Speaking for Jesus with a Texas Twang

Pop quiz!

Please fill in the blanks for this Biblical verse (big clue: it’s the same word twice):

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give to _________ the things that are _________, and give to God that things that are God’s.’” (It’s Luke 20:25, but do you really need to look it up?)

Next ridiculously obvious clue: a coin was shown to Jesus just before those words were spoken. I have a feeling you’ll get the correct answer. It’s a familiar passage and, well, if you’re reading this, I’m confident you’re a smart person!

The verse opening this slice of the third Gospel is equally satisfying and foreboding. Luke 20:20 noted, “So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him in what he said . . .”

Nasty! Sneaky! Dastardly! How 21st century!

For me, the satisfaction comes from the “spies” getting their comeuppance. This is the scene where those who fear Jesus seek to trap him by asking about taxes. Taxes were controversial then, just as now. Maybe what Jesus said would get him in trouble with 1) Caesar or 2) the Roman Empire’s version of the IRS. (Oops, now I’ve helped you with the quiz above!). But nimble Jesus sidesteps their trap. I imagine the spies with their mouths open and their eyes glazed over when Jesus turns the table with his question. And I also imagine, with a little sleight-of-hand, that Jesus figured out how to pocket their sample coin and give it to the poor.

It’s also a foreboding passage. At this stage of Jesus’ journey, his list of enemies has grown. The powerful were nervous. The insiders’ schemes increasingly deadly. Continue reading →

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On Faith and Glacial Erratics

Though a glacier never reached our street, we do have some left-behind rocks.

The granite boulders, as small as microwave ovens and larger than dishwashers, are a common part of local landscaping. Like many of our neighbors, we have several in our front yard. One of them, with its sturdy, sloped top, allows me to safely gain height while trimming our ever-growing bougainvillea.

Even the smallest of these boulders will defeat an individual from relocating them. With the grunt labor of several people possessing the strength of NFL linebackers, a few could be budged. But most of the stones that decorate the yards or create borders were usually positioned by heavy equipment doing, well, heavy lifting. Continue reading →

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Why Did I Leave Church?

Once I spent 70 or so weekly hours serving in churches.

Now, 168 hours of a week hurry by like a commuter late for work and I never darken the proverbial sanctuary door.

I wonder why.

Last Friday, I cradled the hand of a dying woman and reminisced about the many hospice meetings we’d survived together. Until her illness, she volunteered at several local non-profits, including where I worked. While others in the hospice meetings were medical professionals, we were not. We shared whispered comments, occasionally rolled our eyes at the terminology, and added a little humor to the serious proceedings.

Now she’s dying.

I visited her.

Talking was not easy, but it was easy enough. She asked me, in between old and real and made-up memories from the past few years, if I still went to church.

Honesty felt the reasonable choice when Death shadows a room.

“No,” I said.

“Why not?” she asked. Continue reading →

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