Matthew 22:17-22 NIV
17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Romans 8:29-30 NIV
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Romans 12:2 NIV
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Her name is still on the bottom of the bowl.
Right where she put it a quarter of a century ago. “Nancy D. Greenwood” it reads, a surprisingly clear and stylish signature, given that it was inscribed in clay still wet from the potter’s hands. The bowl dates from a period of pottery classes she took in late middle age. No doubt she wanted to be sure that when the efforts of the whole class came out of the kiln, she’d still be able to detect and claim it as hers. The glaze on the bowl is a neutral gray with some subtle washes of bronze. Those who know me don’t need telling that “neutral” is not my middle name, but it’s my favorite bowl for almost any purpose. Whether it’s filled with salad or soup or ice cream, I love to use it; not just because she made it, but because every time I read her inscription on the bottom, I’m reminded of all that she was - which was pretty impressive. She was a renaissance woman, to say the least...and she put her signature on more than just pottery.
She put it on the lives of her daughter Cathy and her son Doug. Like Nancy, Cathy and Doug are both excellent cooks. Like his mother, Doug is musical and has a good voice. As her mother did before her, Cathy is now devoting herself to caring for elderly and dependent family members - no easy task at any time, and a particularly challenging one in the midst of the pandemic. Of course, their mother’s is not the only signature on them: their Dad also left his mark. Mr. Greenwood was a remarkably talented “amateur” woodworker who spent decades crafting museum quality antique reproduction furniture, much of it in the Pennsylvania Hepplewhite style. Almost every piece he made bears his signature: a secret drawer into which he put Hershey’s kisses as a reward for successful seekers. Both of his children bear the signature of their father’s strong character: like him, they are both hardworking and persistent; and both of them are inclined to collect more information than they give away, just like their Dad. For those who knew their parents, it’s easy to tell whose children they are; their parents’ inscriptions are not hard to find.
I wonder if the same might be said of us. Those of us who understand ourselves as children of God are urged by St. Paul not to be conformed to the pattern of this world (how easy it that?!) but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we might be able “to test and approve what God’s will is - God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.” Presumably the testing and approval process includes reflecting and exhibiting God’s good, pleasing and acceptable will to anyone who might be watching: the Lord is always looking for people who are willing to be an “Exhibit A” of what God can do in a life that’s surrendered to the divine will. Jump ahead a few chapters in the letter to the Romans, and you’ll find more on the topic of resembling our Creator: God fully intends and purposes that we will be conformed to the image of his Son, so that Jesus might be the firstborn of a big family of brothers and sisters who bear strong family resemblances to their heavenly Parent. It’s the same thing Jesus was talking about in yesterday’s Gospel, when he says “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar; and to God, what belongs to God” - which would be us, of course, since we’re made in God’s image and therefore, bear the Maker’s Mark. Hopefully, it’s not hard to tell whose children we are. After all, a hurting and broken world is looking to see if they can still find God’s signature on us.
“Have Thine Own Way, Lord”, UMH 382,
stanzas 1 and 4
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter; I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o'er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only always, living in me!
Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood