Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jesus is not a Crutch or a shortcut

The Gospel passage in the daily lectionary (which can be found here: ) today is from Mark 12 and it contains a well known exchange between Jesus and some Jewish religious leaders that were attempting to trip Jesus up or get him in trouble by asking questions that lead to difficult answers, in this case should you pay taxes to the Roman emperor?  The point of the question was that if Jesus said yes, it might upset the people listening who were unhappy with Roman rule.  If he said no, then they could simply go to the Roman authorities and turn him in for inciting disobedience and encouraging revolt.  
Like is so often the case Jesus doesn't see things they way we see them, and as such offers an unexpected answer: Who is on the coin?  Jesus asks.  When he is told it is the emperor, he says' give to the emperor what is the emperor, but give to God what is God's.  
I think people in Jesus' time and people now - people from the beginning of time until the end of time - often look to God or religion in general (not to mention lots of other things) as a way out of what they don't want to do.  Packaged this way faith can be pretty appealing: Come to Jesus and your life will be easy!  Come to Jesus and you will get stuff!  Good stuff!  The stuff you really want!  You won't have to do things you don't want to.  
Some of those are unfair, right?  I mean most of us don't really think that is what we are signing up for when we start to explore our faith and believe.  But I do think many of us might believe or be looking for our faith and belief our relationship with God to mean that maybe, just maybe life would be fair.  That because of our relationship with Jesus that things would go better for us.  That somethings might 'go our way' based on that relationship.  I know I feel like that sometimes.  
But this is completely contradictorily to what Jesus told the disciples - Jesus time and again (check the end of the beatitudes) tells all that will listen that following him will lead to difficulty, suffering and persecution not the easy life.  
But we want the easy life.  We want the shortcut.  The people listening to Jesus must have wanted him to answer the Pharisee's question like this:  NO!  No paying taxes, your thanks to God for what you have been given is all you owe.
But that isn't what Jesus said.  Jesus says go about your life - do your work.  No shortcuts.  Jesus doesn't take any responsibility away, but rather (like he so often does) adds a layer of responsibility.  Here Jesus says to give to the government what is rightfully theirs', but to always give to God what is God's.  
Jesus doesn't offer us a shortcut or an easy way through life, trusting in Jesus doesn't offer us an easy way out of life's difficult situations.  
Instead Jesus offers us a way through both the good and bad times, highs and lows of our lives: our daily eating, drinking and going to work/school lives.  Jesus offers us transcendence.  When we give to God what is God's, by beginning with a disposition of thanks and gratitude for all we have and where we are.  When we look at each moment of our lives as an opportunity to do something (even if it is something 'boring' and uneventful like a exel spreadsheet or homework) for God.  When we life into the call in Romans 12:1 -  So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. (MSG) 
God Doesn't offer us a crutch to hobble through life with.  Jesus doesn't invite us to follow him through the shortcut past life's difficulty, pain and sorrow.  Instead we are invited to follow Jesus through even the most difficult and painful parts of life, following the path that Jesus blazed.  A path marked by service and sacrifice and thankfulness.  A path marked by putting God first in all things and seizing every moment to use who you are, where you are and what you have to give glory to God and to share God's grace, peace, love and mercy.  
Not a shortcut, but an adventure.  

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