Childrens sermon: Kyle imitating people Yoda Grover Darth Vader Need some other kid things For adults: And Jimmy Stewart, and Bill Cosby, and Christopher Walken, John Wayne Ephesians 4:28 Imitating the right people Everybody copies somebody. Sometimes it happens on purpose I was a kid in the 70s and a teen in the 80s and whether I wanted to admit it then or not, I had people I was imitating. Everyone I knew talked to their watches and assumed that their artificially intelligent 1982 Pontiac Trans Am talked back to them. I copied Michael Knight. Every boy I know had a light saber and I can’t tell you how many different girls I dropped trying to swing on a rope with them. I wanted so bad to hold onto a car on my skateboard but had to settle for doing a kick flip into my hands. Marty McFly And who didn’t want to be Joe Theisman, or Pele, or Larry Bird? My guess is that most of you practiced with your six guns and holster till you were almost as fast as John Wayne And you ladies copied the hairstyle or dress of Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and sometimes wished you were them. Who do you want to be today? o You sing in the shower imitating Taylor Swift o You run around with a bow and arrow imitating Catness or Green Arrow o You watch Bethany Mota on youtube and braid your hair just like her o You so long to look like Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lawrence, Nikki Minja, Miley Cyrus, or Zac Efron, Jake Gyllenhal, Joe Jonas or whatever person from Glee, Teen Wolf or Pretty Little Liars. And if you don’t imitate them, you are imitating whoever is popular in school.
The problem isn’t that we are copying something or someone, of course we are. The problem is that we are sometimes copying the wrong something or someone. Culture, although not evil in itself, often takes us in directions that seem foreign to the call of God. And so we go this morning to the Bible, Ephesians 5:1, which seeks to remind us of what we should be imitating. Look at it with me Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:1-2 NIV) I actually still have a few verses at the end of chapter 4 I want to get back to, but I think these two verses adequately summarize everything we have been talking about in Mission3.10. This Mission will work itself out in a hundred very specific ways but at its center are these two points: Imitate God and Love Loud Imitate God and love loud. I will talk about loving loud in just a minute but I want this imitation of God to really strike you the way it likely struck the readers. Because here is my guess, as soon as you read “imitate God” you are thinking about “what would Jesus Do?” How should we be like Jesus? How should we copy him? And that is good. That is totally what is going on here. And yet it’s even more than that. Because he doesn’t say “imitate Jesus.” He says imitate God. I know Jesus is God and I am not going to get into a battle about the Trinity right now (go to Ted’s class for that), but there is something deeper that I think Paul is doing that fits into a larger Imitatio Dei history. See, imitating God is something that goes back at least as far as Plato. He called it Imitatio Dei, and it was all of creations movement towards the unmoved mover. Far bigger than ethics, but surely encompassing them. In the Old Testament this Imitatio Dei was a subpoint under the imago Dei—the image of God. Because you are made in his image, you should imitate him. 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. But again, it’s bigger than ethics. Its almost an ontology thing. Its not just imitating, its becoming. You don’t become God exactly, but you are divine. Your humanity, what God made you to be solidifies and you become more real and more god-like.
I have to do a better job at this, because there is a line I don’t want to cross that puts us in the category of God. I am saying, we have the DNA of God. We are made in his image. So we become like God. Not merely in a copying way. Philosophy is hard. When I was young though, I wanted to be like my dad. I wanted to be a tree climber . . . because my dad was. I wanted to own a charger. . . because my dad did. I wanted to be able to crack a whip, even two at a time . . . because my dad could. If my dad did it, I wanted to do it. That seems pretty normal to me In 1967, a commercial aired with this big theme: Like Father Like son Play http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmzDLzqQ-A0 Like Father, like son. But it’s more than just seeking to behave like dad. Throw the rock like Dad, smoke the cigarette like dad. It’s that you are becoming like dad for real, not just in behavior. That boy is going to grow up with mannerisms of Dad. He will have the same receding hairline dad did. He will have a similar build. He will sometimes sadly, become dad. I don’t feel like I am succeeding in what I want to say. Let’s go to other places in the New Testament 21
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1Pe 2:21 NIV) 6
Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1Jo 2:6 NIV)
I am confident that is at least partially what Paul is getting at here, but the way he says it is far more striking and unique. He says “Be imitators of God.” Yes, he is saying that we are children and we should imitate the father, like father like son, but the emphasis on God and not on Jesus is truly striking. It’s far more, I think than following the human figure of Jesus. In fact, both of the verse I mentioned earlier, I John and I Peter have as at least part of their context not the godly living of Jesus for a few years, but the salvation event in general.
Here is what I am getting at. The other main verses that you know that tell us to be like Jesus is from Philippians 2 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: See, be like Jesus. But then what does that mean? 6
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Phi 2:5-12 NIV) It’s not just being like Jesus by being nice to people and touching lepers, it’s the whole historical redemptive event. It’s the humiliation of God. Its God coming low to die a horrible death for the sake of others. We aren’t to see Jesus simply as an ethical hero to imitate. We are to see him as a divine mediator. He wasn’t just a hero to be followed, he had become Lord “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Imitating God is surely what we are called to, but it’s walking the descent drama of the son of God. We are imitating the biography of God, the drama of God. It’s what the creeds are filled with—God in Christ coming down from heaven, dying and rising again because he so loved the world. An act of all consuming love that results in total sacrifice for others. Paul isn’t telling you simply to stop being angry and be generous and encourage one another and tell the truth. He is saying take up your cross. Its not moralism alone, it following into death. . . and resurrection Whatever is needed, that is what you give—even to death. Imitate God and love loud. In fact, Imitate God by loving loud. So this morning we baptize Ben and Samuel Broady. They died today and were raised to new life.
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Rom 6:3-4 NIV) This doesn’t take away the morals and the ethical lifestyle, it grounds it. It deepens it. It says that the only way a truly moral life can be lived, the only way we can really imitate Jesus is after resurrection. Remember the disciples? Three years of constant training on how to live like Jesus and if it was only about ethics, they failed over and over again. But after the resurrection, a new covenant emerges where we don’t just try to imitate the good things Jesus did, but we actually imitate his death and resurrection. Friends, it’s not about mere ethical imitation. If you are here today and want your children here because you want them to grow up to be decent people . . . well, we are really glad you are here. I think God wanted you here especially today to hear me tell you that it’s not about the rules. Matthew 5:20 says that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” And that just aint going to happen. It has to be about following him, imitating him in a sacrificial and resurrection life. Which Jesus shall we imitate? The Nazarene rabbi or the Christ of the salvation drama of Christian faith? The choice may mean a decision between virtually two religions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that there are two different guys, the historical Jesus, the rabbi and the divine Jesus, the Jesus of faith. But sometimes we separate him that way and think that following Jesus just means copying the nice things he did. But Samuel and Ben, it’s not about that. It’s about sacrificing everything. Being willing to be humiliated to love people in what seems to the world an absolutely insane path. Total commitment. I know this is heavy stuff. Let me lighten it for a moment to make this heavy point. “There is a story told about a pig and a chicken walking down the road together. As they walked along they read a sign advertising a breakfast to benefit the poor. The chicken said to the pig, “You and I should donate a ham and egg breakfast.” The pig replied, “Not so fast, for you it would just be a contribution, but for me it would be a total commitment.” [Paul Lee Tan. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations. (Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Pub., 1984) # 5211]
If you have been baptized here today, your baptism did more than bring you into solidarity with a local church. It changes you. . . forever. It says to God that you are dying to your self and all this world has to offer and living to Christ. It is a filling of the Holy Spirit in a mystical and powerful sense. Those waters didn’t save those boys today, but it was part of it. I don’t know when they were proclaimed righteous, but I know baptism is part of the salvation process as is the Lords Supper and attending worship and loving loud. Look at this verse again Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children We imitate God as loved Children. He loved us and we copy him. He gave himself, we give ourself. Like Father, like son. And. . . because of the love Jesus showed by giving his life on the cross, we are to. . . and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:1-2 NIV)
Live a life of Love. This is Mission3.10 in a nutshell. Not all that profound. Every Christian knows that love is the theme of Scripture. But don’t think of love as an emotion. That’s why I said “love loud” It’s not a quiet love. It’s not a love between you and God. It’s not merely a personal love. I know right away that people don’t have the love that God is calling them to when they try to tell me that their relationship with Jesus is a personal relationship. “It’s between me and him,” they say. “It might not be a visible love, but it’s there deep down. I don’t know about you but I still try to imitate people. All grown up and still want to be like other people. Sometimes that is sad and weird. Other times its good. Its okay to want to be like someone. I want to be like Tammy—she has a contagious joy that I want I want to be like Pete Horsley—he has a humility and generosity that I long for I want to be like Carl—he has a quiet wisdom that I never ignore and will one day have I want to be like Pete and Hannah because their door is always open and the gospel is shown and spoken in everything they do. I want to be like Joyce, because she is always optimistic. I want to be like Holly and Jessica because I always want to be around them. You cant be in a bad mood with them ever. I want to be like Dr. Butman and Dr. Yang because they are crazy smart and still believe a man got up from the dead. And I try to imitate these people.
And I think that is good.
Imitation of Christ, Thomas A Kempis . imitate God in life and in love Eeryone imitates someone
Walk in Love
udaism The concept of imitatio Dei - generally taken to be a mitzvah - in Judaism is derived, in part, from the concept of imago Dei - being made in the image of God. Not only do people in the Torah aspire to take on godly virtues, they are aided by the depiction of God as a human - anthropomorphism. The concept is arguably best expressed in the following quote, taken from Leviticus: Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. This concept was later to become part of the basis of rabbinic Judaism. Jews are exhorted to perform acts of kindness similar to the ones ascribed to God. Examples are burying the dead (as God buried Moses), visiting the sick (as God visited Abraham) and some very similar mitzvot. The Talmud states: "As He is merciful, so should you be merciful".
Ancient Greek philosophy Imitatio Dei appears in one form or another in Plato, Aristotle (where not only humans but everything else 'strives' toward the Unmoved Mover), and the Stoicphilosophers.
Christianity The Christian disciple is told to imitate God on several occasions. Matthew 5:48 states, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Luke 6:36 states, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." In Ephesians 5, they are told by Paul to "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children". The believer is also advised to follow the ways of Jesus, notably in 1 Corinthians 11:1: "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."
Catholicism and other ancient Christian traditions The Imitation of God is one of the core principles in Catholicism, as well as Eastern Orthodoxy, and Oriental Orthodoxy (Syriac Orthodoxy, Coptic Orthodoxy, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, and
the Armenian Apostolic faith). The Catholic Church fully endorses the concept of Imitatio Dei/Christi. In Catholicism, it is integrally related to the concept of theosis. The general understanding is that a person can become more similar to God over time, a process called theosis in Greek. This doctrine derives from the biblical mandate to be holy as God is Holy (Lev 20.26). It can be achieved by purification (katharsis) and illumination (theoria), the highest point in illumination is the union with God. The best imitation of God is not only the man's effort, but it is mainly achieved by the grace of God. In the Roman Catholicism the same concepts have been treated under different names (Via purgativa, via iluminativa and via unitiva) by St. John of the Cross and St.Theresa of Avila. Via purgativa is the Roman Catholic equivalent to katharsis, and theoria is subdivided between illumination and full mystical union. This three-step scheme is also found in the Eastern categories of prayer; ordinary prayer, prayer with mind and heart, and unceasing prayer.
Protestantism In Protestantism, the picture is different. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition Imitatio dei is widely accepted, whereas the Lutheran tradition prefers to talk of conformitas (in German Nachfolge) instead of Nachahmung (imitation), because Jesus was singular and cannot and need not be imitated, but followed.