In the last half of 2012, across the street at the Wexner Center, there was an extraordinary exhibit on display by one of the greatest contemporary photographers. Annie Leibovitz began taking photos while working for Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 and since then, she has had this unbelievable ability of capturing powerful, evocative, and stirring photographs of some of the most public figures of each decade. From rock stars to Hollywood actresses to presidents, Annie has been invited into some of the more intimate and personal moments and has created amazing photographs that have become iconic in our age. The largest part of the exhibit across the street though was her own chosen master set – 156 images that she had taken of public and private figures, some including her own family. These were enlarged and put on display for all to see.
Everyone from Richard Nixon to Michael Jackson to Cindy Crawford.
Mick Jagger, Whoopi Goldberg, Brad Pitt, and Barack & Michelle Obama.
And interspersed was an occasional picture of a not so public figure, a Cherokee mother, a college student waiting on the tarmack of Houston, TX airport – hoping to get a glimpse of a famous Hindu Guru…
But There was this one series of portraits that I just couldn’t step away from.
They were the photographs of four Vegas showgirls. They were dressed in all their fancy sequined costumes, headdress and all, feathers, heels, etc. Their faces beautifully covered in makeup. Each of them looked gorgeous and glamorous and larger than life.
And in the portraits just to the left – were the same four women.
These photographs were in black and white. The women wore simple clothing, no makeup and 1 of them was photographed holding her two daughters.
And for me – this was the heart of the exhibit – this deep reminder that no matter what we put on – no matter how we might dress ourselves up – no matter how others may view us.
At the end of the day, we are just people.
what struck me in each of these photographs, is how she had managed to portray these larger than life individuals – people who we sometimes revere, idolize, and place on pedestals – she had managed to portray them as real and vulnerable, as people who were deeply human, imperfect, and yet also – beautiful.
I was struck that day at how often I fail to remember this – whether with people I know – or with people I observe from afar.
How quickly I am to make judgments of others, to put them into a category,
That waitress, or that idiot in the car in front of me, or that cranky church person.
And I was deeply thankful for the way that
Annie’s remarkable photographs invited me anew to remember the humanity that we all share, the humanity that across all our differences, binds us all together.
This seeing each other as human – relating to one another as God invites us to – it is not easy work. It’s hard when we think about public figures, but it can be just as hard with our own family.
In our Scripture today.
I imagine it was hard for Jacob and Esau.
Because Esau was born first, he received the birthright.
He received the blessing.
And it is evident that Jacob – having been born just minutes after his older brother – wanted this blessing. Wanted this birthright.
And he wanted it so much that when his brother was gone hunting – and when he knew he would come home famished.
He made a delicious stew – and told him that he would give him some.
If he gave over the birthright.
And Esau – who is hungry – and who, in this moment, is only interested in working through his hunger – agrees.
Esau is just a means to the birthright.
And Jacob is just a means to a meal.
How easy it can be to focus on what we want instead of focusing on the person.
And the person becomes a means to an end.
An object instead of a human being.
In the story of our creation…
God spoke the words –
Let us make human kind – in our own image.
And so, God created human kind in God’s own image, male and female God created them – in the image of God.
From the first chapter of our story as a people of faith – we are reminded – that when we look at one another – we are beholding the very image of God.
When I look at you…
The very image of God is before me.
And though there might be something for me to gain by interacting with you – my primary way of relating to you – ought to begin in the recognition that you are a fellow human, a fellow creation of God – beloved and broken, just like me.
It’s a hard thing to do as an individual. Because we are complicated people.
But it’s especially hard to do on a wider, communal, and political level.
When we have to make laws and legislation that govern our communities, our churches, and our states – it is hard to do so in ways that remember our humanity – and don’t reduce us to objects or numbers or votes.
Some of us have lost hope in our political process as being capable of this work at all, but I am thankful for the reminders that Jesus’ call to love and live in the world had political implications on how our communities were ordered.
That sharing our faith – also means speaking the truth to those in power about how we feel God has called us to relate to one another…
And so, I’ve invited Rob Young, from Equality Ohio to come and share with us a bit about the work he is doing in the political realm –
1. One of the things you are working on is a legislative campaign to end workplace and housing discrimination against LGBT persons. Can you tell us some of the ways that this is impacting the lives of people right here in Ohio?
2. Part of your work is to connect with faith communities like Summit to help accomplish this work – why do you think this work is important – particularly for people of faith?
3. So, what is our next step?
As some of you may be choosing to sign these letters and place them here on the table as an offering today, asking our legislators to remember the humanity in all of us.
(To Find Out more about the campaign, go to http://www.equalityohio.org/ehea/
You can also sign the letter we signed in church by clicking HERE)
I invite you to be prayerful around where God is inviting you to grow in this area.
Where are you struggling to see someone else as made in the image of God? Where is God inviting you to grow?