How many of you knew this morning what you were going to wear to church before you got out of bed? How many of you knew this morning where you are going to eat after church? Well heck, how many of you knew this morning that you were coming to church?
Geddes MacGregor in The Rhythm of God, tells of a priest who, when asked, ‘How many people were at the early celebration of the Eucharist last Wednesday morning?’ replied, ‘There were three old ladies, the janitor, several thousand archangels, a large number of seraphim, and several million of the triumphant saints of God.’
I love this text! To me, this is the text of all texts when it comes to Good News, when it comes to The Gospel. Why? Because it tells us exactly what we are supposed to do, to love! Oh, how easy is that?
Here at the end of Matthew as Jesus begins his Holy Week in a rampant debate with the Sadduccees, lawyers, chief priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees and their disciples, Jesus is at the heart of his verbal confrontation. Yet, out of these confrontations he becomes more clever and careful. He is clever and careful in a way that sets the pattern for our instruction and the instruction of His disciples.
We have been inundated over the past several months, and really over the past several years, about what does belong to “Caesar” or our government. We have trifled with the notions and bills that indicate to us that tax issues, cuts, reforms will make our life in “Caesar’s World” more complete. Give or take which week it is we are squandered about which move is right. We live in a perplexed “Caesar’s World.”
I am using the term “Caesar’s World” in order to demonstrate the fact that we live in a land governed by rulers we elect and put into power. We live in a democracy; a government that functions on economic terms with a system of checks and balances. We do not live under a dictator or a monarch, or any other type of government. But, there is a common theme between these styles and that is money! Whether it is taxes or a stipend, or allotment, money has much of the pull in determining what takes place.
Nobody here has ever quarreled with someone, have you? Never spoken ill of anyone? Never thought ill or evil of any one? Never had an evil thought about an individual or a group? Then my work here today is done! You can exit the building!
If this were only the case! I’d be unemployed, Jesus wouldn’t be necessary, and we could leave this place and let it grow up in weeds.
However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “that is not the case,” at least in my life and I would venture to say, not in yours either.
I like to hunt! Now 25 years ago I don’t think I would have said this from the pulpit, maybe I shouldn’t today but the more I thought about this passage, the more evident it became to me that what Jesus instructs of his disciple is a lot like the parts of a hunting trip.
I was six years old, scarred to death as I entered the large glass doors of the downtown YMCA. The smell of heat, sweat, and the clammy feeling that seemed to engulf the walls, which of course were that sandy brown and green surgical tile! Even at age 6 I began to think, this must be like a prison. My mother, who in her 85 years of life, still hates water, led me by the hand down the hallway to the foggy glass doors, with the letters POOL in large capital letters blazoned one the glass. I did not know what was on the other side!
Have you ever been to the grocery store, carrying a long, long list of items to prep for a dinner to conquer all dinners, completed shopping, driven home in the rain, taken all of the groceries inside, only to find you didn’t get a key ingredient for the meal you planned? Sometimes, we just miss something!
Have you ever been to a sporting event or game involving your favorite team and your favorite team is getting clobbered? Not a lot of fun, needless to say.
But at most sporting events these days, there is a lot of action going on around the game and one of those events is the cheering squad, or what us “old timers” call ‘cheerleaders’. Now, I’m not making a specific reference to the cute girls or the muscular boys, rather the excitement that a great cheering squad can muster. Loud, rhythmic, and excited. They bring you to the next level of anticipation and excitement. A good squad will make YOU want to join them! Run down on the field and be a part of them, even if your team is losing!
We are gifted with several stories in the Gospels, but this is one of the best gifts we receive! It is not often that we get a parable put out before us and then several verses later, we get an explanation! What a gift!