Friday, March 09, 2012

Homogeneous Homiletics

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 (NLT)

Although throughout the years Christians have debated the interpretation of this verse ("Is it literal? Metaphorical? Surely God looks better than THAT guy."), we more or less agree on the principle that as redeemed creations, our spirits reflect the image of God. We recognize and acknowledge our brothers and sisters in Christ as family, connected in that sacred image. Additionally, as believers, we try to take strides to reflect how we - in the image of God - can be diverse, yet still one. I Corinthians 12:12-26 lays it out for us in plain enough language how to honor these differences between us.

God, in His wisdom, clearly made note that we are created in His image, not like His image, so as to keep us from being able to boast that one of us might reflect more of Him than another. We represent, in word and action, a Triune Creator who values and designs intentional differences. "...we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:13).

And yet, we try to keep the church in our image. Literally.

When the church as a body of believers is a pale reflection (pun intended) of only one aspect of the Creator, we not only deny the richness of perspectives from people who have had different experiences, histories, and cultural frameworks shape their being, but we wind up being the strange-looking body with one only one part referred to in I Corinthians 12:19. And unfortunately, to the world watching us, we wind up sometimes coming across and acting like a certain body part because of our singularity.

It is frighteningly easy to cast stones at the head - namely, the church leaders - for failing to intentionally provide any ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, or cultural variety on a Sunday, in the message content or in the voices speaking it.  However, it is just as much my fault (as well as the rest of us in the body) for perhaps not asking to see and hear this diversity, expressing the importance of it. Or perhaps most shamefully, it is my fault for not living out this desire by intentionally spending time with the other body parts during the other six days, 23 hours when we are not in church. One hour a week alone can not change this paradigm. If I state that something - diversity - is important to me and yet I don't live it out, it becomes hypocrisy. And then comes the clanging symbol.

Homiletics in theology refers to the application of the general principles of rhetoric to the specific department of public preaching. Perhaps it's time to move past the rhetoric of constantly stating how we honor and love the differences between us, and instead get our body - literally and metaphorically - to move towards expressing and living it out.