Imagio Dei

Welcome to the New Year!  I pray that God has blessed you with the gifts of reflection on the many blessings you experienced in 2016.  I pray that you were able to note where the Holy Spirit was at work in your life and in the lives of those around you.  I pray that you were able to see the Holy Spirit’s work in and through the people called United Methodist in the places and spaces where you engage in ministry.  God’s blessings are always all around us, even when we find it hardest to see.

As we begin 2017, we have much that is before us in the work of the Connectional Table and the life of our denomination.  I hope you were able to read the update on December 23rd from the Moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward (LINK) and remember the gift of the Imago Dei within each of us.  They write:
Our way forward, as women and men created in the image of God, is to seek reconciliation with one another. It is not that we do the work of reconciliation so that we can later share the gospel through evangelism and mission. There is no evangelism, no mission, no gospel apart from reconciliation. 

And so we enter into the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, seeing it not as an interruption to our real mission, but as essential to our calling. To be for or against each other, or a cause, is less than God desires for us. We are created in God’s image, to be forgiven, reconciled and made holy. – Bishop Yemba, Bishop Steiner Ball, and Bishop Carter, Moderators of a Way Forward

I have committed to reading and meditating on one of John Wesley’s Sermons each week this year using the book put together by Albert Outler and Richard Heitzenrater, John Wesley’s Sermons: An Anthology.  I invite you to join me in this practice this year.  There are 50 sermons and the first one I read is entitled “The Image of God.”  This sermon was preached at St. Mary’s at Oxford University in 1730 and remains relevant to the challenges we face when we consider Christian anthropology. 

This is what Wesley reminds us about God and the Divine image created within us:
(God’s) affections were rational, even, and regular—if we may be allowed to say ‘affections’, for properly speaking he had but one: (hu)man was what God is, Love. Love filled the whole expansion of his soul; it possessed him without a rival.  Every movement of his heart was love: it knew no other fervor.  Love was his vital heat; it was the genial warmth that animated his whole frame.  And the flame of it continually streaming forth, directly to him from whom it came, and by reflection to all sensitive natures, inasmuch as they too were his offspring, but especially to those superior beings who bore not only the superscription, but likewise the image of their Creator.

God is LOVE!  So much so that it fills the expansion of our souls, if we so allow it and choose it.  How might LOVE be our central grounding place for our lives and our ministries this year?  How might we examine and ponder, explore and discover all the aspects of love as part of the Divine imagination?  Will we allow LOVE to govern our thinking, our decision-making, our being and our actions the way God created it for our lives? 

His sermon goes on to challenge us to consider where we have fallen out of this image and invites us to consider ways to pursue the image of God.  In the last paragraph is his call to Discipleship, he writes:
We, lastly, have daily opportunities of knowing, if Christianity be of God, then how glorious a privilege are they thought worthy who persuade others to accept of its benefits.

May, by Christ’s great gift of grace, we pursue LOVE with all of our hearts, with all of our souls and with all of our minds this year. 

Let us continue to pray for one another as we begin this New Year!

With God's Love,
Rev. Dr. Amy Valdez Barker

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