The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
The Very Reverend Torey Lightcap

 

 

Jesus tells those gathered to give to God those things that are God’s,
And to give to the Emperor those things that are the Emperor’s.
Another way to say it is that everything is God’s anyway ,
And by comparison, the coin of the realm, in the grand scheme of things, is less important.
When he hands the coin back, it’s like he’s saying,
Love God with everything you have, and Caesar can have his face back.
That probably sounds good from a pulpit, but think about how it preaches out in the world.
“Show me the coin,” Jesus says. At first that may sound like “Show me the money!”
Except it comes from a completely different set of intentions,
And it produces a completely different set of results.
When Cuba Gooding Junior’s character says “Show me the money!” in Jerry Maguire ,
He’s saying that if you pay him well, he’ll be a star for you.
When Jesus asks you to Show him the coin , and then he casually hands it back, he means to say
That any one little thing you can point to is pretty insignificant next to, say, everything else.

He looks at the coin. Whose image is on it? Caesar’s.
It is a small thing. Caesar was terribly important to the time, an entire institution,
But in the bigger picture all he ever was, was just one little person.
A miniscule image stamped on a tiny coin.
Compare that to this familiar phrase from Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness therof.”
In the context of the size of the entire created order, to borrow from Neil deGrasse Tyson,
Caesar’s head on a coin is a speck … on a speck … on a speck … on a speck … on a speck.
Keep pulling the camera back:
A coin in the hand of one person … standing on the crust of the whole round earth …
Which is itself a lonely thing in a solar system out on the edge of a massive galaxy …
That is separated by immeasurable cold vacuous space from maybe 100 billion other galaxies
That themselves make up only just a tiny fraction of the total universe …
Which, we’re learning, possibly isn’t even the only universe there is …
But may be perhaps one out of — what? Who knows how many.
If we miss that we are living in “the fulness therof,” we miss something wonderful.

Now, does Jesus know all this? Well, how should I know?
But —
Has Caesar been put in his place by this itinerant backwater rabbi?
Well, he wouldn’t exactly run and hide at this rude slight, but he’s been bested for sure.
The emperor’s head on a coin, you must agree, by comparison to God’s world, is just nothing.
Or darned close.

And yet we live in a “Show me the money!” kind of world, don’t we?
“It’s all about the Benjamins!” “Whoever dies with the most toys, wins.”
“Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you the kind of misery you prefer. ”
The coin of the realm is the symbol of power.
Yet we say these things in full knowledge
That no one ever saw a pocket on a shroud,
Or saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul.
“You can’t take it with you” – and I’m looking at you , Tutankhamun.
Not even the royalty of ancient Egypt, kings and queens,
Buried deep in their pyramids surrounded by everything they would ever need in the afterlife,
Had a moment’s success with any of that.

So let’s drill down into the spirit of Jesus’ words
And into the spirit of Jesus’ acknowledgement
That we had ought to give back to God those things that were already God’s to begin with.

Energy is what keeps everything together and moving.
Without energy there would be no universes, no universe, no galaxies, no stars, no planets,
And without a doubt, certainly, no Us. Because: no energy, no life, no Us.
Mostly what makes us up, is energy in one form or another, powering matter;
We are composed of the dust of long-dead stars, animated by energy;
Every process that occurs inside or outside us requires it. All work is powered by energy.
In fact, a great deal of what’s happening inside each and every one of us at this moment
Has to do with energy — generating it, allocating it, using it, recycling it.
Right now, our bodies are relying on high-speed switches in energy
To power us and get us around — think, breathe, move, act.
Our bodies are producing and consuming energy right now: producing and consuming,
Listening to these words, integrating their meaning, passing information along,
Regulating and powering all our vital functions, keeping us upright in our seats.

Inside each and every one of us, even when we’re fast asleep,
The Energizer Bunny is banging away on that drum. If it stops, so do we!

Energy goes in, and energy comes out, and energy is shared.
All of life together has a common, shared energy, like the web of a spider,
Although we like to pretend that we are separate from each other.

One available metaphor we could probably all relate to right now, is voting.
Far beyond the instantaneous processes of our bodies,
We have the opportunity to decide where to put our energy.
This is exciting, because it means we have a role in the process;
We have agency and authority; we have a little power and say-so.
We vote where we’re going to make our energy go,
And those votes are always adding up to something.

An interesting fellow named Gary Zukav wrote that
“Every intention sets energy into motion whether you are conscious of it or not.”

Every intention puts energy into motion.
In the metaphorical voting booth of your mind, you blacken a circle or pull a handle,
And you vote for one candidate over another. You get behind someone, you shift energy over to them.
Or, when you’re looking at a cookbook and doing menu planning,
You vote for Salisbury Steak instead of Chicken Kiev,
And your energy goes that way.
We vote with our energy all day long:
Standing or sitting; Pepsi or Coke; Target or Walmart;
Exercise instead of cookies (!), cookies instead of exercise (!);
Cruelty-free makeup instead of whatever was on sale;
A pet hamster instead of a pet gerbil. See? This, not that.
You’re voting where your energy’s going to go. And there it goes.
Not to put too much pressure on us,
But with every decision we make, every time we vote about how to expend our energy —
No matter how seemingly insignificant those decisions —
We also make moral and ethical statements about our priorities.
Sometimes the smallest decisions have the greatest impact.
And nothing less than our whole lives end up as the demonstrated accumulation of those votes.

Money is just another part of that exact same notion.
Money is a symbol of the working-out of that same decision-making process.
That same energy-voting process. Spending money is voting your energy with your dollars.
Let me stress that. Money is a symbol of energy.
It’s a unit and an expression of your energy, and what you do with it is, mostly, is vote:
You’re saying where you want your energy to go. Making a choice.

Sometimes – maybe a lot of the time – it’s “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Render unto Caesar.
Let a little energy go, or a lot, depending on what your CPA says.
Let’s be honest: some energy just isn’t handed over with happiness or fanfare.

Voting with your dollars is a funny thing until you get your mind around it,
But then you start seeing it everywhere,
And from there it gets kind of exciting.
But some energy you just can’t wait to spend.
Some dollar-voting can’t come fast enough.
Sometimes you just know that you’re ready to give back to God,
Return that energy to the One who gave it in the first place.

Our lives, then, are meant to be the constant outpouring of ourselves to God.
Jesus says to give to God that which is God’s.
Just as Caesar gets relatively nothing in the big picture,
God gets relatively everything.

I want to see my own life increasingly lived in this way:
Every time I consciously choose, vote, I consciously choose for Christ
And the things Christ stood for.

Do yourself a favor when you get home today.
Pull a dollar out of your wallet, put a little dog-ear on it.
Next time you need it for something, take a little look at it first and just ask yourself –
Does this reflect my values? Does this reflect God’s values?
Does this reflect the vision of the world for which Jesus came to earth?

Then cast your decision.
God’s name be blessed. Amen.