Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Lectionary Reading: Matthew 22:15-22 (NRSV)
Political maneuvering is on stage in today's reading. The context of this scripture is that Jesus has been in the temple teaching. He's been telling parables that call to light the hypocrisy of the chief priests, elders and Pharisees. They would like to do away with Jesus but they are afraid of the crowd.
So they are trying to turn the crowds against him with the question of taxes. It is fascinating and a little humbling to realize that taxes have always been present in political wrangling!
If Jesus sides with non-payment, he could get arrested by the Romans and the Pharisees can wash their hands of him.
If Jesus sides with paying taxes, he could stir up the wrath of the zealots in the crowd who were against this foreign intrusion. Then the Pharisees could orchestrate a stoning while seeming to stay neutral.
When Jesus asks them to produce a coin in the vicinity of the temple, this is the whole reason for the money changers in the previous chapter. Roman money should have been removed from the temple and thus the profitable enterprise that Jesus disrupted. When he calls upon them to produce a coin, the Roman emperor was self-deified. This was blasphemous for them to have. His example reminds them (and us) that we are stuck together. Their presence is everywhere. So how are we going to get along? Pay the taxes so you don't face jail (or worse). But pay to God the larger portion.
What does God require? Micah reminds us justice, kindness and humility.
It is a transformation of our lives - more than any earthly tax.
If we take this transformation seriously, it will overcome our enemies. As Abraham Lincoln apocryphally queried, "do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?"
|Dogs also practice politics|
As election day approaches in the United States, we see a lot of political maneuvering. I wish we had a law that prevented political ads from maligning the other candidate. It would be nice just to hear what a candidate stands for than what they stand against. Then the constituents could decide which figure inspires us more. Which vision for our country will get us where we need to go?
I would also like to hear how a candidate will work with others who disagree. Polarization is not serving us well in congress. As it increases, so does our disfunction. What does it mean to pray for peace in our world today?
What does God require? The larger portion.
I look forward to wrapping up our series on the Fruit of the Spirit as they relate to the Gospel lectionary readings as we think about peace this Sunday. We'll release worship online on Sunday and would love to have you join us anytime!
Photo by This Year's Love via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.