God's Story, Your Story and Our Story Through the Eyes of the Gospel Writers:
Warm Relationships and Their Significance for Being Best Neighbors In The Public Square--Get Deliberate, Inspired and Going: a Reflection on Isaiah 45:1-7 and Matthew 22:15-22
Let’s get deliberate, inspired and going about partnering with God and connecting
with one another in God’s mission. Jesus loves you just the way you are and gives you courage to be authentic and join others in becoming the people and community God intends. As one of our members most recently told me, “As a football team and a basketball team always do better when working as a team, so must we as a church, work together to develop unity within our society.”
Citizenship in our country is important. With citizenship comes certain rights and privileges. In his 2010 memoir, A Journey: My Political Life, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair shares the following story:
A friend of mine whose parents were immigrants, Jews from Europe who came to America in search of safety, told me this story. His parents lived and worked in New York. They were not well off. His father died when he was young. His mother lived on, and in time my friend succeeded and became wealthy. He often used to offer his mother the chance to travel outside America. She never did. When eventually she died, they went back to recover the safety box where she kept her jewelry. They found there another box. There was no key. So they had to drill it open. They wondered what precious jewel must be in it. They lifted the lid. There was wrapping and more wrapping and finally an envelope. Intrigued, they opened it. In the envelope were her U.S. citizenship papers. Nothing more. That was the jewel, more precious to her than any other possession. That was what she treasured most.
Tony Blair’s friend's mother was deliberate in getting and living her US citizenship. It inspired her. United States of America citizenship kept her going in her life to become all that it provided.
The public square dialogue surrounding racial equity, education, climate change, health care, gender equality and immigration requires an ability to listen well and engage with empathy. The dialogue is connected to citizenship, equal protection under the law and the Bill of Rights. The public square dialogue does consume emotional, intellectual, physical and financial resources. But warm relationships care more about the dialogue partner than the issue.
This is where the good news of Jesus Christ, in word and deed, comes into play. Remember, God intends us to partner with God and connect with one another in the mission of bringing about the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. Hope is the expectation and desire that the will of God come about on earth as it is in heaven. Hope believes that all matter of things can be different. When we experience redemption, we are grateful for realized hope. Hope realized cultivates keen intuition and trusting faith. In this regard, Brene Brown writes,
Intuition is not independent of any reasoning process. In fact, psychologists believe that intuition is a rapid-fire, unconscious associating process, like a mental puzzle. The brain makes an observation, scans its files, and matches the observation with existing memories, knowledge and experiences…Faith and reason are not natural enemies…our need for certainty and to be right have pitted faith and reason against each other…Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
Imagine being a congregation filled with people centered in cultivated intuition and
Isaiah 45:1-7 and Matthew 22:15-22 set forth this question. How is God involved in leaders who are good and bad, religious and non-religious and politically savvy or not so much? God chose Abraham, Moses and Cyrus. God chooses people to lead, pagan and non-pagan alike. God is Lord of life and works out God’s will for God’s good pleasure and the benefit of the common good. It is within that setting that Christians must hold tightly to the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor. Period. Bringing about the will of God on earth as it is in heaven is not dependent on a leader’s faith or lack thereof, high skill set or lack thereof or stating the correct litmus tests of what moral and ethical behavior looks like. As one biblical scholar notes, “God’s love will be the final verdict in this world and grounds our hope and our ethic in this reality.”
The texts in Isaiah and Matthew cause us to realize that living out the good news of Jesus, the Gospel, a person cannot avoid making political commitments. I was taught that a person should not mix politics with religion. Yet, God consistently does in the written Word. The question asked Jesus about Caesar’s coin thrusts us into questions about obedience, loyalty and authority. These questions demonstrate how faith has an inescapable political dimension. Jesus is the ultimate plumb line. Because of Jesus’ earthly obedience, suffering, crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus is the standard for the world, but also God’s hope for the world.
Yes, we must give to the emperor what is demanded. But we also must give to God, what is demanded: love God and others. God has given all the resources humanity needs to live a life of abundance. Everything we have and are, our Life Wallet, can change life for someone, somewhere, somehow. Everything we are and have is a gift from God. The Bible teaches us to tithe, that is give 10% of all that we are cognitively, affectively, physically, and financially.
Get deliberate, inspiring and going.On this Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost imagine tithing, being a tither. Imagine partnering with God and connecting with one another towork toward and hope for a fully invested, loving community who serve and worship and love together. Imagine sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, in word and deed, building unity instead of division. Imagine being a church, working as a team, who serves and loves unconditionally and faithfully. Work for the common good. Bring about a just world for all.
Tony Blair, A Journey: My Political Life (New York City, New York: Knopf, 2010), xvi. Adapted from Brene Brown, The Gifts Of Imperfection (Center City, Minnesota: Hazeldon Publishing, 2010), 87, 88, 90. Brian D. Russell in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year A, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 394. In the two paragraphs above of textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of Miguel A. De La Torre, Brian D. Russell, Michael E. Lee and Theodore J. Wardlaw in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year A, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 389-392, 392-394, 403-405 and 405-406.