a family of faith
seeking to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ
by loving God and serving our neighbors.

Look at that face

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?
I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say anything…but come on, folks, are we serious?”
Donald Trump’s criticism of Carly Fiorina wasn’t based on her policies,
Her track record, her ability to lead, her capacity to beat Hilary,
But on her face.
Now these comments come from Donald Trump, who, among other things, has the most obvious comb-over in the GOP presidential field,
And in my view, these comments demonstrate the worst of American politics today.
Schoolyard bullying based on appearance.
That’s what we’ve come down to.
I can’t entirely blame Donald Trump.
He’s a symptom, not the disease.
We as a nation are obsessed with the image.
We are more image-saturated than any culture in human history.
We turn on our televisions first thing in the morning,
Stare at screens in our hands or on our desks all day long.
Watching the feed from Instagram and Snapchat,
Facebook at Twitter.
Billboards flash at us from the freeway because that’s the one time we can’t be watching our other screens.
And what do we see?
Beautiful people.
Retouched and airbrushed faces.
Bodies. Skin. Hair. Eyes.
Fancy cars. Slick clothes.
In short, eye candy.
Abraham Lincoln couldn’t be elected today because he’s not telegenic.
It’s all about the image.
We choose our screen savers and background images so we never have to look at something ugly, or, God forbid, boring.
Even my TV now doesn’t show a blue screen when you first turn it on,
Instead there are constantly changing images of peaceful nature scenes.
So what, pastor? You say.
So what if we want to see pretty things instead of ugliness?
What’s wrong with eye candy?
The Second Commandment, that’s what.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”
The Second Commandment prohibits making an idol, or in the language I grew up with, a graven image, that becomes the object of worship.
Now, I’m not arguing that Donald Trump worships idols in his basement.
I believe that each one of the Ten Commandments is there not only to prohibit something, but to point us to a much larger teaching.
Our tradition is called the Reformed tradition. That’s what we believe as Presbyterians.
In our tradition, the law—that is, the Ten Commandments—are not just a list of should nots.
They also point toward larger attitudes that help us to live our lives as God wants them.
For example, John Calvin, the father of Presbyterian thought,
Believed that the eighth commandment, prohibiting stealing, also taught us to act with justice, fairness, and righteousness in all our economic dealings.
John Calvin got this idea straight from the other JC, Jesus Christ,
Who in the Sermon on the Mount expanded the seventh commandment, on adultery, to include lust,
And the sixth commandment, on murder, to include anger.
Each commandment points to a larger principle.
When God says, don’t make an idol, he means: don’t reduce me.
Don’t reduce God to an image you can understand.
Get a grip on the idea that you can’t get a grip on God.
That God is bigger than all the mental images we make,
That God bursts forth from all the boxes we try to put him in.
God isn’t a cross or a fish.
God isn’t an old man in the sky.
God isn’t a man at all.
Or a woman.
God isn’t light.
God isn’t goodness.
God isn’t even just love.
God encompasses all light, goodness, and love, but God is bigger than any of those ideas alone.
God is bigger than the word God.
When we say God is great, “great” isn’t enough to encompass the awesome, overwhelming power and glory of the One who made heaven and earth.
When Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, Moses asked God to show him God’s glory.
But God’s glory was so great that Moses couldn’t see him face to face and live.
But God gave Moses a glimpse of his glory, the sweep of his train, so to speak,
And from that glimpse, Moses’s face was shining so bright that he had to wear a veil when he came down to the people.
God’s glory is beyond what we can imagine.
Our language, our imagery, our brains fall short of describing who God is.
When we talk about what God wants or how God acts or who God is,
I believe we need to be very careful that we don’t limit God.
We need to have the humility to recognize that God’s ways aren’t our ways, and we don’t know and can’t know everything about God and God’s will.
We like to reduce things to something pretty,
To an eye-candy image.
We want to reduce God to something easy and portable,
A pretty, Instagram-worthy faith.
Type Amen if you’re saved!
As if that’s all there was to it.
As if a bumper sticker on your car and a cross around your neck will get you into heaven.
But while we want to put out the image of faith,
God is seeking to remake us in His image.
In Second Corinthians, Paul is dealing with a community that’s confused.
They heard Paul’s preaching about grace,
But then another group came and told them they had to live by the letter of the law.
Which is it, they ask, the Spirit or the letter?
Paul says it’s not about tablets of stone,
It’s about tablets of hearts.
It’s not about keeping ten rules and putting forth the image of holiness,
It’s about knowing Christ,
Having a relationship with Him,
Such that you are transformed,
The way Moses was transformed on Mount Sinai.
So that when people see you,
They see God’s glory shining through you,
Shining through your face.
That’s not the glory of an image.
It’s the glory of the Holy Spirit.
I took these young women to Montreat Conference Center,
And part of my ministry to them was just to help them see themselves as God sees them.
That they don’t have to apologize for who they are,
Because God’s glory shines through them.
It’s a glory more beautiful than beauty.
It’s not the empty calories of eye candy,
It’s the deep nourishment of the Bread of Life.
An hour in front of the TV might be good eye candy,
But an hour in church will give you the Bread of Life,
Nourishment for the week.
The billboards on the road, advertising something for nothing at Greektown casino?
Eye candy.
A night in a church instead of out in the cold, free of charge?
That’s the bread of life.
A woman who’s 36-24-36?
She might be nice eye candy,
But a ninety-three year old woman like Peggy Beal with deep, beautiful smile lines at the corner of her eyes?
She’ll give you a taste of the Bread of Life.
Peggy, you are beautiful.
When I first came to the church, you invited me to your home, and said, I don’t want to tell you how to run the church.
I just want to be your friend.
You are beautiful, because when I look at you, I see God’s glory shines through you.
Peggy Hahn, you are beautiful.
You saw that my robe needed mending.
And you know that I have absolutely no time for something like that.
So you walked up to me and humbly asked to borrow it.
One week later, my hem was no longer unraveling, my collar no longer coming undone.
You are beautiful, because when I look at you, I see God’s glory shining through you.
Greg Castle, you are beautiful.
You cook our hot dogs.
You flip our pancakes.
You hand out our bulletins.
You give us nourishment for our bodies,
And every week, you gather with the men of the church at 9am to receive the Bread of Life.
You may not be 36-24-36, but you are beautiful,
Because when I look at you, I see God’s glory shining through you.
I could go on and on.
But I won’t.
Instead I leave you with this challenge:
This week, take an image diet.
Choose one way to stop worshiping image.
Don’t look at the scale.
Don’t obsess in the mirror.
Take a week off of social media.
Turn off the TV.
Or maybe just, next time you want to comment on someone’s appearance, comment on her character instead.
Instead of saying, “Look at that face,”
This week, look for God’s face.
This week, instead of trying to fit a worldly image of beauty,
Let your actions show the world the image of God.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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