Going Deeper 11-4-2019

Please listen again to the final words of Jesus from our exceedingly challenging Gospel reading: "Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.
A phrase from a book I have been reading has been on my mind a lot, and it will serve as a very good theme for this All Saints Day message: Family Resemblance.  The more I ponder that phrase, the more I am convinced it describes a core value for ministry, and that’s understanding Transformation as the desired outcome for everything we do here.  Let me explain…
Janet, along with Kathy, our sister-in-law, very much enjoys teasing me and my brother Dave about all of the “Walter-isms” they are seeing in us as we grow older—I mean, as we mature.  They point out ways that we stand, or walk, or fold our arms, as well as other mannerisms and expressions, which make us look and act more and more like our father, Walter.  I’m sure, of course, that all these comparisons are intended as complimentary.
I have a couple of pictures to show you.  We all know who this little girl is, right?  Well, it’s actually two little girls… Jo Jo on the right and her mom, Sara, on the left.  Quite the Family Resemblance, wouldn’t you agree?
Let’s think about the first we hear of a type of family resemblance.  Some of you have seen these illustrations from Crossways Bible Studies before.  We need to go all the way back to the very beginning, to the very first chapter of the Bible, SLIDE 36 Genesis 1… “In the beginning God…” Why is a circle a good symbol for God? (without a beginning or an end, God is eternal, and God is one) What about the arrows going outward?  (According to 1 John, “God is love.”  In other words, God is outwardly focused)
 “In the beginning God…created the heavens and the earth.” “…male and female he created them.” “… in the image of God he created them.”  Our Creator/Father created us—and all of His children—in His own image.  That is family resemblance.  
Let’s look at this more closely.  Notice the symbols for the first humans in this illustration.  Created in the image of God means we were created to serve.  The arrows reinforce this truth.  Created in the image of God means we were created to be outwardly focused, loving and serving God and one another.  If you stop and think about it, God’s Commandments SLIDE 41 reflect that original design… The first three are all about loving and serving God, and the last seven are all about loving and serving others.
But we soon find out that sin enters the scene and our family resemblance is horribly corrupted.  In contrast with being outwardly focused, our family resemblance is ruined as sin has made all people, by virtue of our corrupted nature, self-centered.  A Latin phrase for sin is encurvatus en se… we are all now curved in on our self.  And, as you know, with the entrance of sin into creation comes the reality of death.  “The soul that sins shall die,” the Creator had declared.  That would be… all of us.
But as we also know, that was and is not the end of the story.  For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son… Jesus the Messiah, who lived a perfect, sinless life of love.
Jesus took our sin, our punishment, and our death upon Himself on the cross.  Jesus was and is the personification of love and grace.  Through the Cross, our sins are forgiven, erased.  As Jeremiah had prophesied, with the coming of the new covenant God remembers our sins no more.  That is the heart of the message of the Gospel.
As He promised, Jesus remains among us through His Holy Spirit.  And here is the desired outcome… God desires that His children be transformed back into living by His original plan.  That is what following Jesus is all about.   the goal is to more and more fully tap into the power of God’s Spirit and put to death sin in our lives as we more and more fully recapture our family resemblance.  
You see, like brothers Dave and Mark, we want to look and act more and more like our father as we mature—except not our earthly father but our Creator/Father.  As God’s children, we live out of a profound relationship of love, a relationship with our Abba/Father and our Brother Jesus, inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  
Now the question is, what does that look like?  In John 19 we hear these words of Jesus: “The Father and I are one… if I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."  There is clearly a very strong family resemblance between God our Father and our Brother Jesus.
Our goal as maturing followers of Jesus is to partake in the ongoing process of transformation, so that when people look at how we live our lives, they see the family resemblance, they see Jesus in us; they see image of God being restored in us.  
They see us living differently, as people who understand, as Jesus lays out in our Gospel, that life is not about being rich, full, and happy, but about being forgiving as we have been forgiven, and being generous as God has been generous to us.  We understand that the best part of being blessed is that it makes it possible for us to be blessings to other.  When we do for others as we would have them do for us, we are rediscovering the type of community God had in mind in His original design, where each lives for the other and all live for God.  This must become our highest priority.
No, this doesn’t just happen.  Transformation is a process we must commit to, all the while understanding that we are dependent on the power and working of the Holy Spirit of God.  The   Spirit of God usually doesn’t just make growth happen out of thin air but works through means or channels.  The Spirit works through the written word of God to connect us to the living Word of God, so we must ne in the word.  The Spirit works through word and sacrament as we gather here as family.  The Spirit works through our prayer and devotional life, and through our growing friendships and our serving together in all of the various aspects of our mutual mission.  
Someone once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Let’s change flattery to praise.  Imitation is the sincerest form of praise.  And imitation is the sincerest form of love.  Inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, let us commit ourselves to learning to imitate Jesus more and more every day, in all that we think and do and say.  Let’s grow… together!  Amen.