A Simple Anthropology – or – What is a Human Being?

We are burying a lot of people these days, and I just wanted to articulate something really simple.  There is enough fire these days burning away dross across the church, around the world, and here at home.


A human being is God-breathed creation, bears the image of God, and is created to be steward of creation.  We are the only creature said to be breathed by God, we carry the divine breath, but we are also river clay, a creation ourselves.  We are made to tend to creation, to rule over it.  This sounds like power and authority to destroy, but it really means that the Master of the House has put us in charge of tending and caring for the house as the Master would.  We know how God would tend the house by listening to the breath of God within us, the Holy Spirit, literally the Divine Breath or Wind in both Greek and Hebrew.  Our original job as humanity was to name and tend.

We are male and female.  We need both to bear the image of God.  We are not simple, and we need each other.  We need companionship.

We have failed.  All of us have failed.  We have failed to tend and care for creation and each other (part of creation as we are). We have not stayed in our place or lived up to our calling.  Humility is honesty about ourselves and others.  We have failed.

We are forgiven.  “While we were still sinners . . .” is how brother Paul put it, Jesus died for us, taking on himself the sin of the world in Jerusalem.  We were set free and forgiven at the cross.  Jesus took upon himself the sin and was slaughtered.  We take him in bread and wine like our passover every week, but the cross was reality before we came to realize it.  To be a human being is to be forgiven and set free.

We sell our free and forgiven selves into all kinds of slavery.  We are subjugated from birth sometimes, and we take on shackles throughout our lives.  But we are born free and meant to be free.

We are responsible to the Rule of God.  In Jesus the Rule of God has come to us.  We can live as the sons and daughters of God, bearing God’s image, and taking up our role as human beings when we return to the Holy Spirit and the Way, as the early church put it.  We have to let the Spirit of God teach us, remind us, and reshape us.  We follow Jesus and his teachings.

We are a royal priesthood.  As a royal (children of God) priesthood (representing God’s Rule of love, forgiveness, and wholeness of creation) we work to heal, set free, and tend to the creation and humanity.  We do this on the personal, the local, and the global level, but it begins in the heart.

We turn to the image of God and bow with our whole lives.  Our life becomes a life of reverence when we realize our calling.  I am honored to stand week after week naming the ways God’s breath has marked life after life as a priest.

This week is marked by grief as we grieve a life cut short by slavery to substance, no less holy or forgiven, but so much less free than it could have been.  It takes work to honestly name.

I ask your prayers and want to thank those of you who work to set free the bound, to heal the sick, to tend this wonderful dancing exhale of God we live in.  I love you all and ask your patience as we weep and turn aside.  I will pick up my tools again and join the work in a minute, but I need this moment to grieve and wipe the tears of my wife and family.

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