26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind[a] 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.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
“Dignity is on the Ballot”
by Peter A Luckey preached to
KCUCC on October 18, 2020
As we read one of two creations stories from Genesis this morning, what I want you to take away, what I want you to remember from the morning lesson is: we ALL are created in the image of God. Let me read Genesis 1:27 again, "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." He didn’t exclude, he didn’t raise one above the other.
Every single one of us----black brown, red yellow, white, nonwhite, male and female, trans, queer, gay and straight, young and old, the ambulatory and non-ambulatory, Conservative and Liberal, Republican and Democrat, Christian and Muslim, believer and atheist, every one of us is a reflection of our creator.
Every one of us then, from the saints to the fallen, from Mother Teresa to the one on death row, is worthy of love, of respect, and of dignity because each one of us is a child of God, and therefore sacred in his or her own right.
In this most basic sense, if we are all of God, created from God, then in God’s eyes we are all equal, created equal.
This is at the core of our faith.
This is the most basic understanding of who we are as human beings. We are created equal. Equal in this most basic sense is that the Good Lord did not create some in the image of God and others not, God shows no partiality.
Since no one can safely date the first chapter of Genesis because it was an oral tradition for years before it was ever put together in written form by the Priestly writers) let's fast forward a thousand years or so to the New Testament to the time of Jesus.
In a world where patriarchy ruled the day Jesus of Nazareth did something completely radical: he treated women as equals.
• Remember he invited women into his inner circle, people like Mary Magdalene, who was every bit a disciple as her male colleagues?
• Remember how he allowed Mary to wipe his feet with the costly perfume and her hair?
• Remember the woman caught in adultery, that the crowd wanted to stone to death? And how the crowd dropped their stones on the ground after he said, “let the person without sin cast the first stone”?
This respect for women was all but unheard of in Jesus' time.
And not just women but everyone! Jesus taught by words and by his deeds, by EXAMPLE that every one of us, the sinner and tax collector, the leper and the betrayer are worthy of love. Jesus taught us to know the reason we are created to be human beings and not say, a chair.
We are indeed each one of us a child of God, created in the image of God.
Then soon after Jesus died, one of his most ardent supporters, the Apostle Paul, reiterated this same principle of equality before God when he said in Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Now fast forward again 1600 years to the time when the first Puritans landed on these shores. When John Winthrop, who would become Massachusetts first governor, drew upon these same scriptures for inspiration when he said to his flock, while still anchored off the coast in the Salem Harbor in 1630. He said, “We must delight in each other, make others conditions our own rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together always having before our eyes our community as members of the same body.”
The words remain archetypal for what life in America was to be.
Fast forward yet again, 140 years to the writing of the most important document setting forth the founding of our nation, The Declaration of Independence, and we find how the author of that document, Thomas Jefferson infused by the spirit of the enlightenment and these biblical principles declared
ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.
We can say, unequivocally, that this principle taken from our Judeo-Christian tradition has absolutely informed and shaped the founding ideals upon which our great nation was built. In fact, you could say this is the defining characteristic of what makes America, America.
More than our geography, more than our backgrounds, it is our ideals that make us who we are. Our democracy flows from this principle. We believe that every person, therefore, has a say in how they are to be governed.
Now an objection may be forming in your mind right now, “But Peter, how well have we applied those principles
• When the likes of John Winthrop of our Puritan ancestors pushed the indigenous people off their land? And we did this again and again, to what amounts to an almost total genocide of the Native American population.
• When, Thomas Jefferson, the very author of that founding document held slaves?
• When slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a human being like in the US constitutional convention in 1787?
• When women gained the right to vote only in the last century?
• When our government determines immigrants “less than” and therefore is justified in separating children from their parents for indefinite periods of time?
• When African Americans have been denied their full humanity again and again?
• When we witnessed this past May when we saw the white officer’s knee pressing into George Floyd’s neck for eight interminable minutes until he breathed his last?
How can we not come away with the inescapable conclusion the black lives matter less than white lives, black bodies are not worth as much as white bodies. Equality?
There are systems alive today, where one group benefits from pressing down on the neck of another, and I, as a white male, have reaped the benefits of these systems. But let’s call it for what it is: it is sin, it is evil when one’s dignity is devalued; regarded as less than as if some folks were not created by God.
We have fallen short.
The Novelist Marilynne Robinson, made a trenchant observation in her essay in last Sunday’s NY Times when she wrote, “For some time, we have been dealing with an angry rejection of this idea.” (that human beings are sacred therefore equal) and we have seen it played out before our eyes. From White supremacy militias to the chambers of the US Senate. From white supremacists to the current occupant of the White House who has aided and abetted the movement, we have seen how vicious the backlash has been.
I want to say again and again to that current occupant what a man named Joseph Welch said to Joe McCarthy at the hearings designed to whip of fears and smear anyone and everyone as a communist, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
It’s this politics of resentment that is threatening our highest ideals.
Marilynne Robinson puts it this way, “Resentment displaces hope and purpose the way carbon monoxide displaces air.” Friends, we need some hope and purpose, as badly as our lungs, in this virus threatened world, need air.
Look: it’s all on the line!
It’s not up to the Good Lord to save us. This is on us. We must save ourselves.
I walked us through this timeline of millenniums only to underscore how deep, how foundational this principle of equality is. And how through history, through fits and starts we have struggled to understand what equality for all really means, and yet now we seem to have reached a moment when we could be going backward.
SO MUCH IS AT STAKE RIGHT NOW….
The very founding principles of our country. Human dignity. The sacredness of all persons. Treating all persons with the respect they deserve; we could lose this democracy. There are no givens. This is how weighty this election is. This is what’s on the line, folks.
All of this came home to me this past Thursday here in our backyard. Equality. Dignity. The freedom to love whom you want to love.
It was a simple affair. A couple of witnesses, a photographer, my wife Linda and myself, and two women, Liz and Addison, who wanted to declare their undying love for each other by entering the institution of marriage.
It was a beautiful fall day as if the trees in their stunning fall colors of their reds and yellows had conspired to make the day especially joyful, to celebrate along with us, what is most sacred and noble, one human beings declaration of their love for another. There we stood, masks on, as Liz and Addison took each other’s hands and spoke words of love, of what they found so lovely in the other. THEN Addison AND Liz spoke their vows to each other. “I Liz take you, Addison, to be my partner in the bonds of marriage, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow.” The very definition of love.
If you were there you would have cried too.
IT SEEMED SO CLEAR TO ME THAT IF INDEED GOD IS LOVE AS THE SCRIPTURES SAY, THEN YOU COULD NOT BUT COME TO THE CONCLUSION WITNESSING THEIR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER, THAT THEY WERE IN CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF THAT DIVINE LOVE, A GLIMPSE OF HOW GOD LOVES US AS WE ARE.
It just boggles my mind that the highest court in the land could take Liz and Addison’s marriage away from them or deny the expression of love for untold thousands of others.
So, what’s on the ballot now? Republican or Democrat? More than any policy or politician, what’s really on the ballot is whether we will be a country that will continue to strive for a new birth of freedom for ALL Americans or not.
What’s on the line now? Two words: Human dignity.
And that dignity comes from the fact that we all, and I do mean all, were created in God’s image.
Human dignity is on the ballot, my friends. It’s that simple; that profound.