Monday, October 13, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday

Matthew 22:15-22

22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.
22:16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.
22:17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"
22:18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?
22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius.
22:20 Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?"
22:21 They answered, "The emperor's." 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."
22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Notes: Herodians (followers of Herod) -- somehow I get the feeling that the enemies of Jesus are getting bigger and bigger. Normally, the Pharisees and the Herodians hated each other, but here they are united in hating Jesus. There is nothing that will unite a disparate group of people as a common enemy.

Earlier, the Pharisees had questions about authority. This is also, in a way, a question of authority -- does the Roman Empire have authority over us? It's also a trick question. If Jesus answers "yes" that we owe tax to Caesar, then the Zealots will go all flibberty on him, because Caesar claims to be God. If he says "no" then the Pharisees get upset because they fear upsetting the status quo -- as bad as the Roman rule is, the crushing weight of the full Roman army is to be avoided at all costs.

So Jesus answers their question with a question -- whose head appears on the coin (not the obverse of the coin where Caesar claims to be God, BTW -- Jesus phrases his response carefully.)

Then he tells up to "pay back" Rome what is owed to Rome.

Juxtapose this with all our American angst about taxes, national budgets, bailouts and talk about depressions.

According to Peter Slevin's Sept. 29 news story, 33 pastors gave sermons on Sept. 28 endorsing candidates. This is great news.

These pastors have traded in their tax-exempt status for the thrill of endorsing from the pulpit. Of course, they are familiar with this statement from Jesus: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's."

Especially in light of the $700 billion bailout, the Treasury is going to need the revenue. -- from the Washington Post, letters to the Editor Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A20

Something grim from the Sydney Morning Herald:
This is what happens in times of great insecurity. As the foundations of our lives erode, we search for an anchor, and social politics very often provides it. When all else fails, we may still rally around old certainties: nation, culture, religion, race. We crave strong authority figures that can imbue us with certainty and articulate for us a sense of self. That often involves fabricating a scapegoat who becomes a mortal enemy.
Was Jesus the Pharisee's "mortal enemy"? What exactly is Caesar's? What exactly belongs to God? Jesus' example is that his very life belongs to God -- is ours?

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