Children and teachers go back to school. Sports. Marching band. Theatre productions. Some many activities get into full swing again. All of us in some way transition from summer fun to regular autumn routines. Fields and orchards abound with a harvest to nourish our taste buds and basic needs. Life flourishes in so many ways—in us, around us, through us, all ever in God’s grace.
An early church leader, Irenaeus wrote: “the glory of God is a human being fully alive”. That’s long been a helpful expression of what I believe Holy Love intends for us; and I’d extend it to all creation fully alive. That inspires our vision for life together in church and culture. That can guide all we say and do. What will make a particular person, an organization, our community, nation, all creation flourish, fully alive?
It begins with simple dignity. Of course, it’s always good to be nice and friendly, tolerant and polite. I mean something deeper—beyond our likes or whims, affections or frustrations, passions and perspectives in any moment; embracing all people however high and mighty or low and powerless in society.
Dignity. Value. Deserving respect and honor. It includes basic rights. It extends to all regardless of good decisions and behavior, or not. It’s because God created us all in the divine image of goodness, as Psalm 8 affirms: crowned with glory and honor, called to be co-creators with God. Dignity. Not because we earn it or prove our worthiness. Simply because God loves us. And Jesus shows us how to love others in that way, too.
You see, dignity ever comes with responsibility. No one exists alone, for self only. Divine goodness in each person is ultimately known, defined, fulfilled in community with other people and all of life. We have many personalities and particular gifts. Together we embody the risen Christ, St Paul says—sacred presence, holy purpose, divine power of love we know in Jesus. Sincere mutual affection amid differences. Weeping and rejoicing together. Offering hospitality to strangers. Mixing with lofty and lowly alike. Living peaceably in the face of persecution and harm done. Ultimately overcoming evil with good.
How might we be so inspired and guided through realities and issues in our lives every day? Teachers and administrators with children in their care. Owners, managers, and workers in business ventures they share. A loved one facing serious illness, and some kind of health care for all people. Persons who are homeless surviving so near our church, and church staff and city leaders discerning immediate care and long-term solutions. Myriad ways our congregation serves and misconduct scandals in the wider church. Political representatives and pro athletes. Colleagues at work, neighbors next door. Humans whose names we don’t know but with whom we’re inextricably bound in distant places and circumstances on earth. The earth itself with all plants and creatures in air, land, and sea.
All of life belongs to God. Flourishing in this season and beyond begins with upholding dignity for all. It’s about what we’re due … and what we do. Dignity fulfilled through responsibility in community.
Grace and Peace,