Sermon October 19: Whose Image?

Here is the Audio Link

Matthew 22:15-22

Whose Image?

Things aren’t always as they seem.

Any fan of fantasy or science fiction can attest to that. The world of Harry Potter is full of unforeseen twists and turns. In the Game of Thrones, all we seem to know for certain is that Winter is Coming. We don’t expect in Neverwhere that the angels turn out to be a bit more nefarious than we expect. We were shocked when we learned that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. And of course, with Dr. Who – well, just run.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

Masks are put on to present faces we want the world to see. A mask of confidence. A mask of compassion. A mask of power. We strap on the image we want to present to the world. Sometimes that image influences the rest of our being; the mask of confidence causes us to straighten our spine and make it safely through difficult times. Other times, though, the mask becomes something outside of ourselves. A mask of power covers the hopelessness that is constantly at our core. A mask of compassion, covers the contempt we really feel towards those in need.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

And that is what is happening in today’s Gospel. The students of the pharisees and those loyal to Herod come to entrap Jesus. They are wearing their masks of pride, and Jesus sees through he mask and causes them to look in the mirror and truly ask, whose image.

****

After Jesus had scared the pharisees by telling them that God takes the rejected stone and uses the rejected ones to build a new kingdom, they retreat back to the temple. Their masks of concern had been take off to reveal the face of contempt. They had tried to trap Jesus, but now left humiliated and vengeful. They needed to find a way to trap him – either by him rejecting the God of Israel and blaspheming or by causing him to become more of a threat to the Roman authorities. Something had to be done.

While they were laying out their plans, Jesus remained on the Temple steps teaching those gathered about a wedding feast that a king was having and how he had sent invitations to those who were closest to him. He had prepared the finest banquet imaginable. As Jesus described the feast, the gathered people accustomed to abject poverty were able to get a glimpse of heave.

The king had invited all of his friends, but each one had an excuse to ignore the invitation. Fed up with it all, the king opened the table to all who were in the streets. All of the forgotten and frowned upon. The king destroyed the palaces of power that were the possession of those who ignored him, but to those who had been outcast – the king saw through their masks and saw their hurting and hunger and opened to them his gates.

The kings saw, things are not always as they seem.

As he was finishing this story, the pharisees, afraid to be seen without their masks had sent their students to try to trap Jesus. These students partnered with some of the Herod’s troops in their attempt.

Wearing their masks of pride, they butter Jesus up saying, “Teacher – you are a good man, a wise man…in fact we call you teacher. We know you are faithful and know truly what the scriptures say and we trust your opinion – So, settle for us. Should we pay taxes to Caesar?”

Jesus, seeing through the prideful masks – seeing their deviousness and dedication to their dogma, rips their masks off.

“Hypocrites! Anyone can see what you are doing. Give me a coin….Now whose image is on it?”

Pausing – confounded they reply, “Caesar.”

“Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”

Things aren’t always as they seem. The students left stunned. Amazed. In his response he had shown them the mask they wear and in that they had seen their reflection. They left asking whose image?

Things aren’t always as they seem.

****

Jesus unmasks they powers for what they are – idols that have only one purpose. To separate God’s beloved from God. And the masks we wear are reflections of the powers.

In telling the students and the followers of Herod that they should give to Caesar what is his and to God what is God’s he unmasked the truth of the situation. He revealed to them that the image – the true unmasked image is that of God. For the earth is the Lord’s and all things in it. He exposed to them the face of the idolatry they were hanging on to. And with the words – Give to God all that is God’s – he turned the tables yet again.

In trying to trap Jesus, Jesus took their masks off and gave them truth.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

The masks we wear start to become us. We look in the mirror and see the reflection of the mask we are wearing. But Jesus is asking us whose image is on the coin. Whose reflection to we see? Whose image is on the mask?

Is it the image of political allegiances that bind rationality and reason? Is it the image that reflects the ideology that liberals as leftist anarchists bent on destroying the country or conservatives are science denying simpletons worried only about themselves? Is it the image of the daily news throwing in our faces the fear of Ebola?

Whose image is in the mirror? Whose image is the mask?

Is it the image of fear? Is it the image of the mountains of bills backing up on the dining room table? Is it the image of an enemy created in the image of some false creator – the scary black man, the redneck hillbilly, the brown skinned Muslim, the immigrant with out papers? Is the image that causes us to loose sleep at night a reflection of the mask of fear?

Whose image is in the mirror? Whose image is the mask?

Is it the mask of money, building an idol to mammon in our midst? Is is the reflection of unintended or intended self-centeredness because what’s mine is mine and keep your hands off it? Is it the mask of hubris that reminds the world that you have what you have because you worked hard for it, and if you don’t have anything it is your own fault.

Whose image is in the mirror? Whose image is the mask?

Can you even see the reflection? Has the mask been on so long it has molded to your face? Have they eyeholes closed up and you can not even see the mirror? Whose image?

Jesus asks whose image is on the idol in their hands, and tells them that it is all God’s. The copper of the coming came from the mine in the mountain that God laid at the foundations of the earth. The earth is the Lord’s and all that dwells therein.

Jesus takes the mask off and reveals something beautiful. Underneath the mask meant to protect is the image of the Divine. The refection in the mirror, if the mask is removed is the it image of the one who created – who created all of this.

Jesus takes our masks off and calls us into him. You are the Lord’s. Jesus turns the tables and smashes the idols that we wear and asks us, whose image? In whose image are you made? In whose image do you live? In whose image are you?

Jesus unmasks us. And in our uncertainty and in our vulnerability, Jesus calls us his. Jesus, says, look at the mask-less reflection and see yourself for whose you are. See your self in whose image you were created.

Jesus in taking our masks off frees us to a new life. A new way of being. A way of being that causes us to see the masks around us and remove them. Jesus gives us the ability to name the masks and remove the mask of the powers that build up idols that seek to destroy.

Jesus gives us the power unmask and say to those in power – neglecting the children of Indiana because of your own personal ambitions is wrong.

Jesus gives us the power to unmask and say that racism is still as prevalent today as it was 50 years ago. It just puts on new masks. Jesus gives us the power to says the criminal justice system penalizes persons of color at an exponentially higher rate than those who are white. Jesus, unmasking us, gives us the power to unmask.

When Jesus unmasks us our loyalties shift. We see the world as the Lord’s and that is there in. Our loyalties shift to the Kingdom of God and not the Kingdom of constitution or dogma. Our loyalties shift and we can only serve one Ruler. The ruler in whose image we are created. It causes us to ask – whose image to we see?

When Jesus unmasks us – it is scary because we are afraid of what we will see. Our masks are so pretty and protective. But the raw beauty of the divine – when we see that reflection it is transforming. It is rejuvenating. It is earth shattering. It is ground breaking. It is life giving.

When we see our selves as reflections of the Divine, we can do no other than to name the divine in the people around us. Friend or Foe. When we are unmasked, and see ourselves are reflections of the Divine, it is easy to pray for our persecutors and those who hate us – because we can see in even them, the image of the Divine. When we see ourselves as reflections of the Divine, our hearts should break when we see anyone being treated as less than human because of their immigration status, their race, the health history, their age, they income. Our hearts should break and our voices cry out – it is unfair because you, too, are in God’s image.

When Jesus unmasks us, we are freed to love in a way that pulls us out of hiding and into the very presence of God. When our masks are gone and we truly love, agape love, we, unlike Moses see the face of God. We will come away as something new and beautifully different. Having see the face of God in our friend and our foe, we see God’s face in us.

Thanks be to God.

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