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Rector's Reflection: Allegiance and Belonging, October 21, 2023

Beloved Members of St. Martin’s,

In our gospel reading this Sunday, Jesus continues to be questioned about matters of authority, and even though he has not mentioned the word “love” either, love remains the consistent foundation of his ministry. When his opponents question him about whether to pay the Roman occupation tax or not, they are still asking him about authority, and they have been doing throughout Matthew’s gospel. The famous dictum “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's” may have been taken by many to be an indictment of the Roman empire. It was, certainly. But more important was the second half of Jesus’s statement: give to God the things that are God’s.

If we think about this statement creating two neatly delineated piles, we are in error. Even that denarius, stamped with the emperor’s face, represented not the empire, but rather the precious energy and time that was expended in earning it. Money is, of itself, neither tainted nor holy, nor are the human systems represented by that money.  Money CAN be either tainted or holy—tainted if it is used to deny others peace or justice, or holy if it is used to empower compassion and care. But neither money nor economic systems have ever created the wonder of a single newborn day or created a single life.

All our expressions of stewardship are reminders of the truth Jesus calls us as his disciples to proclaim, boldly, with gratitude: that we ourselves are God’s. Holding a day’s wages in his hand, Jesus reminds us that the love that brought creation into being, and traced its way down to me and you and every living thing, binds us together and calls us into working together for mutual flourishing and well-being. Our investments in the cause of stewardship are proclamations about our allegiances, and our belonging.

Jesus calls us to recovery of the implications of the honor and wonder of being made in God’s image. His ministry was and is ever directed to helping us remember whose we are, and how we use that knowledge to set the priorities in our lives. If that priority is not love, the love that makes us part of something greater than ourselves, all our striving is empty and our lives risk being hollowed out, a discarded husk. The basis of love is action, not transaction or calculation. The way of Jesus begins with the proclamation that the basis of our lives together begins and ends in incalculable grace that elevates and unites us as true members of the Body of Christ. Thanks be ever to God!

In Christ’s love,

Mother Leslie+


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