Jesus and those Pesky Pharisees-In God We Trust?

In_God_We_Trust

Being in Seminary doesn’t mean that the Sermonizing stops..

but that we are welcomed in the midst of communities and share with them

The Good News

 Grace and Peace to you

my sisters and brothers in Christ

As we continue the struggle to live out our identity

As footstep followers of the One

Who gave of Himself for all of Creation

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord

Amen

As Kermit the Frog once quipped,

“It’s not easy, been green..”

Or rather

It’s not easy being a follower of the risen Christ in this world.

There is this struggle we sometimes find ourselves

Attempting to faithfully straddle the fences

Throughout our spiritual journey

Especially when the counter-cultural living Word

Challenges who we are and reminds us whose we are.

(pause)

One of the reasons why the Word of God

May not resonate within those who are right here

Or those who stand on the margins outside our community

Because of their struggle if there even is a God

Is because we are afraid to admit

We have no clue sometimes in what Jesus’s teachings mean,

And that the Word of God challenges even us

(pause)

So can we be comfortable enough

To be vulnerable

And confess, “I don’t know?”

(pause)

That just because we call ourselves Christians

We do not have all the answers?

Would you be surprised if I too confessed,

“I don’t know” what Jesus Christ is trying to teach to us today?

(pause)

Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the

emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

What is Jesus trying to say to us, right now?

What does this Word, this Scripture speak to what we as sisters and brothers in Christ

Are going through right now?

(pause)

As I was scanning Facebook the other day, one of our Bishops,

Michael Rhinehart

Posted this verse eluding to the recent uproar that is happening in

Houston

With the Mayor who has ordered subpoenaed

A number of the local pastors, sermons

With relation to what they have perhaps, preached from the pulpit

And the IRS tax codes regarding separation of church and state

Or rather, church and politics

Never minding that the Mayor is openly gay

And these particular churches are openly prejudiced

Leaning very far over the wrong side

Of where God wants us to be with each another in community

(pause)

A fellow Pastor disputed to whether this verse

Was a good theological interpretation

Because according to him,

Our government is nothing like the rule under Caesar

Caesar’s rule was brutal and totalitarians

(pause)

Yet

I am sure those oppressed by governmental policies

And laws would disagree.

That those who are unable to live out the elusive

“American Dream”

Because of the stalling

Bickering

Quarrelling

Of those who are called to this service, elected to serve

Do not even believe these words etched across this-

(hold up a dollar bill)

This tangible symbol of economic gain, or loss:

“In God We Trust”

(pause)

These words so visible-

But seemingly these same words are written

In invisible ink

Across the hearts of God’s People.

(pause)

Money makes the world go ‘round

And money has the ability to spin us so incredibly fast

That we find ourselves jittery

That its presence in our everyday

Is jarring

That money is the elephant in the room

Throwing us off balance

Finding ourselves grasping out for the only thing that can save us

Steady us

Our Faith rooted through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

(pause)

Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

(pause)

Well Jesus’s favorite fan club called the Pesky Pharisees are at it again!

“Tell us, then, what you think.

Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

So what was so divisive about this particular question?

Why would Jesus’s answer

Have the potential to place Him in turmoil with the people?

Taxes-

I am sure that many of us here

Bring our worries, our fears, and our grievances in prayers to this

Sacred space

Because of the taxes we face today.

Because of the economic impact it has in our lives

And how we strive to do what we can

With what we have.

As citizens we rightly protest about the tax rates

and the reasoning for them

We scrutinize and we raise questions, right?

But merely engaging in debate

Calling the IRS and other economic bodies into question

Will not get us arrested for treason or slander.

But, see

This particular tax in question

Raised by the Pharisees

Was an Imperial Tax

And not only mandatory

But see,

The Jewish people of Jesus’s time

Were forced into paying this tax, a tribute

To continue funding the occupation of the Roman Empire

In Israel.

Yes, my sisters and brothers in Christ,

These people of God were funding their own oppression.

I wonder today,

How many peoples of the world

Who are marginalized

Are too, forced to fund their own oppression

(pause)

The coin that they paid this imperial tax to Rome had engraved on it

A picture of Caesar Tiberius

Proclaiming him the “Son of God”

A son of divinity

I wonder how emotionally and mentally

They received those words engraved into silver

“The Son of God”

(pause)

“In God We Trust”

These words too, seem to be a paradox

Etched into this flimsy piece of paper (hold up the dollar bill again)

Which we find ourselves lying awake at night worried about

Which it seems we are forced into leaning on so much for our daily basic needs

Which causes us to be sometimes, so conflicted about

And so we as people of God, and of Faith

Right this moment too, fret about what we cradle in our hands

And what we carry in our hearts

Things that seem to be tied up in this economic chaos

That continually divides God’s people

(pause)

We have an entire state, California, of fellow brothers and sisters

That are struggling with a horrendous drought

And yet, the CEO of Nestle,

Who happens to sell millions of bottle water

Who happens to procure most of that water away from California

States that FREE access to something so essential

And so much a part of God’s Creation

Connecting us to our Creator

Is not a right

Perhaps because that freedom impacts his bottom line

(pause)

We have fellow sisters and brothers

Who openly cling to their tenets of faith

But openly are contentious and confrontational

About something as essential

Holistic

As having access to Health Care

And Mental Health Care

At an affordable cost to all

But apparently to them, it is seen as not a right

Because apparently those words “In God We Trust” they are blind to

Perhaps because trusting in God

Hearing the Good News

That God, with the power of the Holy Spirit

Makes a way out of no way

That religious fervor is not popular with the lobbyists

And their affluent campaign donors

(pause)

And what about us, beloved?

Can we find the strength to lean on the Word of God

Even when we have no idea what God is speaking to us?

Or the risen Christ is teaching us

Or how the Holy Spirit enflames within us?

Can we pour into the same baptismal font

That always freely and fluidly reminds us

Of our bond, our welcome into this community of Faith-

Can we pour into this font, from within who we are

Our own economic hopes to help with building up

The wider community of Faith?

Can we find the strength to boldly declare to this always present

Always enormous elephant in the room

Crowding out each aspect of our lives called money

That the Good News is that this elephant will not crush us in our existence as people of God

That as much as money drives just about everything in this world

And that there are tangible, human made things that do belong to this world

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that we are not bonded to this world

We do not belong to Caesar

We belong to GOD

Because Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for our freedom

Upon this Cross

The Cross, so much foolishness and a paradox that the world can not understand

Is the symbol of God’s transformative power in this world

Reminds this world whether or not they want to recognize it

That the essence of Life

That the beginning of Life

That the ruach breathed into everything, everywhere

Came from God, Our Creator and Our Liberator

The Good News is regardless of the socio- economic labels that are rudely carved into our fragile selves

Working class

Middle class

Lower class

Homeless

Uneducated

Disabled

Alcoholic

Ex-felon

Poor

(pause)

Prejudiced

Illegal immigrant

Liberal

Right Wing

Conservative

Affluent

Privileged

(pause)

Oh yes,

Didn’t I mention the Word of God is challenging?

If we believe that God’s Mercy and Grace grants us forgiveness

Then that means ALL OF US

(pause)

God’s Word sometimes is complicated and frustrating

Because it means that even those who are oppressing

Who are blinded by economic excess and greed

Because “Caesar” assumedly is able to offer results

(pause)

That do not see Christ staring back at them through the same eyes,

Have the same access to receive God’s Grace and Mercy

But have yet not had the ability, resolve, the nerve

To step into the light

And confess that they are BROKEN

Because the pain that this world trips us up with

Is too much to bear

They are still traveling along that journey

They have not made it to the Table

Where regardless of these labels which cripples and damages our relationships

With one another…

The Good News is at the Table where we are made WHOLE

Reminded that we are GOD’s

and to GOD, WE ARE PRICELESS!

And because of God loving us for who we are and because we are God’s Creation

Because we are a part of this wonderful, beloved community

Because everything we have, is already God’s

We have the freedom to share with others what God has shared, given

Gifted to us!

God has given us this gift of life

To live abundantly and freely

And so we are called to care for one another,

So that everyone who is a child of God

Regardless of what label they have

Or their struggles,

Or their economic worth

(pause)

We are called to raise our voices and share the Good News

We are called to raise our voices against economic oppression and marginalization

We are called to conversations holding those who are blinded

Into accountability

We are called to pour back into the font where we were loved and blessed

A part of ourselves

For one another

Building up the community of Faith

Even we are discerning and questing about how we as people of God

Should wisely use the gifts from God

To build up our own beloved community

So then we have the ability

To not only impact and transform one another as a community

In these sacred spaces

Doing the work we are called to do

To continually bind one another together in fellowship

And in worship

But also empowering and restoring the community

outside our church doors

Doing the work God challenges and encourages us to do

Setting this world aflame through the power of the Holy Spirit

Binding ourselves to those who clearly are marked

With the sign of the cross

With the reflection of Christ in their features

Whether we are able to realize and recognize the presence of the Creator

through their speaking or singing, professing and proclaiming

Because the Living Triune God transcends everything

Race, cultural, socioeconomics

Because everything in this world belongs to the Creator God.

Thanks Be To God.

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