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In Whose Image?

denarius coindenarius

When the Pharisees asked Jesus if they should pay tax to Caesar, Jesus had them look at a coin: “Whose image is this?” (Matt. 22:20, NIV). Dutifully they answered that Caesar’s image was imprinted on the denarius. So, yes, he gets the imperial tax. “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (v. 21). We generally stop at the first half of that verse for proof that paying taxes is right, expected of us. After all, the emperor’s image is on the coin.

Jesus’ answer was twofold. So what bears the image of God? What belongs to God? It’s who. We go back to the creation story. Of all the creatures God made, only the humans did God create in His image: “In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 2:27, NIV).

This is basic to the pro-life message. Because we are created in God’s image, we do not abort unborn human children. God spoke through Isaiah about “children, the work of my hands” (Isa. 29:23, NIV). From the moment of conception, we are all stamped with the image of God. Life matters. We are precious in God’s sight, for He created us and we belong to Him. We defend the rights of the unborn, because we speak the truth of ownership, the right to live in His world.

The message of bearing the image of God goes further; because we belong to God, we make ourselves available to Him, His plans and purposes. In a way, we accept that image upon ourselves, into our daily living, honoring God and proclaiming His Word to others. We want the truth to be known in our family, neighborhood, nation, and around the world. We live out the image of God. We cannot say to the One who formed us, “You did not make me” (Isa. 29:16, NIV). God did. Therefore, we represent Him in all we say and do. That’s image-bearing.

DHS Class of 1959

The graduating class of 1959, D’Iberville High School, Mississippi, met for their sixtieth reunion. For this group of former students, it’s not unusual to get together and renew friendships. Ten classmates met in the home of Cynthia Lewis to celebrate their high school graduation of May 15, 1959. Members brought typical southern dishes to share: gumbo, po-boys, and brisket, also cookies decorated with the school’s logo. The centerpiece featured a large cake with the school colors of maroon and gold and a photo of the class’s fiftieth reunion.

DHS.60Reunion.2019  Not a good photo but it does the trick.

The Biloxi-D’Iberville Press gave prominence to the reunion with a write-up and photo, naming the ten 1959 graduates who met: Jerald Levins, Jimmy Rodriguez, Marlene Pickard, Shirley Richard, Charlotte Parker, Tim Greenwell, Cynthia Lewis, Janette Williams, and Orey Lee & Janet Krohn, including maiden names for the ladies.

Included in the write-up is our connection to this class: “Always a topic of any class gathering is the senior trip taken to Monterrey, Mexico, by the class just before graduation. The class raised about $2,500 that year by selling peanuts and magazines to pay for themselves and their four sponsors, Rev. Bill Coker and his wife, Ann, along with Coach Billy Salter and his new bride, Elaine. The seven-day trip by Grey Line Tours for the 23 seniors and sponsors, including meals and hotels, was by today’s standards, certainly to be considered a bargain. But then again ‘it was the 50’s.’ We now know why it was called ‘Happy Days!’”

Not only have these classmates met with some regularity, they often contact us. Bill’s two years teaching English to these students made a marked impression on their future. One man’s job sent him traveling to many countries; his senior trip to Mexico was the first time out of his home state. One lady earned her PhD in English and dedicated her dissertation to her former high school English teacher. Most have sent us Christmas cards annually, and they honored us with a 60th-anniversary card complete with greetings from all living classmates, and it included the names of those who have passed on from this life.

Sometimes I think of these young students as kids; but truth be known, they are only about two or three years younger than I am. Most are grandparents and have retired from good jobs. Throughout all the years of our ministry, these students have shown respect by keeping in touch with us and meeting for reunions, some we’ve had the privilege to attend. What a blessing they are!

The newspaper concluded: “With 60 years and counting, it seems that these classmates have made a friendship and bond that has already stood the test of time.”

Two Dishwashers

Teacups in Rain

I would stand by the dish drain as Dad washed the dishes. He took this task seriously, getting the pots and pans out of the way before starting on dishes and silverware.  My task (my turn) was to dry dishes while my sister put them back in the cupboards. Mother was busy putting away leftovers for another meal. Dad was also particular about dish products: he preferred Comet to Ajax as a scouring agent; he had a favorite detergent, one that “cut the grease,” as the commercial would say. Growing up I don’t remember having an automatic dishwasher; it was Dad.

Soon after I married Bill, he took me to the kitchen and said, “This is yours.” I was proud of the possession and responsibility, and I assumed he would help out with various tasks. Wrong. At least for many years, anyway. After Bill became dean of the college, he took up cooking, finding new recipes (sometimes strange ones). One recipe he copied from a magazine in a doctor’s office – imitation crab and angel-hair spaghetti, a quick and easy dish we still make today. When he would cook, I didn’t mind washing the dishes. Then when I cooked, Bill would do the clean-up

Now in our three-generation home, Bill is the “official” dishwasher. Emily says, “He’s the best!” We have a dishwasher appliance, but Bill doesn’t use it unless we insist when we have company. He’s as particular as my dad, maybe more so. He doesn’t like for dishes to stack up in the drain, so I stay handy or he will start drying. When he had an infected thumb, Becky took him off dishwasher duty, and he did not like it, lingering around, hoping she would not see him at the sink. It’s his job and he likes it.

Child-like Honesty

Girl praying

During Sunday dinner I sat across from my friend’s six-year-old daughter. I don’t recall what she said, but the expression on my friend’s face indicated that her daughter was more honest than she would have liked her to be. In her child-like honesty, being real before others, she did not think ahead about any rebuke. I appreciated the girl’s unashamed honesty.

Didn’t this sweet girl illustrate what Jesus taught us about being able to enter into His Kingdom? He welcomed children, indignant that the disciples rebuked the children. “He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Mark 10:14-15, NIV).

I’m impressed that these were “little children,” possibly toddlers and pre-school age. They had not been tainted with too many expectations or troubled about how people think of their words and actions. These children exhibited the characteristics of honesty, love, and faithfulness in a natural way. That’s the way we should all come before our Savior – open, honest, and real.

How often we start our prayers with a hidden agenda about what’s expected, and we try to sound right and good. We’re not honest before the One who knows our thoughts even before they are framed into sentences. God wants us to open up, be true, real. We see that in King David’s prayers: “I am forgotten as though I were dead.” “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” “May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame” (Psalm 31:12; 38:4; 35:4). Yet, David often praised the Lord: “I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.” “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” “Praise him for his surpassing greatness” (Psalm 40:10; 37:25; 150:2).

God honors our open hearts, our petitions as well as our praise. I desire to be real before God.

The Church

LaPlasUMC.LA.13

When I was a sophomore in college a district superintendent of the Methodist Church approached and asked if I would be willing to pastor a small church in LaPlace, Louisiana. A heady assignment for a 19-year-old boy, but in my naïveté and self-assurance, the challenge did not overwhelm me at all. I’m no longer a naïve college boy, and I’m not so self-assured anymore. In all honesty, I’ve been overwhelmed when pastoring a church.

We need to prepare the church for the future, but many changes have occurred in the church over the past 2000 years. Some of those changes have been good and become part of a normal development of the church. We can’t anymore go back to the first-century church than we can go back and re-create the 19th century in America. We live in a world of change, so some changes have been needed if the church is going to be the church and minister to people today.

Some changes in the church have been wrong and we have suffered. Think particularly of the medieval era when the church was placed in the hands of the clerics, the professionally religious, and laypeople basically became spectators. We don’t want to go back to the period of time when laymen were uninvolved. Laypeople would find themselves missing out on the blessings of God and the church failing to be the church.

Many opinions surface about what we ought to be and what we ought not to be and how we ought to conduct ourselves and how we ought not to do it. Many opinions represent the personal preferences we have or the traditions from which we have come. These differences make the church in the 21st century struggle a great deal more in the effort to be the church and minister to people. Our preferences vary one from the other, and our traditions are so different we have to grapple with the problems they generate.

In the midst of all these difficulties and differences, we deal with theories about how we need to prepare the church for today. With all of the new marketing techniques and exhortations to “get with it” or “be relevant,” I sometimes feel uncertain, inadequate and unconvinced. On more than one occasion, I have felt like saying, “Let’s go do something else.” But if Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, there is no way I or you can love Him without loving the Church for which He died.

The pressure is on the church today to reach out into a world that’s increasingly secular, into the midst of such deep, dark, and desperate needs in people. Can the church be the church? Every day we discover whether or not we can deliver the goods depends on whether or not the church is truly the church in our community.  — W.B. Coker, Sr.

 

80th Birthday – Mother and Me

As I waited for April 23rd to arrive for my 80th birthday, I thought of the surprise birthday party we girls planned and orchestrated for our mother. It was a big event with entertainment. My sisters, Minnie in AL and Martha in NM, collected names and address for the guests, mostly family. The party was a complete surprise for Mother and she thoroughly enjoyed it. We sisters sang to her while Martha signed the words, a real treat. Mother thanked us by giving the sign for love. Pictures of the party and guests made the memories last longer. Our brother, Tom, phoned Mother when she got back to her apartment.

This April I thought of Mother’s 80th birthday mainly for the reason of comparison. Remembering Mother, I thought of her then as old. But as I looked in the mirror on my day and saw the resemblance to my mother, I didn’t think I looked as old as I remembered her.

It’s like a joke greeting a friend sent me: “A lady told her friend on her birthday, ‘You don’t look like you’re 80 years old,’ and then added, ‘but I remember when you did.’” Do we ever look our age or behave such?

I’m now 80 years old and in my 81st year, the way Mother would put it. I told Bill that now he can officially call me, “Ole Lady.”  That’s what his dad called his mom all their married life together. To top it off, I’m grateful for these 80 years and even ask the Lord to grant me more so that I can complete my dreams.

100_1875  Sisters with Mother on her 90th birthday.

Maundy Thursday

Communion

MAUNDY THURSDAY MEDITATION by William B. Coker, Sr. (not dated)

Matthew 26:17-30

A spiritually intense moment for Jews.

  1. A reminder of how they came to be as a nation.
  2. A “communion of saints” with those who made up their history.
  3. A personal participation in redemption history (Masada today).

We can only imagine how intense for Jesus.

  1. He knew the final confrontation was at hand.

“All hell broke loose” – It was about to!

  1. Jesus’ intensity reflected in his comment to the disciples:

“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16).

Jesus’ great desire to eat this meal with his disciples must be understood in the light of what He did:  He took bread, and gave thanks; broke it and distributed to his disciples. “This is my body; do this often in remembrance of me. This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

WHAT DID HE MEAN?  WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THOSE OF US WHO FOLLOW?

Donald Baillie (The Theology of the Sacraments) suggests three significant elements:

The Memory, The Presence, and The Hope.

  1. A memorial feast, the Eucharist is a harkening back to the incarnation

>Establishes the historical reference

>Proclaims the passion of Christ for our redemption

>Meaning of the word “Maundy” is Remember

  1. A sacrament of worship, the communion underscores the Real Presence

>Not to be lost in arguments about how Christ is here

>Baillie – “…looking beyond ourselves to Him who is waiting to be gracious to us, Him who answers before we call and hears while we are yet speaking, Him who in His grace and love is near and as real as the bread which we see with our eyes and touch with our hands.”

>Sacramentum = the oath taken by a Roman soldier that he would never desert the standard, never turn his back on the foe, and never be disloyal to his commander.

  1. A celebration of hope, the Lord’s Supper looks toward the consummation

>A prophecy of victory

“O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin O’er captive death and conquered sin.”

>A present participation in the Age to Come

As you participate, I suggest three words for perspective:

REMEMBER – the Lord’s suffering and your part in His death.

REALIZE – our participation is our pledge to faithfulness

REJOICE – to us is the promise for the marriage feast of the Lamb