Are we idol makers or icons?  Perhaps you find this question interesting, surprising or even a little provocative.  Icons are not something most Protestants, especially Protestants in the free tradition, like Baptists, use in worship.  Unlike our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we are not familiar with icons.  We may not even know the meaning of the word. 

An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and certain Eastern Catholic churches.   The purpose of an icon is to be an aid in worship.  “In the Orthodox Church an icon is a sacred image, a window into heaven. An image of another reality, of a person, time and place that is more real than here and now. More than art, icons have an important spiritual role. Michel Quenot says it well in his book, The Icon: Window on the Kingdom, an icon is “theology in imagery, the icon expresses through color what the Gospel proclaims in words”.”  The purpose of an icon is to be an aid in worship and adoration of God.  In his book, Playing God Andy Crouch writes, “Icons are not meant primarily to be looked at; they are meant to be looked through.” 

Why am I asking this question?  Why do I bring up this talk of icons?  Well in our scripture for Sunday from Mark 12:13-17, Jesus uses the Greek word for icon.  Some of us may be familiar with this passage.  Jesus’ opponents try to lay a trap, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  In response, Jesus asks them to produce the coin used to pay taxes.  When they bring him the coin he asks, “Whose head (literally image or icon) is this? And whose inscription?”  His opponents easily answer the question, “Caesar.”  To which Jesus said, “if his image is on it, it must belong to him so give it to him.  But give to God what is God’s.” 

This passage is about much more than whether it’s appropriate to pay taxes to the governing authorities.  It’s much more than about the separation of church and state.  This passage is about giving to God the things that belong to God?  What or who belongs to God?  As we heard last Sunday, those who bear God’s image belong to God.  And according to Genesis 1:26-27, all of humanity bears God’s image. 

Last Sunday we learned from this Genesis passage that we were created to flourish.  When we flourish, we reflect God’s image in creation.  When we bear God’s image, we, in a sense, become icons.  Our lives express what the Gospel proclaims in words.  When our lives point to God, people can look through us and see God.  And yet, we all know that sometimes we fall short of bearing God’s image for others.  Our life experiences tempt us down a different path—the path of making idols.  But we do not have to choose that path.  The choice is ours.  Idol makers or icons?

See you on Sunday,

Pastor Dave