The art of photography has come a long way in my meager lifetime. My daughters each experienced a photography class at their High School this past semester. They learned the rudiments of photo science by making a crude pinhole camera out of a tin can and exposed a layer of film on the inside, which was later developed with wet chemicals. In the process they learned that by adjusting the exposure times and having people move out of the picture frame or into the frame during exposure they could make people look like ghosts in the developed photograph. They learned to color black and white photos, and what photo shop used to mean before the digital age. Then, after all that, they learned to do it all with digital cameras, photo-shop software, and instantaneous results.
They went through one hundred and fifty years of advances in photography in the period of a semester, but with all the advances in the art of photography, one thing they did not learn how to do, because still no one knows how to do, is to take a picture of God.
Infrared images allow us to picture living creatures hiding behind walls. Radar images allow us to picture the geology beneath the surface of landscapes. Magnetic resonance allows us to picture the soft tissues of the body and see what is inside a person. Yet no imaging technology has allowed us to picture God.
Yet God has not left us to simply imagine what he looks like. One of the modern trends, especially in casual photography, is the “selfie.” For those unfamiliar, that’s when the photographer poses and takes the picture of himself or herself. Occasionally accomplished in decades past, the term “selfie,” has been coined in recent years because digital mobile phone cameras have made the practice simple, and social media has launched it into a craze. “Selfies” are posted and shared by people wishing to update friends on their doings in all sorts places and situations.
It might be a new term, but allow me to suggest that our God is the originator of the “selfie.” It started with him. No person is able to capture an image of God, but God chose to image himself, and to post that “selfie” for us. The apostle Paul links us to his post. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). The blogger to the Hebrews does the same, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:2).
In other words, God’s “selfie” is Jesus. Now there is a filter. It’s God in the flesh of our humanity, but that is so that we can see him. We can’t see him in any other way. Jesus said to one of his disciples, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Okay, so Jesus disciples got to see this “selfie” of God but what about us? Peter even reminds us in 1 Peter 1:8, that we have not had that privilege, “though you have not seen him, you love him.” He says it as if the post has not been shared with us. Ahh but it has, and here is how it has. Paul says in Romans 8:29 that God planned, predestined us to be, “conformed into the image of his Son.” So God continues to share his “selfie” with the world through you and me.
At Holy Cross for the last year, and now starting into a second year, we are living our mission of Belonging, Believing, and Bearing Fruit in Jesus by focusing on the five year vision of “Leading with loving service to bring the Spokane community closer to Christ.” This is more than just a statement. More than a goal. This is a kind of photographic art. Jesus led with loving service with a basin and towel, with five loaves and two fish, with the words “take up your mat and walk,” and with the news that he came, “not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). It was that loving service that drew people close to him. As we do that, as we lead with loving service in our community, people see in us the image of Jesus, who first did so for us. The image of Jesus, is the image of God. So instead of taking a “selfie,” this month and posting it. Consider taking a God “selfie.” Lead with loving service, and in so doing give someone a picture of Christ!