20th Sunday after Pentecost 2017

Sermon Title: 20th Sunday after Pentecost 2017
Date: 22nd October 2017
Preacher: Rev Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: 20th Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary Reading: Exodus 33: 12-23, Psalm 991, Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-33

For many years I didn’t like people not knowing who I was and were often confusing me with my twin sister, Kaye, understandably, since we were very identical.

I also didn’t appreciate when I was younger, how people said I looked so much like my mother. Of course I didn’t!  She’s much older than me!

As I’ve got older myself, I am now very glad of the family resemblance that we have and that’s not just in looks but other characteristics as well… though some things like legs like my grandfather and mother, not so fond of!

I’m sure you all have family resemblances. Some things maybe you wished you didn’t have and others things rather chuffed about.

The resemblance can also be between best friends, those who know you well and you them and that ‘connection’ is there.

Today I want to speak briefly about who we belong to and can people detect a family resemblance at all?

I’m sure you know the verse from the opening chapter of Genesis where it says “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”  Genesis 1:26

Likeness- ikon– is the word used in the Septuagint (Greek translation) of Genesis and is also the word Matthew chooses in the gospel today. It’s translated ‘head’ in our Bibles but the word is ‘likeness’ in the Greek.  Jesus had asked for a denarius and then said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” better translated as: “Whose ‘likeness’ is this, and whose title?”

The Pharisees said it’s the emperors and Jesus then says “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Maybe those who heard Jesus’ words would have twigged about the connection between the ‘likeness’ from God’s initial promise in Genesis, which is we bear God’s likeness and are therefore made to be more than we sometimes realize.

“Pause for a moment to let that sink in.  We were made in the image and likeness of God, and because we bear God’s likeness we are to act like God.  Not mind you, like gods, those who lord their authority over others for self-gain, but rather like God – the One who creates and sustains and nurtures and redeems and saves … no matter what the cost.  We are called, that is, to serve as God’s agents, God’s partners, and God’s co-workers, exercising dominion over creation not as an act of power but rather as an act of stewardship and extending to all the abundant life God wishes for all.”[i]

In the Matthew’s gospel passage today, Jesus knew that the Pharisees and Herodians were trying to trap him… and flatter his ego! He saw through this and called them out… you hypocrites!  Hypocrites are those who have quite literally taken to wearing another, and false, likeness. They had forgotten who they are, in whose likeness they were made.

A little remembrance about my mum.  Each night from the time I can remember, she would sit up in bed, hands together in prayer and lips silently moving.  If we came into the bedroom we weren’t allowed to interrupt until mum had finished her prayers.  Mum prayed every single night of her life until a few months ago when I said to her, it’s alright mum, we will pray for you … you don’t need to now.

Such as example of faithfulness!

In the letter to the Thessalonians we heard that the people became an example to others.  So you too are to become an example so that people will know that you are God’s!

Mum didn’t advertise that this is what she did… she was a very private woman.  But it was in her actions, her regular attendance at church and through her ability to get through some very tough times, this is what sustained her. Her remembering who she was and who she belonged to.

All our lives are complex with so much going on for each of us.

So many daily decisions and actions we have to make.

With big issues at the moment such as euthanasia and same sex marriage, as just two examples, these are to be worked out individually and communally with respect as we talk and listen to each other who may have differing views.

We need to help each other to remember God’s word and promise that we are made in God’s own image and likeness and therefore are called to live in a way that others may detect the family resemblance.

Magdalen Smith in her book Fragile Mystics says: ‘The Incarnation means that we cannot dislocate our lives from the capacious life of God that flows through the arteries of humanity.’[ii]

Through the arteries of each of us!

“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness:.. a lot more going on here than just appearance!

We will need to wrestle with whether we like all the ‘resemblance’, as we try to make sense of what Jesus says and how that impacts our lives.

Can you claim, maybe yet again, who you belong to?

Can people detect a family resemblance?

The Lord be with you.


[i] In the Meantime by David Lose 2017

[ii] Page 79