Bread – Appearances

August 26, 2013


Readings for Monday, August 26, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 1:5-31; Acts 26:1-23; Mark 13:14-27; Psalms 1,2,3,4,7

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Appearances, or how a person looks or appears, is a strange concept. We are taught to ignore appearances (“you can’t tell a book by its cover”) and not to ignore them (“you are who you hang out with;” “if you look good, then you feel good”). We spend a great deal of our time with our appearances (think of all of the skin products which are bought today by everyone) because we want to look successful; look too successful, however, and you might be a “con man.” It is important to look successful (drive a nice car), but people who drive nice cars are “probably loaned up to the hilt” (meaning, of course, that their appearance of success is a mirage). There is a British comedy, “Keeping Up Appearances,” where a woman beats up everyone, her husband, family, and neighbors included, over maintaining her image of a “fine life.” But then there is a successful British soap opera (“Downton Abbey”) where maintaining appearances is all they do, as they should, because each of them has a role to play in life.

We maintain the appearance of beauty when we are not beautiful, the appearance of calm when we are full of worry, the appearance of success when we are borrowing money to make ends meet, the appearance of education when the last time we read a real book which did not involve sex or aliens or alien sex was many years ago, the appearance of tolerance while hate spews from our mouths, the appearance of Christ with the reality of self-idolness.

Our readings today are all about appearances. One of King David’s sons, Adonijah, is claiming to be king and has all the trappings of kingship (food, followers, clothes, family relationship) without actually being appointed king (David has already indicated that Solomon should be king). In Acts, Paul’s appearance of learnedness is so profound that, when he begins to report the truth about his experience on the Damascus road in his confrontation with the risen Christ, Felix interrupts him with a “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” Acts 26:24. Christ, in Mark, warns us against the false prophets and false christs who “will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” Mk. 13:22. Adonijah was not king although he had the appearance of being king, Paul was not crazy even though he had the appearance to Felix of being crazy, and false prophets and false christs will arise in the last days with the appearance of authority from God, even though they have none.

So what are the lessons about appearances from these passages? The first, I think, is that we should not be like Adonijah and take on the appearance of something we are not. If we are not wealthy, we should not put on the appearance of wealth. If we are not the boss, we should not pretend to be the boss. We should not hide our true state of affairs under the blanket of “I’m fine” when we are not fine.

The second lesson, from Acts, is that we should appear to be who we are, and if people misunderstand that, then let God handle it. Paul did not add to his appearance or change his appearance; he merely showed up and reported what he had seen and heard. Felix misunderstood and thought that Paul appeared crazy. Paul did answer him, but did not take the effort to change his mind – he left that to God. Paul just stayed true to himself. What you saw is what you got and whatever interpretations of that you had were yours to have.

Third, we must be so rock solid in what we know about Christ and ourselves that we are not easily fooled by the appearance of others who would, if they could, lead us astray. The person who appears to be a friend but who leads us into temptation is no friend. The person who appears to be a Christian pastor but teaches a way other than the gospel of Christ is no Christian pastor.

We work so hard at keeping up appearances. Why? Who are we fooling? Who are we afraid of? What are we afraid of?

Come, Holy Spirit, and help us conform our appearance to our reality in Christ, help how we appear to align with who and whose we are. And then redeem the time, money, and energy keeping up appearances for our use to Your Glory as You have commanded. Amen.

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© 2013 GBF

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