the one about the trap...
October 22, 2017, 8:00 AM

Sermon from October 22, 2017

Text: Matthew 22:15-22

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, it is at this point in Jesus’ continued conversation with the religious elite (the same conversation we’ve been reading in for over a month now) that I think of one of my favorite scenes in one of my very favorite movies – Star Wars’ Return of the Jedi. Right at the moment that the climactic battle is to take place, the admiral of the Rebel Alliance comes to the great realization, “IT’S A TRAP!”

If there is one thing I learned from the Pharisees, religious elders, Herodians, and all those who were set to lay a trap against Jesus – it’s this: the quickest way to end a conversation you don’t want to be in is to talk about money.

Of course, the ‘trap’ they hope to spring is ingenious and simple. Should we pay taxes? If he says yes, he’ll lose the support of the crowds that love him so much – and they’ll possibly respond violently to that – they are an oppressed people after all. If he says no, then the Roman powers-that-be will have reason to silence him by any means necessary. He can’t get out.

Jesus, it’s a trap! Abort, abort, abort!

But, as usual, our Lord takes it another direction and cuts to the heart of the issue – the one that those asking didn’t even know that was there.

Let me back up for a minute. All the way back to Genesis, the stories of our creation and our beginnings as the people of faith. We read that God has vowed to create humanity in the likeness of God. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make humankind in our image – in our likeness.”

Each of us – you and I – have been created in God’s likeness. Every person we come across – every single one – has been created in God’s likeness. From the person you cannot stand to be apart from to the person who drives you mad with all his blunders. Each one, each person, has been created in God’s likeness.

And there’s some things that come with that.

First and foremost, we have been created. We are God’s very own. We have been fashioned from the earth and have had the breath of life fill our very selves. The same one who fashioned the intricacies of the galaxies is the very same one who knows the hairs upon our head. And I don’t believe God knows this stuff to ‘hold it over’ us (don’t cross me, I know who you are!), but instead knows us to remind us every day – through all the ways – about who and whose we are – God’s.

Fear not, I know who you are.

We are created, and we are created in God’s image. That calls us to be stewards of what God has created and to be good towards those who have been created in the image of God.

A theologian I respect greatly put it this way, ‘We were made in the image and likeness of God, and because we bear God’s likeness we are to act like God.”

Now, this doesn’t mean we behave as if we are gods. We don’t go around demanding that people bow to us, serve us, and shower us with adulation, devotion, and loyalty. As followers, created beings, and bearers of God’s image we are not called to that in life and perhaps we should be wary of those who do seek and need that sort of attention.

But, as that same theologian writes, we are to act like God – the one who creates, sustains, redeems, and saves. We are called to stand with God as partners in this life caring for all of creation – all of it – as if it were our own.

In many ways, the ones who come to Jesus with their trap – especially the Pharisees in the group – have forgotten whose and who they are. Instead of being covered in God’s image – and remembering that they are indeed created in God’s likeness – they have cozied up to the powers that be. They’ve covered themselves in masks that hide their true created nature. They’ve been pulled away from the very good news of their life. They’ve been lured away from the promise and hope of what it means to be made in the image of God.

I think this is something that we still suffer from today. We have forgotten in whose image we have been created. We have forgotten the goodness that we have already been declared to be. The goodness that is shown to us in our baptism where we remember again what God already thinks – we’re good. The goodness we are reminded each time we come to this table to receive this meal. We receive it because we are God’s and God has invited us to the table.

We are sent out into the world to proclaim this truth. This truth that we don’t need to cover ourselves up with all these other icons and images. We don’t have to dress ourselves up so that we might look ‘good’ to others. We don’t have to seek the approval of others in order to define our self-worth.

We already have that worth because we have been created in God’s own image.

We remember that. We live that life. We live out that life as we are called to act like the God we see in Christ our Lord. The one who gathers, cares for, speaks with, and dives into the messiness and craziness of relationship with all he meets.

And that’s where the difficulty lies. For if we are created in God’s image – because God has created us, we must remember that God has created the other before us as well. They too have been created in God’s own image. We are called to care for them – just as they are called to care for me, for us – because we are called to care for God’s creation as good stewards.

That can be hard, really hard.

But, we stay in these conversations and relationships. Guiding, showing, and encouraging others to see not only their worth in God’s eyes and mind, but sharing the equal worth of others in God’s eyes as well.

We get to live into this life and act like God. To act like the God we see in Jesus Christ our Lord. To act like the ones who create, nurture, care for, walk with, hold on to, bring to health, listen to sorrows, rejoice in joy, sit in silence with, speak boldly towards, and probably most importantly to love – no matter what – the person before us in our lives.

You are created in the image of God. We are created in God’s likeness.

We – as creations of God – we these beings created in God’s likeness – we probably should start acting like it. It would so benefit ourselves. It would be so good for those around us. Amen.

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