Whose Image and Likeness at Sanctuary

“Politics make strange bedfellows,” you know. Is that this Sunday’s text or is it the front page of the paper (or your favorite site on the internet)? As part of the on-going Gospel reading series from Jesus’ presence in the court of the Temple during Holy Week, we are focused this Sunday on Matthew 22:15–22, the question of paying taxes to Caesar posed by the Pharisees and the followers of King Herod. These two groups couldn’t have had less to do with one another in the time period of our text. The Pharisees were intent on scrupulous religious observance and the Herodians on support for King Herod and association with Rome. But they are united in their opposition to Jesus. They pose to Jesus a public puzzle that sounds like a presidential debate ploy by a hostile debate moderator. They seek to trap him in his words somewhat akin to the grilling of a supreme court nominee’s confirmation hearing. We may delight in Jesus’ clever response to these hypocritical game players; but the real issue for you and me in the face of our own public and personal turmoil is the confrontation with Jesus Christ, “the very image of the Father.” (Colossians 1:15) The public persons in our world, both Church and state, have their own answering to do to the Lord. The question facing me (and you, I think) is at the end of the day, when I look in the mirror, did people see Christ?  “He must increase; I must decrease,” John the Baptizer said. “On my heart imprint Your image, Blessed Jesus, King of grace, That life's riches, cares, and pleasures Never may Your work erase; Let the clear inscription be: Jesus, crucified for me, Is my Life, my hope's foundation, And my glory and salvation!”