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Living in the Empire

October 21, 2017

In the Gospel reading for tomorrow, Jesus talks about living within the Empire (render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s…). This little fellow didn’t seem to concerned about Caesar… I think he was searching for snacks in preparation for winter!

Our woodland and mountains friends often call this Padre to be still and simply sit in the presence and awareness of God and God’s Love. Lord knows in today’s 24/7 news cycle we need to to more of that! On a recent hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park, this little chipmunk was a reminder to be still and know.

To be honest, I still  wrestle with the Gospel which I will preach from tomorrow morning. It is a passage which has haunted me and challenged me since the beginning of my ministry. On 15 April 2015 I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I did so as a Chaplain, Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force Reserve. It was my second year of seminary and little did I know what such a moment would do for me as I began to serve the Lord while in Seminary.

Especially in today’s divisive world where patriotism seems to be more important than following the radical Christ, I often wonder how Jesus would speak to this message today. When I first came on Active duty in November of 1990, the nation was preparing for war in the Persian Gulf. Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA” was a hit and was the siren song for our Forces.

As I have grown and explored my faith in the ensuing years since 1990 and 1991, another phrase has touched my heart and my soul. David LaMotte, a Presbyterian musician and missionary spoke these words which speak even louder to my heart… especially in the context of so much warmongering on the part of our nation. “God Bless the People of Every Nation!”

This isn’t about American exceptionalism… it is about those who say they are Christ-followers and how they deal with the Empire. God creates all of humankind in God’s image. It wasn’t just Americans… it wasn’t just Israelies… it wasn’t just Palestinians… it wasn’t just Muslims… God bless the people of EVERY NATION!

Jesus was pretty blunt with the Pharisees and the Religious Elite of his day. Their brand of exceptionalism was very limited. It was very exclusive. And the Pharisees and the religious elite were in bed (to be perfectly blunt) with the political powers who could help them secured their so-called legacy in the world.

I believe we need to hear Jesus’ command once again. Render to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s! If you think this is about taxes, dear reader, you are mistaken. It is about  whom you owe your ultimate allegiance to. I served under five US Presidents. Each one had particular strengths. Each one had particular weaknesses. 

I swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic. Yet all the while I was doing that, my first obedience… my first loyalty was to our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer… I can do no other and I must never do less!

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