May the spirit of God in me recognize the image of God in you

Paul was willing to preach almost anywhere.That’s how he ended up at the Aereopagus in Athens. That was a place like no other- Where people of the upper classes gathered to discuss great issues of the day like these:

What are the prospect s of the latest tyrant politician who is trying to take over the government?

How is the new sports stadium going to be funded?

Can men really love men and women really love women And marry each other?

Not unlike our coffeehouse and barroom conversations of today.

Into the midst of all that bru-haha The Apostle Paul speaks several life altering truths.

First, Paul says, God caused all this to happen.

Kind of a brave statement, I’d say. God, Paul says, really does give us allof life and everything that happens to us.

Everything, Paul? Everything!

From the election last fall To the most gosh aweful thing you could think of, God is behind it all.

God gives all people all things.

Now wait just a darn minute, here.

That’s a pretty brave statement- I’m not sure I agree.

There are plenty of things in this world that don’t seem to be In accord with God’s will- At least not the living and loving God Jesus talked about.

We could stop right her And begin to blame God for all of those things we consider bad- You fill in your own blank.

But the apostle Paul will just not let us stop there.

Paul moves on to say. The same God who allowed all these things in our lives Is close to us- With us and in us and living through each one of us.

So, for Paul, God is not some imperial ruler up in the sky dictating orders to us as his apprentices, Shaking his giant comb over head And saying “you’re out.”

God is actually in us- In here- In each and every one of us- Knowing what we know, Experiencing what we experience, Feeling what we feel.

“In God, Paul said to the Athenians, “We live and move and have our being.”

All of us individually- And all of us together.

In the end- That was why Jesus came- To show and teach and live that very truth- By which every single thought and every single action of ours will be judged.

As we speak and as we act Are we recognizing the divine presence in ourselves And in others?

That is or should be our primary motivation for actually being nice to ourselves and each other-

In Hindu when you meet and greet someone you bow and say Namaste- Which means- the God in me greets the God in you.

This recognition of our common claim to divine origins is also the source of the golden rule-

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The reason that rule is golden is because were it to be universally applied by each one of us Our lives would indeed be gold.

The Apostle Paul had very little success with the Athenians But what he did have stemmed from his respect for those people Right where they were.

Paul didn’t command or cajole, Or push.

He simply recognized God’s presence already among them.

This past week, a dear friend of mine was struggling with how to deal with an interpersonal relationship.

There aren’t a lot guide books for how to relate to other people well in these awkward and hard situations.

I usually replay old conversations in my head and imagine I had said funnier or smarter or kinder or more honest things until I practically drive myself mad.

The loud swirling of should-haves sometimes drowns out the reality I am choosing right this moment. In other words, I am still learning how to love others well.

So when my friend asked for prayer, I prayed the very first prayer that popped into my head for dealing with other people when they aren’t being easy (as if they ever are).

I prayed: “May the Spirit of God in me recognize the Image of God in you.”

That’s where we begin- With a simple recognition that God is indeed God, and also that God is indeed present in with and through each one of us, just as he was with Jesus.

How will that knowledge help us live better lives this week?

Amen.