. A foreign reporter came up to her once and asked if she’d been a victim of sexual assault because of the war. When she said no, the reporter had no further interest in hearing her story. She came to the realization that her voice was only valued by the media if it was the voice of a victim. Leymah decided then and there that it was time for women to come together to be part of the solution of peace, rather than victims of the problem of war. A mother of 6, she organized and lead the Liberian Mass Action for Peace. She created a place where African women –both Muslims and Christians, young women and old women- could stand together in solidarity for their mutual goals of peace. They staged peaceful, sometimes brazen protests and sit-ins, confronting the rebel warlords and the corrupt President, Charles Taylor. In June of 2003, when warring factions came together for peace negotiations, Lehmah and her troops were right there. When delegates tried to leave during negotiations, Lehmah’s peace army invaded the hotel and sat arm-in-arm in front of the doors of the conference room so that no one could leave. They held the peace negotiators hostage until an agreement was reached and the 14 year long Second Civil War was ended. Their tireless work led to the exile of Charles Taylor and the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf –the first female head of state in Africa.
Leymah believed that we humans are all brothers and sisters created in the same divine image, that we are all interconnected through our humanity in spite of our differences.
Our reading from Genesis reveals that God was 3 in 1 and 1 in 3 even in the beginning of everything, before our world was, God was, is, and will be Trinity. God was, is, and will be 3 inseparable persons dancing round and round together in community for all eternity.
In the beginning, the Genesis, we see the totality of the Blessed Trinity, working together to call all life into being from nothingness. God the Creator, is not the only person present at creation. God is named as God, and yet God is also the wind –or the Spirit- that moved over the water, the wind that activated the spark of life in the beginning. God is named as God, and God is present as wind, and God is also the Word –the Holy Word spoken at creation that was in the beginning through which all things came into being. All are God together, and all of creation came into being through this 1 God in 3 persons.
Once God had finished creating the water, sky, and dry land of the Earth, the apple trees and broccoli and the giant redwoods, the birds flying in the sky, the swarming fish, the sea monsters, the creepy crawlies, the cattle, squirrels, fluffy bunnies, silly monkeys, and the hilarious platypus, 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.” 7So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
In the image of God, we were created. Each one of us, different as we may be, are marked with God’s fingerprints forever.
But what does it exactly mean when we say we were created in God’s image?
Some believe that bearing God’s image means having dominion over the rest of creation. This word “dominion” has traditionally been interpreted as power over, and has tragically caused irreversible damage to our world as we humans have abused creation as if it were our birthright to do so as the God-imaged.
A more faithful reading of dominion would be “stewardship”, that is to say that we humans have a responsibility to care for creation as God cares for us.
We were created in God’s image to be stewards of creation, and yet that’s not the only way we can think about God’s image dwelling with humanity in a special way.
In addition to our vocation as stewards of creation, our God-imaged-ness comes from the very nature of God as Trinity.
God is Trinity: Creator, Word, Wind. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.
God, by definition as Tri-une, is diverse!!
God, by definition as 3 in 1 and 1 in 3 is in relationship with God’s self!!
God created humanity in the image of the diverse and relational Holy Trinity!!
We humans reveal the fingerprints of our Master sculptor through our beautiful diversity and through our drive to be in relationship with one another, particularly with those who are so very different from ourselves!
God delights in the diversity of humankind.
And…God delights in the diversity present within the Church because through our diversity we reflect the image of our Tri-une Creator.
Within our history, it was once asserted that to be in the Church, you had to assimilate to Church ways. You had to look the same, dress the same, hail from the same ethnic origin, have the same opinions, read the Bible the same way, be of a certain age to have a voice… you had to be “Churchy” to be accepted in the Church.
But the doctrine of the Trinity reveals just the opposite. The doctrine of the Trinity says that God is big enough to encompass all the ways we humans differ from one another. God has imprinted the divine image upon us all. The doctrine of the Trinity says that because we all bear God’s image, we all have dignity and worth, we are all worthy of love and respect, in spite of how un-Churchy we may be and indeed because of it.
As Trinity, God is big enough to delight in our differences. As Trinity, God calls us to delight in the ways in which God created us differently, and calls us to share in relationship with those who are different from ourselves. We just might learn something. We just might be blessed by a new perspective on life. We just might show the world what it means to live into God’s purpose for humanity. It’s my hope that our Youth going to Tennessee for work camp will be blessed with a new perspective on life this week, and will cherish the time they spend with the people they serve, and with the diverse body they serve alongside as Church.
A week ago, as I sat in an uncomfortable folding chair for hours on end at the synod assembly, I simply marveled at the diversity and the interconnectedness of this Church. We watched a video from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton about being church together and how enriched we are as a church when we work together with one another and when we delight in one another’s differences. As the body of Christ, and as humans created in the image of the Holy Trinity, we are all part of one another, diverse yet interconnected. From new Latino mission starts to historic congregations, from the extremely rural to the extremely urban and even places in between those realities (like right here in downtown Gettysburg). We are all a family, bearing the image of God into a world that hungers to see God’s face.
Leymah Gbowee’s image flashed up on the synod assembly screen last weekend, reminding me just how interconnected we are.
It turns out, the visionary peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner attended St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monrovia when she was growing up. In a culture where it is often viewed as unnecessary to even send girls to school, Lehmah received both primary and secondary education thanks to scholarships from the ELCA which is working around the world to make education a reality for all children- particularly for girls who face serious challenges in access to education.
We are all different, we all have different experiences and perspectives, and we are all church together. We are brothers and sisters with visionary peace activists like Lehmah Gbowee. We are family with the residents of Oliver Springs, TN whom our youth and many others will be learning from and serving this week at work camp in the name of the blessed Trinity, whose diverse and relational image they bear into the world, Father+Son+and Holy Spirit. Amen.