Where we celebrate that of God in all people

Sermon for April 26, 2020

We know that Bible tells us that God created us in God’s own image,  (Genesis 1:27 ) and out of that comes our allegiance to God. 

But did you know that religion predates modern humans, so therefore predates us being made in the image of God. Before Homosapien, before human beings.

There are two ways to look at this.  We can say that God was in the process of making humans in God’s own image when God first created Neanderthals, who were the first Homo erectus to practice religion.

Or we can ask ourselves if religion and worshipping God might well be two different things that we have melded together, and from that melding, our problems have surfaced.

Some will say that it was humans who first honored the Divine because we were supposedly created in the image of God, and the other Neanderthal worship was just pagan worship.  But that kind of thinking is not very Quakerly and is much more protestant in nature than anything we could relate to as Quakers, and I argue, as Christians.  Because to us, that creation of us in God’s image happened when we received that spark of God in us, and who are we to say that God was not speaking to the condition of the Neanderthals and then to all Homo sapiens to come, and that they had no spark of the divine in them.

When George Fox came to the New World in 1671, he realized that the Native peoples here in the New World were worshipping the same God in their own way.  I doubt if he had showed up in a cave of Neanderthal, he would have decided that their god was inferior to ours, just that we didn’t have the wherewithal to comprehend the love and grace of God in the same way yet.

You see, humans only started practicing religion after they mixed with Neanderthals. This was around 38,000 BCE.[1]  Archeological digs tell us that after thousands of years with the Neanderthal, humans began marking our dead like the Neanderthals had done, marking their bones with blood and leaving things for people to take with them on their journey through the valley of the shadow of death. Then we, like the Neanderthals had done for quite some time, buried our dead. They also had hyoid bones and are thought to have speech much like we do, and this would have helped them develop myths and beliefs.

The first sign of religion is the idea that the soul continues after death into a place we can’t quite fathom, because none of us has come back from this with believable and provable stories.  The minister was the person who accompanied the person in this transition, and then began accompanying them in many rituals of family and adulthood, or when the crops failed. This minister was supposed to learn and know the mysteries and the myths, the beliefs and the help people feel secure that good people are rewarded, and bad people aren’t.

Religion may have evolved because we fear death. It is intelligent to do so, and we are intelligent beings, sentient, supposedly, and we are supposed to cherish this life and want to make this world better. But as the youth write in their texts to one another, you only live once, or Yolo.

Right now, with this pandemic going through, and particularly with World Health Organization saying two days ago that there may not be immunity to be had to this virus, we are spending more time asking ourselves how we can live a valuable life, and how can we connect this life to it’s creator, and what happens to us when we die?  And such other light and shallow questions.  We grasp for something bigger than ourselves.  We look to leave our hashtags like the Neanderthals did.

But just like then when humans changed and became religious, humans are still evolving.  Right now, we are at a precipice of Christianity. Muslims and Buddhists are going through similar ideas and paradigm questioning.

We have learned that when religion embraces power that it has adulterated our spiritual natures and we become war like, angry, and against other humans. 

We now have churches and denominations working so hard to influence power that they were this past week people were informing our president that he should help to promote people doing things that are deadly, like ingesting chlorine, because they fear death, and need to feel like “Jesus blood will protect us.”

There are other things going on in the name of Christianity and in the hopes of being better people spiritually, but there is only way to get to love and that is through humility and repentance, not arrogance or knowledge.

Jesus’ love gives us grace for all of our sins, and enough grace not to point out the sins of others.  And in return we are to forgive all others, and to seek a world of compassion and grace for all humans.  Jesus, according John 3:16 came for the whole world, therefore was not a nationalist.  If you have any question, think about his interaction with Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-29).  Or with the Roman Centurion (); Or even the last thing he said before he rose to the heavens, “Go you into where?”  Yes, that would be all the world.  The first person to become a Christian after Jesus rose back to heaven was a black gay man, an Ethiopian Eunuch. So if you think that Christianity can be found in any form of nationalism or white supremacy, or racism of any kind of supremacy, you are definitely mistaken. 

People are being and were being made in God’s image, and thus are sacred. God’s love humbles us so that the last shall be first and the pious shall be humbled.  It does not ask us to take up arms against another to show our power, but to love our enemies and to embrace all those that are in need.  It tells us to see Jesus in those people, and to do for them, because by doing for them, we are doing for Jesus. 

God’s love will never ask us to build walls or to shut another out from getting vital resources. Religion might do that. Religion made the two men who avoided the man in the ditch on the Jericho road to not go and take care of him. But God’s love can be found in the Samaritan who showed love.

Religion in our day and in Jesus’ day might go as far as to ask us to sacrifice our young for more money, which is what the worship of Mammon was about.

God’s tough love is tough on the one doing the loving, not tough on the one getting loved.

Another thing that Quakers noticed when they were seeing that of God in the Native American was to see that steeple churches were not places of holiness any more than homes were, or any meetinghouse could be.  The less distracting and the less ornate, the more we could focus on the beauty of God’s simple grace and mercy.

By mixing up religion, or fear of death, with spirituality, which is love for God, we have created several monstrous movements. There is a huge problem with society right now because some who are spiritual do not even want to use the name of Christ or be associated with Christ because of the horrific things still done under the guise of religion or the religious.  There is a growing movement both here in the United States, but particularly around the world, to not want to be associated with Christians. Which is sad, because Christianity is supposed to be about standing up for the oppressed, for being gentle with those that the world has cast to the side and being loving to those who are hated.  It seems that Christianity in Today’s world means much different things.  For some it means to have memorized the Bible, and outlawing anything that does not agree with their interpretation of the Bible.  It can mean that we Christians demand, in no kind or loving way, our way in the name of God because we see ourselves as better than others.  That is not Christianity at all.

Jesus said this is not the way that His kingdom would come. He specifically gave us an example of two people praying – one a Pharisee who knew the scripture’s well and frequented the temple.  This man knew the law and was bragging about how he had upheld them to God.  But the other was a Publican who said in humility, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Jesus’s kingdom is made up of these, those who show humility and grace.

Yet these two approaches are as old as religion and spirituality have been.

We learn what soothes the spirit.  We learn what makes us feel less fear, and makes us fear less the winds of change, hunger, and disease.  But if we do our rain dances, or our crop dances or our prayers for us not to get this virus that is ravaging this world, we may get God’s ear.  But we don’t have God’s heart until we humble ourselves and act out of meekness, out of a heart that is full of love and goodness not for what we know, but in humility for what we need to learn.

The Neanderthal knew how to pray for protection over crops and about their fears of death.  But we have to pray for each other, for our enemies, for our friends, — we have to pray without ceasing to do it the way that Jesus told us to do it, with the vision of earth being like it is in heaven.

This week let us seek God for God’s protection. Let us seek God if we feel afraid.  But let us seek God mostly in the love we can give to ourselves, in the grace that we give to strangers, that the mercy we show to people who are stuck or having problems with growth. This week let us be instruments of God’s love and peace.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_religion (last accessed 4/18/2020)


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