John Wesley’s three point sermon, in which his first point was; Get all you can, to this a rich old miser said, Amen, Next Wesley said Keep all you can, again the miser said, Amen, Then the preacher said, Give all you can and the Miser said what a shame to spoil a good sermon. Then there is the question what is the difference between a tax collector and a taxidermist, the taxidermist leaves the hide. But is that the point of Jesus’ dialogue in today’s Gospel, can it all be reduced to euros and cents, I don’t think so I think it has a much deeper meaning than that, true money is part of it but it is not the whole. Let me try and explain.
Remember when you got your first colouring book and crayons? I do and I remember that they came with one simple but important set of instructions; Stay within the lines.
Even though its been a long time since most of us have picked up a Crayola, we continue to follow the instructions; Stay within the lines.
We like to keep things within the thick lines we have drawn, lines we have drawn so that we can make some sense out of these complicated lives we are living. Stay within the lines. Simple. Clear. Safe. Everything in its consigned compartment. Our days are sectioned off into calendar squares of work and play and Today’s to do list. Keep on schedule. And Stay within the lines. We have drawn lines around what we believe. There’s business. There’s politics. There’s morality.
Yes that is a fine and noble idea but it would be bad for the economy.
The church should not be involved in that; that’s a political issue.
Yes that’s the right thing to do, the best for everyone; unless of course your talking about my son/daughter, my job, my neighbourhood. Stay within the lines. We’ve even drawn lines around God. Oh, we believe in God. We consider ourselves Christian and Gospel people. Every Sunday morning. That’s God’s place, that’s God’s time. And after all you have to Stay within the lines.
But the truth is that God transcends the lines we have drawn and the boundaries we have set up in order to make some sense of our lives. God calls us to realize his hand in all things, his Spirit making all things whole and good. His vision creating a human family united in his peace, justice and mercy. Martin Luther King said: Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Experience asks the question; Is it political? Vanity asks: Is it popular? But conscience asks; Is it right? There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but you must make it because your conscience tells you that it is right.
In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, eight year old Calvin is out stargazing one night with his best pal Hobbes. Calvin asks his friend; Do you believe that our destinies are determined by the stars? Nah, Hobbes replies. Oh I do, says Calvin; really how come? Because, Calvin explains; Life’s a lot more fun when you’re not responsible for your actions.
The confrontation over Caesar’s coin is not a solution to any church versus state controversy nor an all-purpose formula for dealing with life’s big questions. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees confronts them and us, with the demand to act out of our deepest convictions and take responsibility for those actions. While we yearn for easy answers to complex questions and soundbite solutions to complex problems, the real purpose and meaning of life are found in the intricacies of our conscience and the things we believe from the depth of our hearts. Jesus appeals to us to look beyond the simplistic politics and black-and-white legalisms represented by the coin and realize that we are called to embrace the values centred in a faith that sees the hand of God in all things and everyone as part of one human family under the providence of God.