A reflection on the readings for Proper 24A: Exodus 33:12-23 and Matthew 22:15-21
How many of you have your cell phones on you? If your cell phone has a camera, take out your cell phone and take a picture of your self.
Now look at the picture and notice what your see. Notice the color of your eyes and their shape. Notice the shape of your face and your skin tone. What are your thoughts as you do this? Are you judging yourself and being critical? Are you okay with how you look? Have you never really thought about how you look?
In the last ten years there has been an increase in people taking photographs of themselves with the camera on the cell phones. These are called “selfies.” A television star name Kim Kardashian is supposedly writing a book called “Selfish” on how to take selfies. It will include some 200 selfies that she has taken.
Also in the news are reports that there is an increase in plastic surgery since selfies have become so popular. People are so dismayed at the images they see from their camera phones that they choose to have plastic surgery in order to look better on their selfies.
Now go back to that selfie and as you look at that selfie realize that the face you see is God. It’s your face - but it’s also God’s face.
Does that change the image you see? Is it startling to imagine seeing God in your face? Are you able to see that the image in the selfie is you and is also an image of God? God has your eye color, your skin tone, and the same shaped face as you.
God looks like each one of us and all of us at the same. God reveals God’s self in and through every human being. God is black and brown, pink, and white, olive toned, and all shades of skin color. God has blue eyes, brown eyes, black eyes, gray eyes, green eyes, and every shade of eye color. God has all hair color and all textures.
At the same time God has none of our human characteristics - because God is not limited or confined by human constructs - God made us in God’s image - thus God is like all of us - but God is also more, much more than all of us.
And yet, as Christians we know God first and foremost as a being with whom we are and can be in relationship. That God revealed God’s self in the person of Jesus, gives us the idea that we can see God in human form.
Now take a good look at yourself agin. And then take a look at the person sitting near you. Yes, this will feel a little uncomfortable. But try it anyway. As you look at a person sitting near you, say out loud, “You are the face of God. In you I see Jesus.”
Just sit with that for a moment. “You are the face of God, in you I see Jesus.”
There is no need for any one us to be dissatisfied with how we look. There is no need for any of us to judge ourselves or another person for how we look or who we are. Each one of us is the face of God, in us God’s love made manifest in Jesus is revealed to the world.
Imagine doing this with every person you know or meet, seeing them the face of God.
Imagine how difficult this will be when we encounter people who are cruel or evil? And yet, God is in them too.
That does not mean that God is cruel or evil. Rather it means that God is trying to call that person into being the best version of themselves that is possible. Christian teachings suggest that God keeps working in and through us and never gives up. So transformation may be possible, even after death.
Our readings this morning from Exodus and Matthew offer us ideas on God and how we see God, ourselves, and others in world. Matthew in particular calls us to ponder what we idolize. In this country we tend to idolize movie stars and athletes. We pay them a ton of money to look good in film or photos or to be a star athlete. We measure ourselves to them - why else would Kim Kardashian be given a contract to write a book and publish 200 photos of herself taken with her cell phone?
Now I think selfies can be a lot of fun and hilarious. And in that context I am all for them. The danger is when we start to idolize looking perfect, and obsessing over it.
The same can be said about a faith community. Churches can become too self-focused, worried about how they look or worried about finances or some other obsession that takes them away from their mission. Such worries take us away from God and keep us stuck, frozen in an image of self that does not reflect how God sees us.
Think about that - as you sit looking at your image in the selfie - God is looking back at you. What does God see?
God sees a beloved human being. God sees a person that God loves deeply. God looks at you tenderly and with compassion, holding all your fears and worries with love. God looks at you and says, you are my most precious creation, with you I am well pleased.
God does the same thing with our church. God looks at us, with all our flaws, and says, Christ Church in Dearborn, is my most precious creation. God does this for every church, every synagogue, mosque, and house of worship. God loves God’s creation.
We have many profound ways of expressing God’s presence in and through us and out into the world around us. As a Community- Centered church we reveal the face of God, the love of Christ to those who come into our building for dance classes, martial arts, stretching, voice lessons, preschool, AA meetings, even to the postal carriers who come here every day. Some of them bring our mail. Others just need a place to use the bathroom and come in from the cold. One postal carrier gave us a $500 donation as a thanksgiving for leaving our doors open so she can use a bathroom or come in from the cold. At least two different postal carriers come in to our building every day for this purpose.
We are the face of Christ as we feed hungry people. Soon we are going to ask for donations to our food pantry for turkeys and the ingredients for people in need to make aThanksgiving dinner. I don’t know if Leon’s does this, but if they sell gift cards we could purchase some of them so that people who have no place to cook can go to Leon’s for a hearty Thanksgiving meal.
These are just a few of the ways that we reveal God’s love made manifest in Jesus, God’s love in us, through the mission and ministries of this church.
We are intentionally nurturing an attitude of gratitude. For it is through our ability to be grateful for all that we have and all that we are - without comparing ourselves to others and without judgement - but with thanksgiving - that we are able to become even more grateful. It takes practice. It is, as I said last week, a discipline of perception, formed by how we choose to see our lives and the world around us.
Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude becomes the inspiration from which we are able to Grace it Forward - sharing the love of God that we’ve come to know in our lives - with others in the world.