Chaplain's Reflection: in whose image?

Chaplain Fr Richard Browning

Chaplain Fr Richard Browning

A most extraordinary encounter occurred last Wednesday. 

A beautiful kindy student looked at me eyeball to eyeball and simply said: ‘when I grow up I want to be a Godly Play story teller. Just like you’. 

Oh my goodness. 

I could not say how many stories I have told – thousands easily. And a young student wishes to become a teller? I speak out of this Bible week after week after week, and from it, face forward to any who is listening and the young student alike: whatever is your God, there is the image into which you move. 

When speaking of the God of the Christian scriptures, if the image of this God includes violence, then we accept that violence is something that is possible from the outflowing of our faith. If God can be violent, then in the ‘right’ circumstances, so can the followers of this God. 

If the image of God carries the character traits of hard line exclusiveness, then the followers of this same God will practise the same. 

Of course, wrestle with the scriptures, limp away from them, even, but be blessed by them and discover, there is no violence in God, and embrace and universal welcome abounds. The measure of our scriptures is Jesus, the crucified, innocent, risen Victim who returns and brings peace. See here in plain view: there is no violence at all in God; see clearly here there is a love and graciousness freely given to all, without condition. This good news does not mean ‘so therefore be good’, it just means God is good. (The only recorded act of violence of Jesus was the cleansing of the temple – an outburst directed at the ‘religious’ who had devised the means for excluding the commoner and the poor, and turning it into profit. Matthew 21:12-13

So, in receiving ourselves from the God of Jesus Christ, we abhor any and all denial of universal human dignity; we decry all sounds and acts of racism and bigotry; we harbour no inclination for exclusion and expulsion, only welcome and embrace. This is the radical ‘patriotism’ asked of any Christian, an allegiance to the ‘fatherland’ that belongs to the Father who art in heaven. All nationalism and any other ‘ism’ is subservient to this expression of faith, in which all are known to God and belong in the kingdom of heaven. This is the news that transforms everything. It makes many uncomfortable, but it is good.

From the God whose face is Jesus, receive this good news.




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