Seeking to Imitate

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION

Let us pray for the Holy Spirit of God to guide our thoughts …

Gracious Light-Bearer, speak into the shadows of our isolation words of life and community. Challenge our lives with your Word of Truth and grace. One thing we ask of the Lord, we seek the Holy Spirit dwell in the house of the Lord and in our hearts all the days of our lives. Inspire our worship to be filled with overflowing gifts of mercy and love. You are our light and our salvation. We seek the presence of our Lord, Jesus as we pray thanksgiving and praise.  Amen.

FIRST SCRIPTURE READING–               Philippians 3:17-4:1                          Imitating Christ’s Way of Life

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

May the Lord blessing this reading to our understanding.

SECOND SCRIPTURE READING–          Psalm 27 Of David             Triumphant Song of Confidence

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh—my adversaries and foes—they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamps against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!

“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, do I seek.

Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!

If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,     for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord  in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

SERMON                    “Seeking to Imitate”

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” When we imitate a person, we pay them a compliment. Imitation is not mockery, but reproducing the genuine behavior. We tend to imitate those whom we want to be like. We seek to imitate our mentors copying and expanding the influence of those we emulate. Charles Caleb Colton educated at Eton and King’s College in England penned that quote. I don’t know when he considered imitation as flattery, but during his life, he exhibited behaviors that if imitated brought inspiration or shame.

In 1812, Colton received an appointment as the vicar of the church in Kew and Petersham outside of London. Until 1828, he served the churches with many ups and downs. Sometimes Colton displayed the best pastoral care with creativity. Other times, he went through the motions and failed to inspire Christian faith. In the end, he left ministry and came to America. His colleagues suspected his flight came as a way to dodge his creditors.

Another phase on imitation, promoted by parents to help their children reconsider the wisdom of following the poor choices made under peer pressure: “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you too?” The prudent answer is always NO, but I might think it depends on which bridge, how far down, do I know how deep the water in the place, or did they succeed without breaking any bones. The only response verbalized remains the “NO.”

Children learn to speak through imitation of the sounds and words they hear. We learn to walk, run, skip, and ski by imitating others who teach us the basics, and then we practice and get better. We imitate math facts through formulas that can be reproduced with different numbers. We imitate the skills on the basketball court, the hockey rink, the wrestling mat, and other fields of play. We imitate cooks and reproduce recipes. We even copy things we see on videos or read in books. We follow the work of experts in a field until we master our imitation of a mentor.

The Apostle Paul invited the Philippians to join him in the imitation of Christ. Confident in his mastery of the Christ-like behavior, he invites the church to imitate him as he imitates Christ. He invites the believers to make a choice of living like their neighbors who continued as enemies of the cross or following as Christian citizens. One path leads to jumping off the bridge to destruction and the other brings life eternal. We’ve been saved from death through the love poured out on the cross.

After Paul, St. Augustine influenced the development of Western Christian theology. At the age of 31, he heard the story of Ponticianus' and his friends being inspired to imitate St. Anthony of the Desert. In 386, he accepted Christ as his Savior. Later, he became ordained as a priest and wrote Confessions as a testimony of his conversion. As a Bishop in Africa, Augustine wrote and preached the importance of following and imitating Christ.

A thousand years later, before the Reformation a Catholic priest Thomas à Kempis inspired by Augustine wrote The Imitation of Christ. In the devotional book, Thomas invites Christians to follow Jesus by imitating the actions of our Lord. After the Bible, The Imitation of Christ remains most widely read devotional book, translated into more languages. In both the way we live and worship, we imitate our Lord and Savior.

In the 1990’s, WWJD bracelets encouraged Christians to consider “What Would Jesus Do?” before making decisions. It really asks us to consider imitating Christ.  Christians who reflect our Savior flatter our Lord. We demonstrate God’s best when we imitate Christ’s behavior to our neighbors and around the world. Each moment of every day, we face an important decision to imitate Christ or to mimic the world. If we mimic the world, we make a mockery of our Christian faith. If we seek to imitate Christ, stand firm in our faith with joy.

As we live each day, but especially during Lent, we get to seek whom we will imitate. Our Lord invites us to imitate our Lord in every way. In our interaction with others in the Lord, we live by faith even as others choose to imitate others in our culture.

As the Psalmist, we find confidence in trusting the Lord. We seek to imitate the One who is not intimidated by challenges. We can live without fear, knowing that the Lord will always be with us, even when we fail. We continue to grow in faith as we learn the Lord’s way, sometimes by trial and error or by imitating a Christian mentor who guides us in maturity.

The next step invites us to be mentors for others. As we mature in faith, others will imitate our Christian behavior. We always want to live according to the example that others can follow. They will also learn from the way we acknowledge and grow from our failures. We will take courage that Jesus will guide us even as we imperfectly imitate our Christian ancestors so that others will imitate us as we imitate the Lord. TGBTG. Amen.

 

  July 2017  
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