October 22, 2017
Matthew 22:15-22, Genesis 1:26
In my previous call, I had the opportunity to sit among fellow pastors and leaders in the community as we came together in an effort to be ecumenical. The intention had mostly been to see how we can best serve the community in which we lived. How, as a varied group of Christians, could we reach out to the needs of the community and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Our own personal theologies would begin to show at this time and honestly, my beliefs did not always line up with their beliefs. This is where it got difficult for me. I was left struggling with this internal debate about how we could possibly do ministry together. While we all seemed to end up at the cross, we all had very different means of getting there. It was difficult to participate is some of the activities when you did support the means. At times, these meetings were more stressful than they were rewarding.
Fortunately, the congregations in Richmond work well together. We have opportunities to worship together and opportunities to serve alongside on another.
However, the stinging rebuke that Jesus gives to the leaders in the temple makes us wonder. This rebuke is one that makes us look within our own lives. “You hypocrites,” he says. A word that seems to be thrown around so easily today whenever we do not agree with the beliefs of another person, or that person is not following our beliefs. We may even hear the word ourselves from others that question our belief system.
We are seen as hypocrites when we do not follow our own beliefs to the tee. Despite the fact that we are broken people living in a broken world. We struggle with many of the things that happen within our world and are left wondering where our Christian faith is getting us. There are Christians on every side of a debate using the bible to back up their side. This leaves little room for the Holy Spirit to work in our midst and the love of God seems to vanish.
The leaders attempt to put Jesus in an uncomfortable place when they ask him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” They find themselves pretty clever because surely Jesus has been backed into the corner now. His response though is inspired as he calls them out. Whose image is on the coin? Oh, Caesar’s? Then give to the emperor what is his and to God, what is God’s.
The Pharisee’s are hypocrites, because they are carrying around a coin with the emperor’s face on it. Not only that, but it also speaks of his divinity! A divinity that we know can only be found in God and the Son, Jesus Christ. They are breaking the first commandment, you shall have no other gods.
What is it then that we should share with God? Perhaps, returning to Genesis may help. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
As we should hand over to the emperor, what is the emperors, then we should hand over to God what is emblazoned with God’s image.
In Jesus’ words, we have been challenged. Challenged to live up to the image that we bear ourselves. The image of God, imago Dei, that is with us all of our days and within it we are called to love and serve one another.
This morning we have eight youth that are affirming this image they were born with. Not only that, they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the sign of a cross in their baptisms. A baptism in which their parents and sponsors promised to lead and teach them in the faith that they are now affirming in their own words and making public profession of that faith.
Imagine what would happen if we were all so public in boldly professing this faith that our youth are professing this morning!
Imagine the difference that we would make in the world if we lived out the image that we bear of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Imagine if we were to truly live into the words of our baptisms and those that we hear in the affirmation of baptism and continue in the covenant God made with us: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
If we were to truly live out the calling that God has placed upon our hearts and to live out those baptismal promises, the kingdom of God would be in our midst.
Let us pray, God of all, you work in and among us when we are not even aware. May we be open to the words you have placed upon us in our baptisms and strive to live a life worthy of your image in the midst of our brokenness. Amen.