A Baptism Homily: in His Image we are made
This morning we’re gathered here once again to worship God as we usually do Sunday mornings. But this particular Sunday, we’ve got the privilege of seeing God’s call to follow him being recognized, received, and sought after.
In a moment, Kim and William will present their twins Hunter and Greyson not first to us as a congregation, but to the one to whom they ultimately belong, their maker, and the one who will ultimately gather them to himself, God.
In our Gospel lesson this morning, the Pharisees who really dislike their Roman rulers, using strong advocates for the Roman empire, the Herodians, to try and force Jesus to either commit blasphemy against God by choosing the Empire over God so they can condemn him, or to potentially get him condemned by the Roman civil authorities by choosing God over obedience in paying taxes to the Roman empire.
Jesus, however, calls them out on their own hypocrisy: “you Pharisees who think you are following God have made your own ways, your own desires, even the law, into idols. You have substituted your ways for God’s such that you cannot even recognize me, God, come to you. Instead, you judge God and so try to trap me by judging me in accordance with your own ways of thinking and doing. You’ve lost the plot, we might think of Jesus as saying. I am not made in your image; you are to be made into mine. I do not belong to this world, we hear Jesus say elsewhere. But you belong to me, to God.
So in answer to the Pharisees question about paying Roman taxes then, Jesus replies, “give to Cesar, the current ruler of Rome, what belongs to him, and give to God what is God’s.” What is God’s, my friends? (WAIT for response)? So what then, belongs to Cesar, what, that is, belongs to this world? Jesus’s answer is not intended to split the things that belong to God or to the world into two neat categories. Rather his answer is intended to show that because everything belongs to God, how you think about your own life, the choices and decisions you make, how you spend your time and your money, how you nurture your children, what you teach them, how you share the gifts that you have in your community, in your family, and in your church, should be directed and guided by the reality that you, that your children, that your grandchildren belong first and foremost to God.
All that we have and all that we are, is a gift from God. And if, as we are about to hear in our baptism liturgy, we acknowledge this as the truth of our own lives and the lives of everyone whom we encounter, then how we live in this world should be shaped by what God desires not just for us, but for everyone else whose lives we touch directly and indirectly.
If we belong to God, we are to renounce those things that tear down and destroy the people and the world that God has made. If we belong to God, then we are to commit to love not just our friends, but our enemies, the jerks, those that enrage us, those on whom we’d rather rage and take revenge. If we belong to God and if we commit ourselves to God in baptism, then it is not by our own wishes and desires that our lives will ultimately be judged at our deaths, but it is by God’s law lived out in the life of Jesus Christ, that we will be judged. So as young Hunter and Greyson are brought into this community of Christ, in baptism, they will be called to uphold the love of God whose Spirit produces in us, compassion, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Their parents, grandparents and godparents who make this commitment on their behalf, and those of you in this congregation who take a vow to support them in taking on this life of Christ as they grow up, already have Jesus’s image imprinted not on a coin, but on your hearts and minds.
That image we all take on in our baptisms, is to remind us when things get tough and we’d rather lash out or hide, that God profoundly loves us, from our very birth and baptism into his people, all the way to our deaths. Indeed if God is for us, for even these little babies we will baptize today, then no one can prevail in being against us. Let that security of being loved and given life by eternal love and life itself guide you in the choices you make in this life. AMEN