Mirror of God's Love
Preached on Sunday, March 11, 2018 by Pastor Peter Beeson
When read in the full context of the Bible, and even if we read a few chapters before and after them, it becomes clear that promoting this sense of superiority and judgment is not what these passages are about.
So take a deep breath, switch gears, and step back:
Have any of you ever seen the picture floating around the internet, of a cute, little fluffy orange kitten staring in a full length mirror, who sees the reflection of a proud, ferocious lion staring back? It is a humorous reflection on the way we perceive ourselves.
We may think of ourselves as a young parent, when we are in fact a grandparent, we may think of ourselves as too tall, or thin, short, or fat, when the rest of the world doesn’t notice anything different. (BREATHE)
If we are the sort of people who eschew mirrors we may glance at one in the morning and be surprised to see a bit of grey woven into our hair at the temple, or to look groggily in the mirror and see the face of one of our parents reflected back at us. (Any of you? Anyone?)
Mirrors have this unique and uncanny ability to show us a picture of ourselves and point out the dissonance between the image we have and how others see us.
A particularly striking artistic exhibit by Tom Hussey highlighted portraits of young people taken during the 1950s, nurses in uniform, parents of young children, soldiers going off to war, and then the artist brought those images together with photos of the subjects now. In a nursing home, in a wheelchair, or living with dementia, - staring into the eyes of their younger selves. It is a powerful reminder that the image others see don’t reflect the full history of who we have been and who we are.
For us to grow and progress as people of spiritual and personal depth we must confront ourselves. We must look in the mirror and see the reality of who we are. (PAUSE) (BREATHE)
In the Gospel of John Jesus serves as the mirror, reflecting back at us who we are. John’s whole gospel focuses on how Jesus is a window and portal through which we see heaven, and how our response to Jesus shows us who we are. John, one of the first followers of Jesus wrote, Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up. Not because God is a cruel and sadistic God who demands bloodshed and violence, but because God was willing to risk his own life to show us ourselves. We lift up a mirror so that it reflects the light and bounces it back to show us a reflection of ourselves, so having Jesus Christ, God incarnate, perfect in compassion, beauty, and dignity brought into our world reflected back that we as people are incapable of tolerating the perfection and mercy of God.
This is the judgment we inflict upon ourselves time and time again. While God has given us pathways to peace, unity, and perfection, both in the Garden of Eden at creation – and in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection - we choose to respond with anger, hatred, and envy, more concerned about who is in and who is out, than following Jesus’ way of holiness, compassion and mercy. By the perfection of Jesus’ example, and our response to it, Jesus, unsettles us forcing us to recognize our sin and shortcomings. True to form, we killed the messenger rather than listening to the message.
Responding to our reflection in the mirror takes courage. It involves admitting to our sin and shortcomings, acknowledging that we want power over, rather than power with. It involves admitting the gifts we have and the gifts and people we will never be. Responding to our reflection involves making peace with the fact that we may look like our parents, or have grey in our hair, or more lines than we would like on our face. And more than anything, beyond the sin and anger, hurt and pain, beneath all the features that morph and fade looking in the mirror reflects that we are beautifully and wonderfully made, beloved beings created in the image of God.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (BREATHE) (PAUSE)
Dear People of God, you are what God has made you. Created in the image of God. Built to do acts of compassion and mercy, to seek justice, work for reconciliation, and practice peace. When we look into the radiant, shining, disconcerting mirror of Jesus we should be convicted of our sin and shortcomings. (BREATHE) And rather than having to respond fearfully and defensively we should be reminded that we are created in the image of God. (PAUSE) That just as the little kitten, mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, was able to look into the mirror and see a powerful lion, we can see the fiery mane of the Holy Spirit, given to us in our baptism, us calling us to a full and authentic life for the sake of the world.
May God give you the courage to look into the mirror, seeing who you really are and in whom you are baptized, calling each of us forward for the fullness of life, rooted in Jesus Christ, and sending us forth to do acts of compassion and mercy, to seek justice, practice peace, and work for reconciliation for the life of the world around us.
Thanks be to God.