Weekly Lectionary takes a look (sometimes brief, sometimes longer, sometimes odd) at one of the lectionary passages for the upcoming Sunday (or in this case, the Sunday it's posted). This week we'll look at the New Testament passage of Ephesians 4:25-5:2.
When I was growing up, my dad would travel to different churches to do special effects chalk drawings. On a large board, he would draw pictures of the nativity or Jesus on the cross as music would play. Then there would be a projector behind the board that would depict the star of Bethlehem or the angel at the empty tomb. Dad still does this today. It's a cool way to tell a story.
I saw my dad make these drawings thirty or forty times a year growing up. From a very early age, I started making those drawings too. I would draw them on offering envelopes with the dull pencils that are in the pew. I would draw the pictures with crayons at home. In fact, when I was two, I once drew it on the TV in our living room. I was in massive trouble until, with tear-filled eyes, I whimpered out "Draw Jesus." This is the story I have been told. While no doubt my two year old self was sincere, that's an escape act that would impress even Houdini.
But I drew these pictures of Jesus because I wanted to be like my dad. I think most of us do that with our parents. We dress up in their clothes. We pretend to be them or act like we have their jobs. Children typically love their parents and thus try to imitate them.
This week's passage from Ephesians closes with the encouragement: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Eph. 5:1-2, NRSV) I read that and think back to me sprawled out on the floor, drawing Jesus so I could be more like my dad.
It all begs the question of how we imitate God. The answer should be fairly obvious, but thankfully the author of Ephesians makes it clear. We live in love as Christ lived in love. If we want to know what God looks like, if we want to know how we can imitate God then we look at Jesus. We look at how he loved God and loved those whose paths he crossed. To imitate God, we must imitate Jesus.
As we imitate Jesus, it's not always going to look like a masterpiece. My childhood crayon drawings of Jesus never looked as good as the chalk drawings that my dad did. Yet in spite of the imperfections, there was a love in those drawings. I wanted to be like my dad. I think you can tell the difference between a copy for copy's sake and a copy because someone loves the original.
My drawings did get better over time with practice. As a counterpoint, I lost that skill over time. I turned my attention to school, sports, and ultimately writing. The drawing above is from this morning as I told this story during a children's sermon. If I kept drawing those pictures throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, they would look better than what I scrawled out this morning.
The more we imitate Jesus, the more we ought to look like him. It won't be linear. We are imperfect and our drawings of Jesus will always have a bit of a child's scrawl to them. Yet this is why we should always be in the practice of imitating Jesus. Christ-likeness is a difficult skill to get a grasp on. With practice and love, hopefully people will see through our imperfection and see the beautiful original to which we're aspiring.
So it's my prayer that my life and yours will draw Jesus. That it will have the love and affection that you find in the work of a child. That, over time, it will resemble more and more the beautiful work of our God.