Imago Dei – thoughts from Echo’s Fall Retreat part 1

Imago-Dei-Trefoil

Echo’s Fall Retreat theme was Imago Dei, a Latin phrase that means “the image of God.”  The primeval prologue of Genesis includes thought about God’s creation of humanity: “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This is a profound truth – human beings were created in the image of God, to bear the likeness of God and share in something of the essence of their divine creator. What does this mean? Sometimes this seems pretty far from the truth. War, poverty, injustice, bullies, and pride – these things seem pretty terrible.  Yet everyone has a faint idea of the way it should be even if we have never seen this perfection. It makes you wonder what God had in mind originally. This makes me wonder: does God see something about us that we struggle to recognize?

God can see in us not only who we were and who we are, but also who we can become with His help. You know who you are; you know where you have been and what you have done. But only God knows who you can become and what you are capable of.  We explored this concept throughout the weekend, rooted in the extraordinary words of Paul to the Ephesians.  Ephesians 2:10“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  You are God’s work of art, and you are becoming an artist at work. God wants to express his beauty in this world through you. You are the canvas on which he will paint a better future.

Friday night we explored the story of Moses’ invitation to join God in the work of rescuing the captive Israelites from Egypt in Exodus 3.  Moses had a very complicated and difficult life story.  He is certainly not a stranger to the brokenness of humanity. He has been through some dramatic and traumatic events in his life.  In his encounter with God, he is invited to be someone he never thought he could be.  He is invited to do something far beyond his wildest dreams.  This moment changes everything about the way Moses sees himself, God, and the world. The essence of what God tells Moses is this: God sees the suffering. God is concerned about the suffering. God has a plan to heal and restore, and that plan is you.

Moses’ question to God is “Who am I, that I should do this?” That is a very important question. Who is Moses? His story is complicated. He is not exactly a “functional and whole” individual; Moses is someone with baggage.  God wants him to save an oppressed people group, but he is an 80-year-old abandoned orphan raised by oppressors that is guilty of murder and a fugitive from justice. Everyone, including Moses, has counted him out for the race toward anything heroic or remarkable.  Moses asks “Who am I…” and God answers: “I AM.” Moses is concerned with his problems and his past. Moses keeps telling God that he is less…God is inviting Moses to become MORE. God was unconcerned about his past. He was unconcerned about his faults, failures, and deficiencies. God doesn’t care about those things. In the eyes of God, he sees not the problem but the potential. He sees not just who you are and who you have been, but who you could be with his help. He can see the treasure in the trash. He can see the beauty in what is broken. All of us have some story, some things in our past that we can use to disqualify ourselves from greatness. We are all imperfect and broken. But God is an artist. He is a restorer. He is truly amazing in his ability to bring life out of death. This is what he does! This is who He is! He asks Moses to trust HIM. Trust in God, not yourself. You know who you are; you know where you have been and what you have done. But only God knows who you can become and what you are capable of with His help. God can see in you the potential, the beauty, and the remarkable! The way a painter brings color to her canvas, a dancer choreographs his routine, a potter guides the clay – this is the same way God wants to work with you.  You are the medium for the Greatest Creative Force in existence.  You are what God uses to create art.  You are where he does his best work.  Your life is what God is working on restoring, perfecting, and creating.  Your story is the book he is writing.  You are the canvas that God paints upon.  You are his project.  He wants to do this with all of creation, but it starts with you.  Your surrendered life is a work of art in the hands of a masterful artist.

Friday night ended with this invitation, extended to us by virtue of our creation: Become someone beautiful. It is in you, the fingerprint of God – you were created in His image. Let your life be a work of art. Let your life be the canvas on which God paints, the clay that God molds with intention and design.

This is the video that set the tone for the weekend.  The voice is an artistic preacher named Erwin MacManus, author of the book The Artisan Soul.  The clips used are all the work of the amazing artists in the Vimeo community.  The music is by Jonsi from the album We Bought a Zoo.

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