Created to Imagine in the Image of the Creator

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. Then a wind from God stirred over the face of the waters.

Image result for nasa pillars pictureLight burst from the darkness. Matter coalesced out of the void. Order emerged from the chaos.

God, the Master Creator, was creating.

The wind from God stirred again.

The land shifted. The water sloshed. Pent-up energy erupted from the briny depths, and the first cells of life were formed.

God, the Master Creator, was creating.

The wind from God stirred again.

Plants began to grow, in water and then on land: reeds and grasses, flowers and shrubs and trees. Animals surfaced from the depths: swimming, slithering, creeping, crawling, climbing, walking, flying, soaring. The world was all reds and blues and greens and golden hues, rainbows of colour in a spectrum of living, breathing diversity.

God, the Master Creator, was creating.

The wind from God stirred again.

One of those animals—an awkward, gangly, hairless thing, but with a curious brain and a social sensibility—took on a special function, a special purpose: to be the image of the Creator God in the world, to care for each other and all living things and the very earth itself.

We are those creatures, you and me and every human being: created in the image of the Creator, continuing the work of the Creator in the world.

God, the Master Creator, is still creating—through you and me.

The wind from God that first blew over that dark and formless deep, still stirs among us—stirring our hearts and minds, stirring our imaginations, to the glory of God our Creator.

Think about this: the most basic truth we can believe about God is that God is the Creator of all things. These are the first words in the Bible, and it’s the first word in the most ancient creeds of Christianity.

God is the Creator of all things. Everything that exists, exists because God is. All things come from God, through God, and for God.

God saw nothing and imagined something—and it came to be. God saw dark, formless void—chaotic emptiness—and imagined a universe of gravitational force and electromagnetic radiation and quantum particles and atoms and molecules and cells and organs and living things and planets and stars and galaxies—and it came to be.

As Creator, God imagines what is not, and then brings it into being. God imagines what is not yet a living reality, and then brings it to life.

This is the Apostle Paul’s description of God in a nutshell: as he puts it in Romans 4:17, God is the one “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

God is the Great Imaginer. God is the Master Creator.

But here’s the thing: we are created in God’s image. We are each like a mirror reflecting God: reflecting God’s love, God’s faithfulness, the goodness and truth and beauty of God. But we are also created to reflect this most basic attribute of God: God’s imaginative creativity.

God the imagining Creator has created us in God’s image, to be imagining creators ourselves.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we are God. God alone is: we are sustained by God’s being, we are only because God is. God alone can create all this, out of utter emptiness.

But this is a theological reality we must embrace: we are created in the Creator’s image, to create. And to create means to imagine, to imagine what is not and bring it into being, to imagine what is not yet a living reality and bring it to life.

You might hear this and think, “But I’m not an artist! I can’t create anything! I have no imagination!” Don’t believe it!

You are probably more creative than you think, for one thing. Most people think they can’t sing, or write, or draw, when in fact they can, with some encouragement and maybe a bit of basic instruction. Sure, we’re not all Da Vincis or Mozarts, but don’t let the presence of giftedness stop you from nurturing your own creativity.

But I’m not just talking about artistic creativity. We use our imaginations for far more than writing or music or art, or woodwork or quilting or floral displays. We use our imaginations all the time, particularly as Christians.

Every time we read our Bibles and try to make sense of what we read, we are using our God-given imagination.

We imagine ourselves in the Bible stories. There we are: we’re Adam or Eve or Ruth or David or Peter or Mary, failing or persevering or disobeying or trusting, just like them! Or we imagine biblical teaching in our own day. What, for example, does “turn the other cheek” mean for us today, in a world of terrorism and automatic weapons? We need our imaginations to help us figure that out.

The Good SamaritanEvery time we exercise empathy and compassion, we are using our God-given imagination.

We imagine ourselves in the other person’s shoes. How would that feel, if that were me, coping with that illness or living under that injustice? We imagine the other person’s shoes on ourselves. So this is what they have to walk in, every single day! Our imagination is crucial to our morality.

Every time we think about God or try to make sense of our world or our human experience, we are using our God-given imagination.

We imagine God in a certain way. God is like a father or a mother, God is like a sovereign king or a noble lord or a lowly servant. We imagine our world or our experience through a certain lens. Our life stories are controlled by grand narratives like “I’m a wretched worm,” or “I am loved and I have significance,” or “God is in control,” or “God helps those who help themselves.” Our thought-life is governed by our imaginations, whether we realize it or not.

Every time we gather together for worship, we are using our God-given imagination.

We use our imagination to enter the world of the songwriter when we sing their words. We use our imagination to enter into the world of the biblical author when we read their words. We use our imagination to enter into the world of the worship leader or preacher when we hear their words. We use our imagination to enter into the presence of God here on earth as it is in heaven.

And every time we leave here and move out into the world as God’s people, into our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our shops, and more, we are using our God-given imagination.

We imagine what it looks like to be Jesus to our neighbours, our co-workers, our family, our friends. We imagine what it looks like for God’s kingdom to come, God’s will to be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Our imaginations are vital to our worship and mission as people of God.

We are created in the image of our Creator to create: to imagine that which is not, in order to make it a reality in our thoughts, our feelings, our relationships, our everyday lives; to imagine that which is not yet a living reality, in order to bring it to life in the real world.

May God stir our imaginations in a multitude of ways—in our reading of Scripture, in our thinking about God and the world, in our worship together, in our empathy and compassion for others, in our sense of mission as a church, and more—and then “accomplish abundantly far more” than all we can ever imagine!

Adapted from a sermon preached at Morden Mennonite Church on September 11, 2016. Images: “Pillars of Creation,” Hubble; “Cosmic Eye” video, Danail Obreschkow“The Good Samaritan,” Ferdinand Hodler.
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