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This weekend there were two funerals here at the church. On Friday morning we had a memorial service for Elizabeth Wallace. And on Saturday afternoon – we had another memorial service for Lynne Murdoch. Both of these women lived full lives with the people they loved. Both women were interred in our Columbarium – amid prayers – and tears. Elizabeth rests with her husband Ed. And Lynne awaits the day when her husband will join her – in their final resting place. The naming – and blessing – and sending that we do in a memorial service – or a funeral – is really important. The church bears witness to our lives – and our deaths – in sacred ways. And it brings this naming – and blessing – to us in ways that only the church can. Reminding us that when our own end comes – we are gathered up by Christ – Picked up from where we stand – out of our lives –However messy – and lovely – and glorious – and painful they may be. The God who created us – and loves us completely – gathers us up and takes us to a place where there are many, many dwellings. So that we can be with God forever.
During these moments in life – our liturgy – the words we say at these services – reminds us that all things in heaven and on earth – are God’s. And that our very lives, even belong to God. Twice this weekend I said – if we live we live in the Lord – and if we die – we die in the Lord – so whether we live – or whether we die – we belong to the Lord. Everything that we have – and everything that we are – belongs to God. Which is part of the reason that the Pharisees are trying to catch Jesus. They’ve decided, at this point in Jesus’ life, that they want to get rid of him. He’s a danger to their authority and their prestige. He doesn’t keep his mouth shut. Doesn’t say the right thing. And he’s also teaching something new that calls the faithful back to being accountable. Jesus is constantly getting himself into trouble wherever he goes – by challenging people to live better – to do better – to love God better. And the Pharisees find this to be very inconvenient. So rather than listening – they feel threatened – and afraid. And they’ve determined now that they want to trap him. To find an excuse to get rid of him.
This exchange in our Gospel story this morning is totally about getting Jesus in trouble. This is one question – in a series of others – in this chapter of Matthew’s Gospel that are all designed to get Jesus to say something in front of the Romans that will either get him arrested – or killed. But Jesus knows what they’re doing. And he answers in a way that disappoints them – because they’re not actually able to trap him. He shocks them – basically by not giving any credence to their question. In fact – they’re so amazed that they just shut their mouths and go away – to continue their plotting for another day. What shocks them – is that Jesus doesn’t see some kind of great importance in this money – or even in the action of paying taxes. It’s just a thing that has to be done. And in the grand scheme of things – as far as loyalty goes – it’s a small thing – in comparison to the many, many other things we ought to be doing for God. Jesus’ response seems to indicate that the question even is a little ridiculous – and that getting hung up on something like this is rather silly.
There are so many other important things to do in life – and instead – you’re here? Trying to trap me? Instead of worrying about heavenly things – about the things of God – Which aren’t made up of things that are material – or of some kind of lip service – these Pharisees are worried only about earthly things. And their real intention – shows in their question.
At the end of our lives, we take nothing with us. We go alone – with Jesus – to a place that we believe is very different. And all these little things – that have worried us – that have upset us – matter not in the least. What does matter – is whether or not we’ve given to God the things that God expects of us – the things that are God’s anyway. Our love. Our time. Our treasure. Our money. Our talent. Everything that we have that is intended to be invested in the kingdom of God. It is clear in scripture that these things are given of God – and that we are expected to use them to the glory of God.
Jesus tells us in this Gospel – something that’s still very true for us. We all have demands on our lives. We all have other things we have to do – and things that we get worried about. We have taxes to pay. And things to buy. And places to go. And people to see. And things to do in this world – things we have to do – in order to live – to participate in society – to be the grown up people we all have to be to get by. We have to do things in order to just have the stuff of life, right? To make life work for us and for the people we love.
But we have to remember – and keep in the front of our minds – that these things are temporal. They’re temporary. And they will pass away. In the grand scheme of things – they matter not in the least. And all the worrying – all the chaos – all the mess that these things can create sometimes – none of it matters in the end. It is all stripped away from us.
And what matters is whether or not we have participated in a faith community. Whether or not we have loved and served our neighbors. Whether or not we have made time in our lives to pray – to thank God for all of the blessings we’ve been given – and to offer back all that we can to God. Do the things that you need to do to get by in this world. Get them over with – get them out of the way - and move on to what is more important. Spend the time that you have really living. Not worrying about small things. But living life as much as you can. Because none of us know – when – or how – the time will come. And the only thing we leave behind is the love that we share with one another. Love that is a glimpse – a reflection – of the love of God for us. Love that appears when we live in right relationship with God – and with the people around us – focusing on what actually matters – instead of worrying – and plotting – and scheming.
Jesus came so that we might live – and live abundantly. It’s a gift we ought not to waste. Life is a gift given of God. It is short. And it is sacred. And it should not be spent worrying about the tasks – or the jobs – or the chaos of the day. But instead – it should be spent in love. So give to the emperor that which belongs to the emperor. Give to the world that which belongs to the world. Check the boxes. Do the work. And clear the decks. Don’t get caught up in the things that are only temporal. That aren’t worth our time. Instead – set time aside to pray. To be with God. And to be with the ones you love. To serve Christ in the people around you.
Let us pray.
O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we pray, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let your Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days; that when we have served you in our generation, we may be gathered to our ancestors, having the testimony of a good conscience, in the communion of the Catholic Church, in the confidence of a certain faith, in the comfort of a religious and holy hope, in favor with you, our God, and in perfect charity with the world. All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.