What does it mean to see the face of God in another?

When we look at another person, who or what do we hope to see?
msmithExperience says we are looking for connections and similarities. Experience also says we are often more at ease with someone who is alike, who may be related-either literally or figuratively-or which whom we may have shared experiences such as schooling, work, or political views.
The clear invitation of the Gospel is to look for those connections and similarities. We are to look but without the expectation that there will be sameness. We will discover similarities in our shared humanness, but the Gospel is clear that to insist on sameness is in opposition to the glory of God’s Creation. It is when we look into the heart of another before us that we can see God; just as we can be the imago Dei for them. Our differences are truly gifts from God and to be embraced.
Experience also shows that far too often we are looking for, wanting to see only those who look like us, think like us, believe like us, and act like us. This may be a primal urge in which our reptilian brain sees safety in sameness, but it is not the biblical invitation. Being male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile (as Paul wrote in Galatians) is not about differences disappearing. It is a recognition that we are to look out into the world and see the great diversity of Creation-and to celebrate these differences.
In reality, this is often hard for us to embrace. Think of all the ways that we separate-from what we eat and wear and where we live, to what we look like and how we believe. What I do know is that we cannot change how we see others and treat others unless we are willing to look at ourselves and learn.
We at St. Peter’s have made a commitment to look at racism and racial reconciliation. This includes building on what has been done and is being done, but it also includes asking the hard questions about how we individually and collectively must change. This is no easy thing but it is a blessed transformation; it is the way to live into the depth and richness of all God’s Creation and with all one’s sisters and brothers in Christ.

We can take next steps by participating in an upcoming Diocesan workshop called Seeing the Face of God in Others. In a substantive and guided way we can learn the damage done and being done to this country and to us as result of continuing racism on Saturday, November 14, here at St. Peter’s.  You can register online.

I invite you to be there. I will be there because there is always room to learn.
~ The Reverend L. Murdock Smith, Assisting Priest