Dear Sisters and Brothers,
After he came home from World War Two, my father’s job was as a building inspector. He had already had experience with house framing and electrical wiring, so the job was partly familiar and partly a learning experience. Mostly, he specialized in wiring, but he had to learn about every aspect of building houses and commercial buildings. Every day, he would go to work and then return to his parent’s house. There was a big housing shortage, so Dad lived with his folks. Even when he married my mother in 1947, they stayed on living at my grandparent’s house for another year.
Since there was no better choice, Dad bought a small piece of land near the family church. Then, on weekends for many months, he built a tiny house. He occasionally had a little help from friends and his father, but it was the house that dad built. By the time he was done, he had built the whole thing for four-thousand dollars (which would be about forty-two thousand in today’s dollars). It was a very small house that he soon expanded.
When Dad built that house, I am pretty sure that his expectations were good. He wanted a place where he and Mom weren’t guests. He wanted a place where they could raise the children that they hoped to have. The intention was that it would be a good home… a loving place.
Whenever someone builds or buys a home, there is a hope for the future. There is a plan that it will be a place of peace and joy. No one builds or buys a house so they can be miserable. Just as a person who rents a hotel room wants a pleasant stay, new home owners desire something very positive.
As Christians, we believe that we are made in the image of the God, which is to say we are capable of love, mercy, commitment, patience, devotion, and wisdom. Like God, we are also capable of anger and sadness. From the Bible, we see that God is as complicated as any person you have ever met. And when God took human form as Jesus, he became much more relatable. We can see that there is a kinship between us and our maker.
One of the ways that we resemble God is that we are creative. We can make things like bread, clothing, and houses.
So, it is fair to say that when God created everything, there was an intention of goodness. If God builds a house, you can be sure that it is built well. And to put it very simply, God made the heavens and the earth as we would build houses. God made things for the sake of peace and not conflict. God made things for the sake of love and not hatred. God made things for the sake of joy and not misery.
But God created not just with purpose of a home, but with the purpose of a school, a hospital, and a church. God made the world to be a place of learning, healing, and spiritual growth. God built a garden. God built a vineyard. God didn’t make things as we do with shovels, concrete blocks and lumber, but the intention is the same.
The truth is that houses are not always happy places, schools aren’t always successful, and hospitals can fail to heal, but that is not what those places were built for. Start out with the assumption that the intentions were always positive.
So, we believe statements like 1st John 4:7-8:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
So, our primary image of God is not of angry judge or a merciless tyrant. Our main image of God is love.
When someone already loves you, there is no need to earn their love. Why try to earn something you already have? It would be like paying for a house that you already own… or adopting a child you have already adopted.
In the next two verse from 1st John, we get this:
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
We need all of this groundwork to really understand one of the most important passages of the Bible…
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
God made all things for the sake of love. Not only did God make the earth to be a loving home for us, he made us to be loved and to share love.
Our lives include pain, sorrow, loss, and fear, but those are all things that help us to be compassionate, appreciative, sensitive and brave. There is suffering in the world and there is death, but God made us to be kind and sharers in eternal love.
The fact that there is needless pain and suffering in the world speaks to the fact that we have work to do.
We earn nothing, but we have everything. Life is not a competition of earning, but an opportunity to celebrate the love that made us.
We are made in the image of love. God made us this way, and we can’t take credit for that. This life isn’t a competition… it is just a chapter in a story that leads beyond death to new and greater life.
We are here to learn, to heal, and to love.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
So let’s keep trying to do good, because in that way we will become a truer image of our Creator for the world to see.