8/13/2000, P9, Year B
Models of God?
ne of our family's fondest memories is our building a model railroad together. We began with the purchase of one little box of a small scale model engine with cars, caboose and track. We purchased a few scale trees, buildings, and a bridge; but our fun really began when together we built our own buildings out of matchboxes and other fabrications. Lyn and Candi, ages 8 and 5 years, helped glue and paint. Gradually we turned a large sheet of plywood base into its own miniature world. After a year, or so, we packed it all away, but every now and then the girls talk about setting it up again: I tell them that I am waiting on grandchildren.
A scale model is not the real thing, but it can be a thing of beauty and an object of great value on its own. In Ephesians 5:1 Paul calls us to, "...be imitators of God, as beloved children," (NRSV).
As children become miniatures of their parents, so we are called to model ourselves after our Heavenly Father. Or, we could say that we have the wonderful opportunity to simulate the life of Jesus, whom we know. As we can not become our mothers and fathers by walking in their shadow, neither is it possible for us to become actually divine. At our best, we humans can be reformed into scale models. I have known some pretty good scale models of Christ. I see Jesus in you.
It's only natural to want to pattern ourselves after the best. Those who admire sinners might say, "I wish I could hold my liquor like old Bozo." Or, "I would like to be able to crack a safe like Waldo." Such ideas come from greed. Likewise, young preachers want to preach like Billy Graham. I strive to attain the character that I have admired in men like Gordon Thompson. I would love to be able to communicate with people as did Pierce Harris. And the list goes on and on.
Marilyn and I double dated with Lyn and Gerald to the Braves/Dodgers game Friday night. So many kids, and adults too, were wearing copies of their hero's uniform shirts. If a young baseball player wants to improve his performance there is nothing better than trying mimic the best example that they can find. Many were wearing the #14 shirt of my favorite, Andres Galarraga. He had been nursing an injury for a few games and when he came into the game to pinch-hit, fans in the sold out Turner Field stood and applauded and remained on their feet even after he started his at-bat. Of course, Braves fans broke into jubilation when he hit a two-run double. Much of the admiration for the "Big Cat" comes from his prowess at first base and at the plate, but all America has come to admire him for his victory over life threatening cancer that kept him on the disabled list all of last season. I admire him most for his devotion to Jesus Christ and for his acknowledging faith as the main source of his dramatic comeback. If I were playing baseball I would take Galarraga as my role model. But since I am past my baseball comeback, I revel in sharing his Lord as our peerless example.
We would be in a sad state of mediocrity if we had no exemplary super stars to strive to become. It is a bit daunting, but could we all not benefit by trying to become a scale model of Jesus, all the while realizing that we are not the real thing, but just a scale model, that would be far less if we had not set our sights on scaling the highest. Or, as President Jimmy Carter entitled his autobiography, "Why Not the Best?".
As an admirer of antique writing instruments, let me share one of the best stories from pen collecting lore. The Italian Omas Pen Company's most popular fountain pen was actually named by an English gentleman in 1930 who was a connoisseur of art, jewelry, time pieces, and especially fine pens. The expert had an immediate love for the Omas 12-faceted prototype pen that was nameless. With his expert eye he skillfully examined the pre-production's details, tested its functionality, and exclaimed: "The Paragon!", comparing the new creation with the largest and most famous diamond of the English Crown Jewels. Produced continually since its inception, the Paragon is still the signature piece of the Omas line. Having acquired a Paragon at a pen sale, I often reflect upon the ideal of Paul's admonition that I should allow the Spirit to enable me to become something of a Paragon, scale-model, reflection, of even Him. It is almost a frightening prospect; but what a goal to seek: to become a scale-model of the Divine.
In what ways can we imitate the divine? I am grateful to Dr. Thomas Oord, Professor of Theology and a fellow member of our Wesleyans in Theological Dialogue internet group, who responded to my newsletter article and sermon starter this week by answering my query. "In what way can we imitate the divine? We cannot in being almighty, only God is that. We cannot in being omniscient, only God is that. We cannot in being everlasting, only God is that. We cannot in being omnipresent, only God is that. We can imitate God, however, by loving perfectly. And it is precisely the issue of love to which the Ephesians passage is referring. To love perfectly as God loves perfectly, however, does not mean that we possess a history of perfect love. Only God has a perfect history of perfect love. To love perfectly as God does, means that, in each moment, we can respond perfectly to God's call to love. A perfect response to God is, inevitably, a perfectly loving action. Only a perfect response to the One who IS love will inevitably be a perfect loving response. So, imitate God. Love perfectly in each moment, in response to God's call, just as God loves perfectly in each moment, in response to the world."
And then we go on to ask, How does God turn plain old creatures like us into mature disciples capable of even beginning to be a shadow of His great love? This is also answered in the second verse of today's lection: "...and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us..." I hear Paul saying that we are made into persons capable of imitating divine love as a result of being captivated by the Cross and loving sacrifice of Christ. I do know that that is what grabbed me. Although I consider myself an imperfect scale-model with many flaws, what little I have become has been the direct byproduct of my surrender at the Cross. He indeed touched me there and He wants to reach down for us all!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor