Proper 24 YEAR A 2020
Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
It is great to be here this morning with you and I bring greetings from all of your sisters and brothers at St. John’s in Tallahassee. It is a gift to be here today and I am thankful for the invitation. These times we are living in are different aren’t they? They are challenging… they remind me a bit of Moses wandering in the wilderness and a bit about the never ending season of Lent, crying- how long, how long….
So I ask you…take a moment and pause for a second.
How are you doing?
How are those around you?
Are you tired? Do you feel alone?
Are you tired of the headlines in the news or people telling you how you should or should not be acting? (I would love for everything to stop telling me to vote, I did already and it’s been counted and I can only vote once!)
Do you feel like people are not listening to you at all?
Our first two readings today are approaching these questions in two very different ways.
Moses, in leadership is asking for more support, encouragement. I sense he is feeling just a little bit overwhelmed, exhausted and daunted by the task of leading people at this point in time. The journey has not been short, comfortable and many have forgotten the why they are now wandering. Moses needs a pep talk, a bit of an embrace, hope. And God says, I am here for you. The road is no shorter, but i will meet you where you need me. I will give you rest.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, different time, different place but the same need for encouragement. While Paul himself cannot go and visit them directly, he is there through word and encouragement, reminding them of their identity, to be steadfast and endure. There is hope, their work has been with love, and God is there in their midst.
The God we believe in meets us where we are when we are lost, when we are exhausted, when we are afraid, when we desperately need God to be present with us.
Especially in these days when we are tired of not hugging our neighbors, of staying behind masks, of plans changed or been interrupted.
Our first two readings remind us to hold firm and be steadfast, caring for our community and our own selves. To live in hope, to know God is there also.
In baptism we are called by name to live a life of Love and the funny thing about this call is that it doesn’t protect us from harm rather just like Jesus after his own baptism, he was called into prayer, fellowship, teaching, and healing- from the muddy waters of the Jordan to the muddy waters of human life and suffering.
The is a story that at one of the times that Jesus stumbles on falls a third time, that there Veronica gives him a towel to wipe his brow. It is that towel where they say they saw the imprint of Jesus’s face, left behind. Now whether the image still exists on fabric or not is not the point of my story, the name given to that woman is veronica which literally means true image. And if you ever find yourself in Jerusalem (after the pandemic of course) the station where this act is remembered is right in the intersection of two streets, it’s a thorough fare where daily action flurries past as one prays the way of the cross. Right in the midst of the chaos and the daily tasks the Muslims, Jews and Christians, there is God, the true image in the midst of the chaos- present, showing god’s self to those who pause, saying- I am here with you in each person around you.
In the pain, in the difference, in the division.
We are in some muddy times right now, aren’t we- divisions seem further apart than in the past, exhaustion seems to be more common as we have limited connectivity, and things are JUST different.
And yet there is still hope, there is still the time to come together, to recognize the image of God in each person we encounter. To, as we say in our baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in each person.
And that brings me to the Gospel lesson today.
AS it says, the Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus, they wanted to get Jesus in Trouble with the greater authorities. Their question for Jesus was about authority and they are asking about the political authority that governed them.
Jesus does not fall into their shallow trap of answering a political campaign question- rather he refocuses the question with refocusing what this life is all about. God’s call to each of us to be stewards of creation.
In the midst of the muddy waters of our time, it is easy to lose sight that we are stewards here (like our parables a couple of weeks back shared with us) we are here because of God’s grace and we are caretakers of God’s creation, That is what our life’s direction is about.
How then do we seek to glorify God in all that we do,
how do we see beyond seeing political party only in order to see the best for all of God’s creation.
In Jesus’ holding up a coin, he reminds the Pharisees’ that money is man’s creation and therefore part of the political system.
We, on the other hand, are the image of God. Each of us, all beautifully and wonderfully made, equally made to be a part of this community.
So, I wonder, what do we do in these times where we are tired, we are frustrated, when we are tired of waiting?
Paul reminds us to stand firm in faithfulness.
Our baptismal covenant says, we will God’s help take one step at a time, listening and learning more about God in our midst.
I invite you this week to seek out someone, remind them of their identity through God and, like Paul, support them in this time.
Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but remember that you are God’s and are called to swim through these muddy waters to endure the suffering and also experience deep gladness too.