This meditation was shared at our gathering on Sunday October 22, 2017 inspired by Matthew 11: 15-22
Tomorrow I will be catching a plane bright and early to fly to Indianapolis to attend the Prophetic Resistance Summit Organized by PICO, a Faith Based Community Organization. I continue to find hope in remembering how many people and communities are doing good in the world. One of the questions we are often asked by PICO when we are convened as religious leaders is this: Are you a chaplain to the Empire or a prophet of the Resistance?
The first time I heard this question posed, I was taken aback a bit. It is so stark, are you here or are you there? Is your allegiance here or there? Is your heart here or there?
It strikes me that perhaps one of the core questions of the Christian life for all of us is about where our loyalties are and where our allegiances lay. What competes for our obedience and our loyalty? Whose image receives our devotion?
In the Gospel of Matthew, we are gifted with this rich parable where some with political power are trying to trick the teacher when they ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
It’s not just a question of economics; it is a political question, a moral question and one that aims to probe the layers of loyalty. What should receive our obedience? Whose image receives our devotion?
Marvin Mickle contends that is passage presents the, “question of what Christians should do when the God they serve and the government to which they have sworn allegiance are pulling them into a situation of divided loyalties.”
Doesn’t it feel like a time of deeply divided loyalties?
The God we serve sides with the poor, the marginalized, the wounded, the silenced and right now the government of this country is siding with the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the ones yelling the loudest. Where do we put our hearts?
I wonder if Jesus holds up the coin with the image of an Emperor and then gestures to all of the faces with the image of God, as if to ask those gathered around him, whose image has the Force on its side? Whose image shines brighter? The image of the sacred is all around, you are not the sum of it, but your image crafted by the Sacred.
Maybe this was to show us all again that money and economic oppression are human inventions, not God’s. The idea that some should have the most, while the rest has very little is a human invention, not God’s. The structure that is designed to use up everything in its path, people and resources, that is a human invention, not God’s. In whose image have we built this world?
Debie Thomas says, “When I look to Jesus to think about to practice my faith in the political realm…I see no permission to secure my prosperity at the expense of another’s suffering, no evidence of truth telling that is optional.”
We are called to ask each day, what images do we create with our choices, our relationships, our art, our daily life? What kind of people, communities and worlds are all of our little devotions creating? In whose image are we patterning our days?
As one commentator wrote, “The Roman coin of Jesus day bore the image of the Emperor. As human beings, created by God, we bear God’s image. Which means, if we keep the analogy going, that we owe God everything- our whole and entire selves.”
Are we chaplains to the Empire or prophets of the Resistance? Who has our heart? Our devotion? Our allegiance? In whose image are building the world?