Ephesians 4:25-5:2; Matt 5:43-48
11th Sunday after Trinity
St Barbara’s 12.08.18
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Two weekends ago I met up with my cousins and their families for a big family reunion in Germany. There were about 50 of us all together. Some I hadn’t seen for a few years, and especially those in their teens and early twenties, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to place them. Were they the children of cousin Astrid or cousin Bernd or one of my other cousins?
Well, it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. Some just looked like their parents – they had the same eyes, the same smile. Others didn’t look like their parents, but it was still possible to match them, for their mannerisms were the same. The two young women with vivacious, outgoing personalities – they clearly were cousin A’s children. The two quiet, serious young men with a glint of mischief in the eye, were clearly cousin B’s boys. And the young man not afraid of making bold statements and expressing firm views – he clearly belonged to my cousin C. For each of us at the gathering, we reflected, we resembled those with whom we had spent most time, our parents in most cases.
Our two readings this morning – Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount, the other from Paul in his letter to the Ephesians – speak about Christians showing the family likeness.
We are to be imitators of God. We are his children, indeed his dearly loved children. It leads me to wonder: Can people see the family resemblance in me? Do I look like God? Do I have the same mannerisms and character as God? That feels like a shocking question, doesn’t it, but it is a good question for all of us to ask. Does the way I live show what God is like to others?
It is certainly true that many people will view what God is like, will make assumptions about who God is, by what they see in us, people who claim to follow him. Are they seeing a true family likeness? Its quite a responsibility.
If we are to be imitators of God we need to spend time with him to know his feelings – his love, his compassion, his kindness – and to know his thoughts. Spending time in prayer, in reading his Word, in spending time with those who best show us what God is like. As we do so, we will find the family resemblance begins to grow.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, notes a number of characteristics of God that should be true for Christians too.
Speaking the truth – not lying or deceiving people. That can be hard. How are we with that?
Controlling and ending our anger. When we get angry, controlling it. Not flying off the handle or doing or saying things we will regret later. And resolving our anger quickly – not letting the sun go down on our anger, not letting it fester and become bitter. We say it is okay to be righteously angry, but how often is our anger righteous? How often does it become something more self-serving or bitter?
Being generous. Using our time well so that we have something to share with those in need. Being diligent and generous.
Building others up. Only saying those things that will build up others. Words are powerful things. It is easy to speak ill of others behind their backs, to spread gossip. But how much better it is to say positive things, things that benefit others, that encourage and affirm. Those type of people are brilliant to be around.
Showing kindness and compassion. Not allowing bitterness or anger or slander to control us, but instead being kind and compassionate, looking to the needs of others, just as Christ does for us.
Forgiving each other. If we acknowledge that we struggle with these things, let us acknowledge that others will too. We can’t expect people to be perfect in the way they treat us. Let us be willing to forgive.
Pause for a moment and ask God: where do you need his help today if you are to more fully resemble him.
Who do you think does this well? Who can you imitate? Like learning a musical instrument, or learning how to bat in cricket, or knit with needles, if we spend our time with those who already do these things well we will pick up their good habits. If on the other hand we only spend time with those who do these things poorly, we will pick up their poor habits instead. Who do you know that it would be good to learn from?
I will finish with a prayer that we will be using in our All Age service later:
Dear heavenly Father,
you have made us in your image; help us to be more like you.
Help me, following your example, to reject lies and speak the truth.
Help me, following your example, to control my anger and not let it fester.
Help me, following your example, to work willingly and share generously with those in need.
Help me in my speech, following your example, to not knock others down but build them up.
Help me, following your example, to be kind and compassionate, tender-hearted, forgiving others as you have forgiven me.
Thank you that we are your children; that Christ died for us; and that your Holy Spirit lives in us.