As we look at the story of humanity as revealed in the Bible, we see a God who is deeply connected to the narrative of His dusty imagebearers. This God who is omniscient (all knowing), is also Omnipresent (ever present) and omnipotent (all powerful). Yet He is unbelievably also with us. If the narrative is a story of God, it is also a story of us. God has tied the two stories together, by inviting us into fellowship with Him. He pulls back the curtain throughout the timeline to reveal Himself, as present, intimate and personal. He enters time and space over and over again to make Himself known, in a relevant way that we as His embodied imagebearers can understand. We can experience Him and apply this truth to their lives. The Bible reveals God over time as God with us. Ahead of us and eager to involve us, Fellowship with the Trinity is both the beginning and the end of time. The infinite God working hand in hand with finite creatures. He is the engineer of it all, the pilot who navigates the whole cosmos to a definite end. Who is sovereign but not at all controlling over the entire journey. Moses said to God, “If your presence does not go with us, we will not go on!” Exodus 33:15
We often think of our humanity as the one thing that keeps holding us back, we view it like a noose around our neck, a constant reminder that we are limited, frail and finite. This is a story of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but it is just as much a story of creation. Creatures and human imagebearers; body, soul and spirit. In fact, you would think that God may want to rid us of our humanity as much as we do. It turns out the opposite is actually true, God seems to have an elevated view of our humanity that may be worth paying attention to. He made us the pinnacle of creation and decided that He would reflect Himself most in us – In our humanity and all that it entails. We long to rid ourselves of our body, our limited minds, our strong emotions. To find release to finally be something untethered – free and unlimited. In fact, when God says, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”, we think that means to become spiritual – to also become disembodied. Sometimes we can be tempted to wish for a future where we will be more angelic, not stuck in a human body and free from all that inhibits us. We want to be infinite, all knowing, all powerful and everywhere at once. It seems God made us human and said that is very good. If so, why do I long to be something, someone, anything else? As we engage with this story we may wonder along with the Psalmist, “What is man that you are mindful of Him?” Psalm 8:4-8
At each step of the narrative, we see that we are changed in the journey. A new revelation of God changes things, while His consistency also means that other aspects remain the same. So we look for the familiar even more desperately when we arrive in a new place we have not been before. Suddenly, we have to find our bearings based on what we already know. Embracing the change and being flexible to rethink everything. Sometimes the change is subtle, yet profound, at other times, it is monumental and we have to reframe everything. It can be painful and joyful too. We need to be aware that even the smallest change to our journey can mean that we have to adapt ourselves to follow a whole new way of thinking. The itinerary we are following starts in a garden and ends in a technologically advanced glorious city. In a new creation – incorporating both God’s work and our own human endeavours – as we create culture. At each point in the journey, we must look for what has changed and what has stayed consistent. There will be much that is familiar and other aspects of the journey that are entirely fresh and new. The goal of traveling is to experience all of it as we go through life embodied. “When the crowds heard this they were astonished…” Matthew 22:33
The big story of God is an all encompassing one, it is gigantic and epic and that is why we call it “Biblical” in proportion. We start with God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creating all things out of nothing. God made all things, the whole cosmos with a word. So God’s story begins with All things, the Bible also says that God holds all things together by the power of His Word. Finally it also says that He will finish the work that He has started and that His word will not return void, bringing all things under His feet and reconciling all things back to God. When we make the gospel, the good news of God, about anything less than a cosmological plan. The blueprint for all creation, all creatures, all imagebearers. We make the gospel very small indeed. God created everything, sustains everything and calls everything back to Himself. It is a story that encompasses creation, visible and invisible, Heaven and earth, every atom included in His plan. He has not just come to save our souls, He has come to redeem back all that He created. As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. God wants to complete the good work that He started. In redeeming all things back to Himself, “whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood.” Colossians 1:20
There is much pain to enter into in this world. This pain is a sign that there is something wrong, our bodies tell us immediately that we need to pay attention to where it hurts. Much of the pain of our existence is what makes life so difficult, it can be unbearable and we can feel the isolation of it, feeling as if no-one could ever imagine what we are feeling or how badly it hurts. It seems that God knew what He was doing when He created all things and made us in His image, He was taking a huge risk that may cause Him the most pain of all. He made us in His image. He feels, He is observant and He does not turn His back, clench His fist or change the channel on suffering. When we suffer we struggle to find God. Still, we are told that “the lamb slain since before the foundation of the earth” has entered into the pain of sacrifice from then, even before we entered the pain of sin, God was already sacrificial. Revelation 13:8
In order for us to be effective communicators, we use images constantly. These images are entered into to express ideas. To convey new information and to warn. To encourage, educate, provoke thought or shine a spotlight on issues that demand attention. Our goal as designers is to compel others to action. We work with physical things. We develop tools, music, engage with technology and record film. Capture photographs and choreograph images into dance, architecture, pigment and language. In every case, we bear images out into the world. Capturing both the immense beauty of our world, while also documenting the devastating misery that we encounter too. We need to be able to navigate our work with deep compassion for the human condition, to bear in mind that we work to image God in all that we do. As a reflection of who we are coming to know Him to to be. Our work, we will see, is a co-labour between an infinite God and us, His finite creatures. He invites us to a meaningful and desperately joyful, creative work. Exodus 31:3
To have the assurance of a great overarching story is a wonderful security. It means that we are living with purpose, dignity and meaningful interaction with one another. With all things, most of all with a God who has a great story. One in which from the start we have been invited into as creatures and players and sojourners. We are on a journey – the Biblical narrative moves in a great story arc that captures our origins in peace and calm as we move from formless and void to beauty, order and abundance. We begin in a temple garden and end in a beautifully advanced city. At each stage of this journey, we can and should check our itinerary to see where we are, what is happening and how we fit in the midst of God’s big story. He is writing it with us as Co-labourers, Co-authors and Co-designers. He does the lion’s share of the work, but our work matters too, as we shall see.