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Sunday January 28, 2018
11:00 am - Saint Thomas Church
Preacher: Fr Turner

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Mark 1:21-28

Stories, Roles and Relationships

When Moses first met God, he was told to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. In the encounter at the burning bush, Moses was as close to his creator as Genesis describes the closeness of God to Adam. Although the Hebrew Scriptures tell us that God said to Moses that he would not be able to see his face and live, nevertheless, there are a number of times when the bible describes how Moses and his companions beheld the glory of God and how that glory affected them – in the case of Moses, quite physically; being in the presence of God his face became radiant with the reflected glory of God. Perhaps, that is how it was always meant to be – that humankind would reflect the glory of God. In our first three Doctrine classes on Tuesdays this year, we have been exploring the nature of God and we started with the perplexing phrase used in the first creation story of Genesis – that God made humankind in his own image. There is something of God imprinted in our very nature – we reflect something of his goodness and creativity. Each of us has a different DNA – and that distinctive signature that God has given each one of us says something of the amazing creativity of God. Psalm 139 beautifully proclaims the intimate relationship that God as creator has with each one of us: “Thou hast fashioned me behind and before : and laid thine hand upon me…For my reins are thine: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb…I will give thanks to thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Being made in God’s image means to reflect something of the Creator but it is also why so many of us feel guilt, or remorse, or feel inadequate. If I am made in the image of God then why do things go wrong? Why do I make poor choices? Or, worse, how can this poor and insignificant life be in any way a reflection of God? Well, my friends, that is why God sent his son Jesus - to show us the way back to a more perfect relationship with him – “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Moses reflected the glory of God but Jesus is the glory of God. On the mountain, Moses bathed in the glory of God. On a mountain, Jesus revealed that he was filled with the glory of God.

The late Robert Jenson says this: “To be made in the image of God is to have a role, and that role is to be in a relationship and a discourse with God and to occupy a place in the story that God has and lives with his people.” [1]

This is why Jesus came – he occupied a place in our story so that we might be caught up in God’s story.

In our first reading today, Moses reminded the people not to forget the Lord and his saving work; more importantly, Moses reminded the people of the danger of thinking that it was through their own power that they had left Egypt and found the promised land – of forgetting the true nature of their story and their identity as a people. Moses spoke with authority because he reflected the glory of God and was attuned to his calling – he knew his role and his place in that story.

Now, many, many years later, Jesus entered the synagogue at Capernaum and spoke with authority. He who is the Word of God, entered the place where the Word of God was proclaimed – the authoritative teaching of Moses. Jesus listened to the story of God’s chosen people and, as the Word made flesh, he claimed a place in that story. The people are amazed – this was not the teaching of Moses – it was new teaching – and with authority. Jesus spoke not as one of the scribes but as one who is the story. And as this story was being revealed, what was the reaction? Amazement, yes; but also confrontation, in fact, spiritual warfare. The man Mark describes as having an unclean spirit cries out – shouts out in the synagogue in fear as much as in anger. When Jesus silenced the unclean spirit with an authoritative word it was that same authority of the Word of God through whom all things were created. “Be silent” - “Let there be light!” That man was filled with darkness but Jesus brought that man wholeness – that is to say, he challenged that which pulled the man down and brought him back into a more appropriate relationship with his creator.

What does that mean for us today? As we approach Lent, it means recognizing those things that still challenge the authority of Jesus Christ. Recognizing the things that possess us or possess whole communities of people and confront the rule of Christ; things that dehumanize and, therefore, mar the image of God that is in each one of us – addiction, sexual abuse, child labor, genocide, human trafficking. (How significant that modern day slaves are often without a passport – a symbol of their individual identity; how poignant that people at Auschwitz had numbers tattooed on their bodies rather than names). Or, perhaps, the subtler things that challenge the authority of Christ in our own lives such as doubting that I am worth anything to anyone; living with guilt; nursing angry memories that hurt me as much as they hurt other people. These, and many other things that take possession of us, or other evil people use to possess us, continue to mar that image of God in us. But, my friends, they are under attack – by Jesus Christ who continues to intercede for us with outstretched and wounded hands saying, with authority – “Be silent.” And in the silence, Jesus reaches down and says to you and to me, “Let there be light.”

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[1] A Theology in Outline, page 70


Glory of GodGod the Son, JesusMade in God's ImageMoses