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theology, Uncategorized

Rendering Caesar: God & the World

This year my eldest is 8 so when we explained the presidential election, we had a lot of discussion about voting for the person who would be best for everyone, not just me. We explain that greed/selfishness is about valuing oneself over the community, talk about a  heave conversation.

Here in Acts 5:1-11 you have stories of community. After all the lovey-dovey sharing philosophy and the idea that the group will be of “One Accord”<–such a beautiful Idea

But here we are Ananias & Sapphira don’t actually live up to the ideal (ps there’s a reason why we don’t know their names its a depressing story). They sell land and don’t share the profit equally, so they are brought before the community to give account.

I think this is the moment when they could have explained, or apologized, and been int he clear, but they don’t. First Ananias, then Sapphira, lie. Then each of them fall down dead…WHOA!

But here’s the thing, they don’t share their stuff, but more importantly, they don’t share of themselves. They are not honest, they don’t do the work of being mutually accountable. (And note the community doesn’t do the sentencing, they just hold the couple accountable, God does the judging thing)

Put in the context of Jesus, we have Luke 20:20-26 the famous “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar” story. Its a fun one because “spies” try to “trap” Jesus by asking whether taxes should be paid or is that against Jesus’s religion?

Jesus responds by turning the idea on its head. First he subtly mocks the idolatry of money, noting that Caesar’s face is on the money–when Jews make no images of God, nor any idols. Then he says give to Caesar what is Caesar, but give God what is God.

The implications are bigger than world vs. God, thought. The implicit question becomes who do you want to belong to? Do you want to be rendered to Caesar or God? Do you want to be in the power of powers, principalities & politicians–as Nadia Bolz-Weber will say–under the rule of laws and checks or under the grace of God?

One of the words for God in the Old Testament is Accountant or Reckoner, Al-Hasib. It is used in the Old Testament for when God reckons the faith of Abraham (and then in turn asks Abraham to reckon the stars). This is become God keeps the story, the account of your faith, hearing the entire story, understanding the slip ups, keeping track of all of the details. God is the accountant not because God is ready to write us off, but because our God is ready to listen. Just as the church, the ecclesia, the gathering of the community was ready to hear Ananias and Saphira’s account.

Who do you belong to?

I am convinced that we, as humans, need to share our material goods because its good practice for sharing of ourselves. If we are unlikely to share our stuff, then we will never share of our very souls. However, the gathering of the church, the ecclesia, the community, is where we practice sharing our accounts, where we do the reckoning of our faith. We practice faith in community, because the sharing is a basic part of our faith. Church is where we practice sharing our goods and of ourselves. This is where we form the basis of community.

And if that isn’t a political realization about how you live your life, then I don’t know what is. God’s story is the community building story. And how we belong to that community: through rules, powers, principalities and politicians, or by graciousness, mutual accountability and God

Lets go and be that community.

 

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About katyandtheword

Pastor Katy has enjoyed ministry at New Covenant for 6 years, where the church has solidified its community focus. Prior to that she studied both Theology and Christian Formation at Princeton Theological Seminary. She also served as an Assistant Chaplain at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital and as the Christian Educational Coordinator at Bethany Presbyterian at Bloomfield, NJ. She enjoys working within and connecting to the community, is known to laugh a lot during service, and tells as many stories as possible. Pastor Katy loves reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, theater, arts and crafts, music, playing with children and sunshine, and continues to try to be as (w)holistically Christian as possible. "Publisher after publisher turned down A Wrinkle in Time," L'Engle wrote, "because it deals overtly with the problem of evil, and it was too difficult for children, and was it a children's or an adult's book, anyhow?" The next year it won the prestigious John Newbery Medal. Tolkien states in the foreword to The Lord of the Rings that he disliked allegories and that the story was not one.[66] Instead he preferred what he termed "applicability", the freedom of the reader to interpret the work in the light of his or her own life and times. "Hallows, not Horcruxes" Harry Potter

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