Origins

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves…. God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! – Genesis 1:26, 31

I love exploring the origins of words and phrases. For instance, did you ever wonder where the phrase “the dog days of summer” came from? I did! So I looked it up and learned that the ancient Romans called the hottest, most humid days of summer “diēs caniculārēs” or “dog days.” The name came about because they associated the hottest days of summer with the star Sirius. Sirius was known as the “Dog Star” because it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). How cool is that?

Or how about the word “piggyback”? I read that word in a children’s book last week and found myself wondering, “Where did that come from?” It started out in the sixteenth century as pick pack, carrying something on the back or shoulders. Pick is a medieval version of pitch, so it meant a load that was pitched on to a person’s back for carrying. A little later, pickpack meant a ride on somebody’s shoulders.

After that, matters began to get muddled. Pack was changed into back through the obvious associations. Then it became pick-a-back. Finally, the pigs came along, in the nineteenth century, by a confusion between pick and pig, an obvious-enough change, not least because pick made no more sense to people in the word in those days than it does today. Piggy-back came along later in the century, with piggyback a modern loss of the hyphen. [1].

Last week I spent some devotional time in the two creations stories recorded in Genesis. Both epic stories say some remarkable things about our origins. The stories proclaim that we’re here because God wants us to be here. God spoke us into being and breathed us into live. They tell us that we are intimately connected to everything that God made and declared “good”. But the stories also say that we are uniquely made in the image of God, small reflections of God’s glory in this world.

And why does it matter that we know our origins? Because we need to be reminded where we’ve come from, especially on those days when we are less-than good, when we struggle with feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness. And we need to be reminded where others come from, especially on those days when we struggle to see beyond people’s faults and failures.

So today, remember who you are: a beloved child of God. And remember where you come from: the heart of the One who loves you and wants you to be, right here and right now. And remember that that’s true of others as well. Most importantly, treat yourself and others as if you believe it.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.

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