April 2: Transforming into the Image of Christ

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Monday, April 2, 2018

A Note From the Chaplain

Dear Friends,

Christ is risen!!!  Grace and peace to you in this Easter season!!

I write first and foremost with a word of thanks.  Thank you for being a part of the SFTS devotional conversation during Lent.  As we invite writers to the series, we hope to reflect and express some of the diversity of the SFTS community – our students, faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni.  Our Lenten devotional reading community is even more expansive: On any given day during the series, readers are opening the devotions and praying together on at least 5 continents – people of different nations, and faith perspectives, and life experiences – all of us part of one body.

This Lent, each day we have encountered a Scripture together – and listened – listened for a Word out of the Scripture’s context, and the writer’s, and our own – so that together, empowered and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, we might become an embodied Word to bless the world God loves.  Thank you for being a part of this season of listening and prayer.

I am delighted to be able to send you one more devotion.  This devotion is from SFTS Professor Emeritus Herman Waetjen.  Professor Waetjen offers up a story, and then – rooted and grounded in 2 Corinthians 3:18 – reminds us that minute by minute we are being transformed into the image of the Risen Christ.

May this vital and loving Word bless your way as you continue on into this season of Easter.

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Scott Clark
Chaplain, San Francisco Theological Seminary

 
 

Transforming into the Image of Christ
2 Corinthians 3:18

There is a delightful story, which the Zulus tell, of a man of the early race who possessed a wonderful herd of cattle. Every day he took them out to the veld himself and chose the best grazing for them. He watched over them like a mother over her children. In the evening, he would bring them back to his kraal and seal the entrance carefully with branches of the toughest thorn to protect them from wild animals. And while they chewed the cud, he would watch over them, thinking, “In the morning I shall have a wonderful lot of milk to draw from them.”

One morning, however, he went to his kraal expecting to find the udders of his cows full of milk, but he was surprised to find them wrinkled and empty. His first thought was self-reproach: he had chosen their grazing badly. The next day he would take them to better grass. He brought them home that evening and thought, “Tomorrow with certainty I shall get more milk than before.” But again, in the morning the udders were dry and empty. For the second time he changed their grazing, and yet again the cows had no milk.

Disturbed and suspicious, he decided to stay up and keep watch on the cattle throughout the night. In the middle of the night he was astonished to see a cord of finely woven fiber descending from the stars. Coming down the cord he saw young women of the people of the sky. They were beautiful and joyful, whispering and laughing softly among themselves. He watched them steal into the kraal with their calabashes and milk his cattle dry. Angry and indignant, he jumped out of his hiding place to catch them. They scattered in all directions, and he did not know which way to run. In the end, he managed to catch only one, and while he was chasing her, the others all fled heavenward. The last person pulled up the cord so that he could not follow.

But the man was content because the woman he had caught was the loveliest of them all. They fell in love and she became his wife, and from that moment he had no more trouble from the people of the sky. He and his new wife were happy, and they prospered. But there was one thing that worried him. When he had met his wife, she had had a basket. It was skillfully woven, indeed, so tight that he could not see through it; and it had a lid that fit the opening perfectly. Before she had married him, she had made him promise that he would never lift the lid of the basket and look inside until she gave him permission to do so. If he did, a great disaster would overtake them both. Months went by, and the man began to forget his promise. He became more curious about the basket, continuously wondering what was inside it.

One day when he was alone he went into his wife’s hut and saw the basket there in the shadows. He could bear it no longer. Snatching off the lid, he looked inside. For a moment he stood unbelieving; then he burst out laughing. When his wife returned in the evening, she knew at once what had happened. She looked at him with tears in her eyes, “You’ve looked into the basket!” He admitted it with a laugh saying, “Why have you made such a fuss about this basket? There’s nothing in it at all.” “Nothing?” she said, hardly finding the strength to speak. “Yes, nothing,” he said emphatically. At that she turned her back on him and walked straight into the sunset and vanished. She was never seen on earth again.

Why did she go away? Not because he had broken his promise and looked inside the basket. But because looking inside the basket, he had found it empty. For in reality it was full of beautiful things of the sky she had stored there for both of them. And, because he could not see them and just laughed, there was no use for her on earth anymore, and so she vanished.

God gave Israel a wonderful basket, and in the fullness of time Jesus of Nazareth opened it and began to share with others the great and beautiful gifts which it contained. “The rule of God has drawn near,” he proclaimed. “The fruit on the tree of Life has ripened and is ready for picking. Eat, enjoy and be renewed!”

Many have been content to wait for the opening of the basket at some time in the distant future. Others have looked into the basket and seen nothing. But those who look into the basket with eyes of faith begin to see all the wonderful things which the basket contains. In ecstasy, the Apostle Paul could exclaim, “Oh the depth of the wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God! For all things are from God and through God and into God.” God is not only the Source and Originator of all things we are privileged to have and enjoy. God himself (herself) is in fact the very gift that he (she) wants to give. It is the gift of being restored to the image and likeness of God by being drawn into the very being and life of God through a continuous process of transformation:

“Now we all with unveiled face contemplating the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory into glory, even as it is from the Lord of the Spirit.”

This transformation is not simply a recovery of the image and likeness of God in which Adam and Eve were created. They were created as “living souls, living selves.” We are being transformed into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ who throughout his earthly ministry was a “life-giving spirit.” Jesus, throughout his earthly ministry brought love, healing, restoration, joy to his fellow human beings, and that is why he, more than any other human being in history, has become the mirror of God’s likeness. He is the true image and likeness of God. And our destiny is to be transformed into his image and likeness, because that is the image and likeness of God. It is our transformation from being “living souls” to becoming “life-giving spirits.” And as “life-giving spirits” we, like Jesus, can bring love, healing, restoration and joy into the lives of our fellow human beings.

Rev. Dr. Herman Waetjen
SFTS Emeritus Professor of New Testament