From the President
Dear Friends of the North American Lutheran Seminary,
Created in His Image—this is the theme of the second issue of Word & Sacrament. Biblically, the imago Dei is what separates humanity from all other creatures. Only the man and the woman are created in the divine image and likeness (Genesis 1:27).
But, what exactly does this mean? What is it that makes human beings unique? After all, we share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees! But, that one percent difference is incredibly significant. The various authors in this issue will explore that difference.
So, let me weigh in on the question. While not an exhaustive definition, the one percent difference—the thing that sets human beings apart—is the ability to be “covenant-capable.” Of all the wonderful creatures created by God, only the man and the woman are capable of entering into covenant relationship with the divine.
The story of Adam and Eve gives expression to the truth of our capacity for covenant with God, but also of our capacity for breaking covenant. Fallen human beings are bent toward breaking covenant with God. It’s what we do best. How does a loving God respond?
In the fullness of time, “God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under [the covenant] of the Law to redeem those under the law” (Galatians 4:4). Full stop. Did you hear that? To save fallen humanity from ourselves (to redeem us), God sends forth God. God makes an eternal covenant with Himself through His Son. This covenant cannot be broken because God cannot break covenant with Himself. No amount of human unfaithfulness can cancel the Father’s faithfulness to His Son—and therefore to all who belong to the Son.
Christmas is called the Feast of the Incarnation. God is “incarnate” or “enfleshed” in Jesus. St. Paul writes that Jesus is “the image (or Icon) of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus faithfully keeps covenant with God and lives the kind of life that will get a person crucified. God remains faithful and the Son is not ultimately God-forsaken.
Christian faith is faith in the faithfulness of God. That last sentence needs to be repeated: Christian faith is faith in the faithfulness of God.
I remember Dr. Jim Nestingen once said in class, “Jesus loves you and he will never let you go.” Once we begin to believe this, and to whisper “Amen”, then we begin to understand what it means to be created in the image of God. No other creature has the capacity to say, “Amen.”
On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students of the North American Lutheran Seminary, I thank you for your faithfulness and wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas!
Yours in Christ Jesus,
The Rev. Dr. Eric M. Riesen
North American Lutheran Seminary