From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
At Berkeley Preparatory School, I hold a spiritual discipline of referring to students as children of God. What children of God are absent today? This mistake is what you have done – a child of God is who you are. What did that curious child of God get into today?
This, of course, is rooted in my theological understanding of humanity as created in God’s image; radiating the goodness of God in the world. Paul illuminates this notion in the text above, beckoning us to regard one another not from a human standpoint, but instead as reconciled and beloved creatures of God. Easy to do when human reflections line up with God’s likeness. But, in times of abuse or egregious harm, distorted reflections are on display in the world, challenging me to evermore continue to see God in the face of the wayward other.
This is one of the many ways the Christian Season of Lent is helpful. Commencing with Ash Wednesday*, when believers are reminded they are dust, and to dust they shall return, Lent is a seven-week period of fasting and confession. People of the tradition not only recall mortality and the fleeting nature of life, but Lent also serves as a stark reminder of personal waywardness; of how we all distort God’s image. In this season, we are called to look in the mirror and engage this distortion, vowing to turn from waywardness to God’s loving embrace.
With this inward glance, believers hope to claim God’s presence within, to stir up the beloved and reconciled self. We may then have the courage to claim the same in the faces of others – even those wayward ones. For, it is more difficult to focus on the who-ness of fellow creatures, and much easier to hone in on the mishaps of humanity.
I ran into a former student, who recently transitioned to Plant High, at a football game this fall. He came up to me and said, “Chaplain Brandon, remember me? I’m now at Plant but I am still a child of God!” Yes, you are, son. Yes, you are.
May we all do so well to remember this truth. Amen.
*To give our community the opportunity to observe Ash Wednesday (March 6), I will be stationed around campus before and after school, at break times, and during lunches. Students, faculty, and parents are welcome to come up and receive ashes. For anyone who observes another religious tradition, or is simply uncomfortable with this mark on their forehead, I am delighted to offer an inclusive blessing instead.
Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,400 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.