To Be an Image
Dear Kaleid Ladies,
Good morning! How are you today? We hope all is well for you and yours.
Last week we gave you a bit of food for thought. We asked you about power and about what that word makes you think and feel.
Did you feel intimidated, excited, annoyed, resentful? Did the faces of presidents, pastors, parents or people in your PTA come to mind?
Right now at Kaleid, we are exploring power as a worthy topic for seeing ourselves, others, and our communities as we sit with the statement, “Love is expressed in the world through our power. To be able to love and be loved is to have both power and vulnerability. Love happens in the spaces where those two things meet.”
When God made humans, God made them “in our image.” (Genesis 1:26) The Trinitarian, communal implication of this statement is beautiful, but for another time. Today we want to listen to the word “image” with the ears of an ancient Israelite, the one for whom this book is written and the one whose faith-container is being fashioned by a God unlike any other local “god.” Reading the Pentateuch means remembering that, in its words, YHWH-God is standing apart from all competition and showing how God, people, and the whole order of the universe is different than what people think. It’s a massive paradigm shift via an ancient text. It shifts theology, anthropology, and cosmology all at once. It’s bigger than gravity, electricity, the internet, and penicillin. You get the idea.
But what do we mean?
The word for “image” in Hebrew is transliterated “tselem.” When the Israelites hear this word, they hear a well-known word. One with an idea already attached to it. They know that a tselem is a stone statue. They encounter them in deserts, wildernesses, and at edges of cities and settlements. Every tselem in a particular area looks like the ruler of that area. It also looks like the god of that area, because the rulers are known to be divine. (think Pharoah) The purpose of a tselem is to mark the borders of a ruler’s territory. When you are traveling and you see one, you know that you've passed into a new king’s territory and a new god’s space of activity. You are now subject to whatever that ruler/god/king wants to do with you, to you, for you, and around you.
So what do the ancient Israelites hear in the very opening scene of their holy text? They hear something radically different about themselves and about God.
They hear that they are the tselem in God’s kingdom.
Their faces and bodies are made, fashioned, created, to be the markers on earth that mark the borders of God’s territory.
Let’s take a moment and get in the head of an ancient Israelite. How might they be reacting to this concept?
Wait, but we all look different! I’m a woman. He’s a man. She’s just a child. How can we all be the tselem of the same God?
Hold on...we move around and do things in the world. I thought tselem were static and solitary. We are fleshly and relational. How does that show God to the world?
I’m confused. I thought that tselem look like the king. I’m not a king. How is it that I show God to other people when they cross my path?
Isn’t that awfully vulnerable of God to give all of us the capacity to express part of God’s power in the world by making all of us a tselem?
If you have an imagination (and we know you do), think about this shock and spend some time walking around in it today.
Because it’s quite something.
The God of the Israelites is your God. Your God hasn’t changed what it means to be in “our image.” You, friend, are made to represent God to the world in your uniqueness. You are meant to use your body and your relationships to let the world know that God is here. You are as important as any other image-bearer...none are more important in God’s economy. Your God shares power with you and wants you to express God’s very nature--Love--to the world.
So today, our power-question is this: What does it look like for you to stand in your own spot of earthly territory in your own physical body and image God’s love to the world with the power you possess this day?
God gave you your body. God put you in your space. God designed you to be a living symbol for fellow human travelers so that when they encounter you they know that they can breathe and be safe because they have crossed into the territory where love and power are at one.
May you embrace your inner statue today and live in love, by love, and for love today. It’s the power you were made for.
We love you,
The Kaleid Team