United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

“Made Like God”

 June 4th, 2023

 Rev. Rebecca Migliore


        Genesis.  In the beginning… In our beginning.  In the beginning of all things.  In the beginning, there was God.  It is a theological statement.  When we say we believe in God, the Creator, and yes, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer, we are buying into a view of the world that not everyone shares.  We believe, in the beginning there was God.  And as humans have had eons to speculate about God, and to have committee meetings about God, and to write about God, and to talk about God, a consensus has emerged.  And we call this consensus about God, Trinity.

        God, three-in-one.  A glimpse of a constantly moving and shifting God.  A God that we encounter as Creator, as Redeemer, as Sustainer.  A God who we know in Jesus, A God who Jesus called “Abba,” A God who as Spirit swept across the earliest of waters, and swept across those gathered at that first day of Pentecost, and sweeps over us, is present with us, still.  This dance of creation and redemption and sustaining power is God.  And we are made like God.

        What can this possibly mean?  “Made in the image of God.”  For many, it has meant that we try to act like God—or what we have come to call God—absolute power, dominance, knowing all, seeing all, being right about all.  Is that what it means to be “in the image of God”?  Or are we meant to join in this dance of relationship, dance of mutuality, dance of intertwining with all things—all things that God called forth and created, that God looked at and smiled upon, that God called “good”? 

        I found myself thinking about Henry’s conversation last week about eyewitnesses and ear-witnesses as I thought about our Genesis reading.  We start with visuals, Spirit God hovering over the soup of elements, of possibility, of all matter. And then we hear, “And God said,”—God speaks, and our ears, along with the ears of all creation, hear.  And it is so.  And creation unfolds before our ears and eyes.

       Let there be light.  Let there be waters above the dome and below the dome.  Let there be dry land and oceans.  Let there be plants of all kinds. Let there be sun and moon and stars.  Let there be living creatures in the water and on the land and in the sky.  And let us make in our image, adam the earthling from the adamah the earth in male and female form, those we call humans.  And God invited the humans to join in the dance, the relationship, the mutuality, the intertwining, that is God and Creation.  And God had one final creation, a day of rest, a Sabbath, a time for everyone and everything in heaven and on earth and in the sky and in the sea, to give glory to God, and to take time to remember in whose image we were made. 

        And in remembering, in lifting up God’s glory, we are called to be in the image of God once again.  We are called to community with all things.  We called to the goodness that was in the beginning.  We are called to be more than we could ever imagine we could be.  We are called to be exactly what God intended us to be.  Caretakers of creation.  Those who mirror God, and who try to emulate the compassion, the grace, the ingenuity, the persistence, and the love of God, each and every day.

        For our belief in God, Trinity: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and our belief in our own being made like God, transforms us.  It reminds us of who we are, and who we were intended to be.  I was struck by a passage in Don Collett’s book “Universal Spirit: The Seasons of the Christian Year in the Company of Northrop Frye” which imagined the aftermath of Pentecost in a way I’ve never thought of before.  He said,  

       “After the Pentecost moment, the populace of the region, and the Romans who occupied it, began to notice strange things happening in their cities. Small pockets of people began to go into the streets to find the sick, to bury bodies rotting outside the city walls, to listen to the babble of people possessed by mistaken spirits, to visit the imprisoned, to feed the hungry. The passion of wind and fire, the sense that the spirit had been poured on all people, pushed the well, the strong, and the able toward action. All people are now blessed. There were no favorites.

       The world was forced to begin to look with new eyes. It began to listen with new ears.” (Wood Lake Publishing, 2019, p. 173)

       Pentecost is not just a day in the life of the church—an exciting, and weird day, that we look back on and say, “Wow that was something”, and then move on.  Pentecost is the start of the rest of the church’s life.  Pentecost is the start of the rest of our time trying to be the community of people who know they are made like God, and who want to act like it.  Who go outside the walls and find those forgotten, lonely, ill, outcast people—people who have never heard that they too were made like God, that they too are loved by God, that they too are part of this wondrous creation, and we will miss out if we don’t include them in the history of us.

        Pentecost kicks off a season that is the longest time in what we call the Christian year.  We will be in Pentecost Season until the next year starts with Advent again.  And maybe this is exactly how it should be.  We get all caught up in the beauty and starlight of Christmas, we are somber and lament during the weeks when we walk ourselves to the cross, we are awed and amazed at the empty tomb and the resurrection, but much of the time, we live in the ordinary, in the season of us as church, of us trying to listen to the voice of the Spirit, of us trying to glimpse the grace of God, of us, trying to put the love Jesus taught about into action.  That is what we as “church” are meant to do.  It is what we as United are trying to do.

        I was recently engrossed by the documentary called “The Secrets of Hillsong” (about a megachurch that has had global reach, but has imploded in recent years because of sexual, and financial scandals.)  It made me so sad, because at the end, all these people who had once been a part of Hillsong, talked about where they were now—which was not in any church.  One woman said, “I will not be in another church this side of heaven.”  A man talked about now being a happy atheist, still more about how they just had a personal faith, for instance, alone in nature.  The one person who said he was still going to church—said it was a little church, that accepted him and loved him for who he was.  It made me grieve what we (the Christian church we) have done with the message that we have been given.


        Towards the end of the series one commentator challenged the church in general, “What if you took a year, and instead of counting attendance on Sundays, instead of counting conversions, measure the success in how the church is showing up in times of real crisis, crisis of life, crisis of loss, crisis of suffering.”

        And I wanted to scream, but that is what church is supposed to be about.  That is what I know we are trying to be about.  Showing up in times of real crisis—when people need food.  Showing up in times of real crisis—trying to take one little step towards eco-justice.  Showing up in times of real crisis—dreaming about creating a space where we could listen to each other, hear each other, see each other, be with each other. 

        Showing up in times of real life—for joys and sorrows, to hold hands and pray with our hearts, to be community for those close by and those who might be far away.  Isn’t that what Paul was asking the people in the church at Corinth to do?  “Be restored—be more like what you were created to be—made like God.  Find points of agreement and work from there.  Find ways to live in God’s holy peace—in the shalom that encompasses justice and mercy and love.  Go out into the world with the blessing of God says Paul—“the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

        Friends, we have much work to do.  Because it is almost like we are back in those early post-pentecost days—where there are all these people who don’t know or don’t trust what church is all about.  Where there as so many who haven’t really heard the gospel of good news—about love and mercy and forgiveness and turning our lives around.  Where we live in a culture that has forgotten how good creation was supposed to be, and how enmeshed we are together, as different aspects of God’s beautiful design.  Where we are more interested in what is best for me that we forget we are intended to live in community, so that we wonder what is best not only for me, but for us.

        We are to be awed by the new data about how trees communicate with one another.  We are to listen to the soaring songs of the whales.  We are to mourn the loss of habitat for the creatures that share this planet with us.  We are to wake up about our God-given responsibilities to each other and to our world.  And we aren’t to moan and groan about how much work that is.  We aren’t to slow walk our participation.  We aren’t supposed to be irritated at having to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength—and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

        No, for this is who we are. 

        This is who we were made to be. 

        This is us claiming our inheritance. 

        This is us stepping into the Trinity whirl of God’s grace. 

        This is us taking part in the dance

               that has been from the beginning.


What a spectacular life we have been given.  What joy and goodness we can tap into.  And how much still needs to be accomplished—together, with God’s help.  May it be so.  Alleluia, Amen.