Sunday, October 22, 2017

What is Amazon? (2017-10-22, Sunday-29)

Sunday 22 October 2017, 29th (A)
● Isaiah 45:1, 14-6 ● Psalm 96 ●
●1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b ●● Matthew 22:15-21  ●Title: “Tax Deadline”

Sunday 22 October 2017, 29th (A)

● Isaiah 45:1, 14-6 ● Psalm 96 ●
●1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b ●● Matthew 22:15-21  ●Title: “Tax Deadline”

[__01__]  Recently, I visited some family members who live in the Bronx and who do not, apparently, use a computer.  There was no sign of a laptop or a router anywhere.
          What is Amazon?
          “What is Amazon?”, I was asked.
          I was going to suggest that Amazon is similar to a bookstore, but Amazon sells many more items than books. I settled on the idea that Amazon is similar to a catalog store where there is no physical store and you order everything and it gets delivered.

[__02__]   You and I know that AMAZON is a multi-national company with thousands of items for sale online.        
          We do not have to define these days what AMAZON is. It’s perhaps easier to say what is NOT available on AMAZON rather than what is available on AMAZON.
[__03_What is CAESAR?
          In the Gospel today, we read about paying taxes to CAESAR?
          Who or what is CAESAR?
          Caesar was the family name that applied to – or was simply adopted by -- several Roman Emperors. So, governmentally, politically, Caesar was the emperor and in charge because the government in Rome – on the Italian peninsula had conquered and colonized many other nations in the Mediterranean region.
          Israel was under Roman authority and control.
          And, just as the 13 colonies on our Atlantic coast in the 1770’s did not want to be under the control of a king in London, Israel would have favored independence. They also were distressed over taxation without representation.
          Caesar was like AMAZON.
          In other words, it was easier to define what did not belong to Caeasar than what did belong to Caesar.
          As the conquering government, Caesar controlled almost everything, all the laws,  the currency, the money, the army.
          And, it was also a wireless remote connection.  Israel was in the east of the Mediterranean.
          Caesar and Rome had their headquarters in the West of the Mediterranean.  The difference, of course, you would not want Caesar to open a 2nd headquarters and create more jobs in your neighborhood.
          Caesar and Caeasar’s army was going to come to your neighborhood whether you placed an order or not.

[__04__]  We could say that in recent Gospel passages and parables, their have been both ORDERS and there have been DEADLINES.
          In the parable of the tenants in the vineyard, the tenants are working in the soil, taking care of the vines, the grapes. These tenants did not own the land but were given the land with the expectation – the ORDER – that the grapes be returned, either in person or via UPS or FedEx to the owner. This is God the Father and Creator.
          And, there was a deadline.
          We learn that these workers miss their “April 15”tax deadline  and the vineyard is taken away from them.
          We are also part of a vineyard. The vineyard is, for example, represented by your home and family and taking care of them – the vineyard could be your classroom. Young people, your vineyard includes not only your house work, chores at home, but also your presence and diligence at school, your responsibility to be a good classmate, teammate, to listen to your teachers, coaches and to do so at the proper time.
[*** P_A_U_S_E ***]
[__05__]  In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus is presented with a question – an online order. Actually, we could say that there are 2 simultaneous orders arriving at the exact same time.
          I suggest this because both the Pharisees and the Herodians are asking the question about taxes, taxes being paid to Caesar.
          And, the question is a trap, a trick, and trouble.

[__06__]  In frustration and resentment, the Pharisees and others in the  Jewish community had been paying the government. But, we know – from the example of Zacchaeus and others – that tax collectors and taxes were very unpopular. Not much has changed?
          The Herodians, on the other hand, favored the tax.
          However, the Pharisees and the Herodians agreed on one point. That is, their distaste, their rejection of Jesus as rabbi and leader.
          So, mutually, they had a deadline, an objective, to trap him, have him arrested, charged, and taken off the street.
          It is it legally required to pay the tax?

[__07__]   Saying YES, Jesus was in big trouble with the Pharisees and his own people. He would be, in a way, saying yes to taxation without representation.
          “No” would defy the government.
          The choice is, it seems: religious blasphemy or political treason.
          Perhaps, Jesus would like help … as they said on the quiz show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, can I phone a friend?

[__08__]  And, we now have the famous response:
          “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caeasar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s”  (Matthew ___)
          But, one might object and say – Jesus, you did not answer the question. We were not asking you about God. We were only asking you about Caeasar.
          Jesus wants you and me to think about God …just as much as we think about Caeasar, or we think about the government, or the president or Congress or AMAZON, who might or might not win the World Series.
          In other words, Jesus gives the greenlight, says “swing away” regarding the payment of taxes. Go ahead, pay.
          In other words, you and I have an obligation to support legitimate civil authority. But this obligation does not begin and end on or about April 15 with form 1040, with your CPA, or with TurboTax (version number?)
          That is, you and I may be tempted to seek loopholes – or deductions -- in our obligations as citizens. Sometimes, we are also seek loopholes or deductions (or reductions) in our obligations as Christians.
          But, Jesus is not asking us to put citizenship and Christianity on different devices, hard drives or to-do lists.

[__09__]  This is not only an obligation to pay taxes but also to…
-   Vote in elections
-   Express our opinions and faith to public officials
-   Speak / faith for sanctity of human life at all stages. à as we read in the prophet Jeremiah “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you…”
-   Protest legitimately when the government does not protect the vulnerable or legitimate freedom such as freedom of religion.

[__10__] I.e., we do not render unto Caesar simply by rolling over and playing dead but also by professing our faith according to certain demands and deadlines.
    We owe this not only to God but also to Caeasar and to our friends and neighbors and fellow citizens.

[__11__] Temporarily does Jesus escape prosecution, arrest, punishment, indictment for his vies.
          Saying … “Render unto Caesar”
          This is a way for him to live another day….to extend the series to a full 7 games with his opponents.
          Nevertheless, there is a deadline that will come on Good Friday when he is arrested and put to death for his views.
          From from the deadline, however, there is a lifeline of Easter Sunday and resurrection that remind us that he is risen and that he is really the king, really in charge and will give us all new life. [__fin__]

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