“Whose image do you bear?”

There is a game using both your hands that we used to play as children called “Here is the church”. You may have played it too. The game has actions and words to it and I’m certain you’ll know it as I go through them with you. It goes like this. Spread both of your hands in front of you so that both palms are facing each other. Now, with both of your hands in the front of you, turn each hand around so that now both palms are facing in opposite directions. Spread your fingers apart, and then bring them in so they interlock with each other. Hello, are you still with me? Now, in that interlocked position bring both palms together so that now your hands are bracing one another, as like your praying. This is supposed to represent the church and your interlocked fingers which now are enclosed by your hands are supposed to represent the people. Now both thumbs should be standing upright and should be free to open and close like you are opening and closing a door. These are supposed to be the church doors. Loosen the first finger of each hand so they are standing upright hard-up against each other. These are the church steeple. You then say: “But where are the people” which at this point you roll your interlocked hands so they are facing upwards showing your fingers, which are still interlocked between one another. You then wriggle your fingers and say: “Here are the people!”. Now, you do the actions as I say the words. “Here is the church. Here are its doors and here is its steeple. But, where are the people?” (Open both hands) ‘There are all the people!” If you managed to follow my directions without any confusion, well done! So, the game is about the church. The physical challenges of moving our hands and fingers resembles the challenges the one, holy and catholic church faces as it lives out its life in and for the world in the twenty-first century.

The role of the church arose in my mind as I reflected on the lectionary readings set for this Sunday. In the text from the gospel of Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus is asked the question as to whether it is lawful or not to pay taxes to emperor Caesar? Having been handed a coin with the image of Caesar inscribed on it, Jesus asks his enquirers whose image and title is on it? “The emperor’s” is the forthwith response. Jesus then follows with his famous line: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s”.

The image of their emperor may well have been inscribed on the coin, however, Jesus’ question to his church could well be “Whose image do you bear?” What comes to mind is the line in Genesis “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” David Lose in his reflection on the Matthew text expands further on the implication of this:

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.

It is a timely reminder of the church’s vocation. My challenge this week to you friends is, if we are made in the image and likeness of God, then what ways might you look at expressing God’s image and likeness to those loved ones in your family, or your colleagues at your workplace, your fellow students and teachers at school, your neighbours or the various people from among your community networks with which you encounter. The possibilities are endless and are to the extent you allow your imagination to go all out. In whatever way you respond to the challenge, those values such as for example compassion, generosity, kindness which flow naturally from living a God-filled life, are sorely needed in our world.

Peace on your Pentecost journey.

“Image, Likeness, and Identity,” David Lose