According to Hebrews 1:3, Christ is “the exact imprint of God’s very being”. In our Baptismal covenant, we are asked if we promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself”. Since we recently celebrated a baptism, I made connections between these readings. If Christ is the exact imprint of God, and we seek Christ in all persons, who or what are we looking for? What is the “imprint of God’s very being” that we can see not just in Jesus, but implicitly, in everyone we meet? This exact imprint obviously isn’t the old man with a beard from Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine chapel: we meet plenty of people who don’t look like that! So the “exact imprint” is not physical; it’s about how we are in the world. And the Hebrew scriptures together give us an astonishing range of images of God: creative, disappointed, angry, judgmental, generous, kind, and merciful (to name a few). God looks very much like us. So maybe we don’t have to do anything special to be in the image of God. But there’s more: after God is angry (say, the flood), he is merciful. The world continues. This doesn’t help with our image of God if we want a physical image, but it does help us build an image of the living God.
“Pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
Reading this in September 2021, after 18 months of COVID-19, made us think today about what we’re praying for when we pray. We have seen plenty of evidence that we can’t pray ourselves out of a pandemic, or to heal from a virus. But still we pray. We offer to pray for friends and even strangers who suffer illness or loss. We pray for ourselves and our loved ones, for peace and wisdom, on a regular basis. We pray for our worshiping community. We pray for refugees and migrants, for the hungry, the sick, and those who care for them. We pray for our nation and the world. It’s not magical thinking: we haven’t ended hunger or illness; there are still refugees and migrants. Instead, in doing so we are connected, to God and to each other. When we pray we are not alone, and those we pray for and with are not alone. We know that God is with us, present in the world.