“Life is what we make of it always has been, always will be.” (Grandma Moses, 1951, American Folk Artist)On the streets of Bridgeport, yesterday, hundreds of youth and adults took part in the Big Day of Serving, to make the lives of those living in Bridgeport, a little bit better, a day of reaching out in love and action to our neighbors. The group from St. Peter’s & my wife’s church in Easton, helped clean at a residential site at the YMCA in Bridgeport, cleaned up trash and leaves at Wood Park, and then finished at the International Institute of CT with some more cleaning both inside and out and some outdoor painting.
At one of our stops, a local business owner bought us water to drink.
At every stop, people thanked us. We had a police officer from Bridgeport who kept tabs on us and checked in all day.
At the end, it felt good, the help we were able to offer. Scattered throughout that city, there were many more people doing the same type of good work in the community.
“Life is what we make of it.”Last night we gathered in our parish hall, at our annual beer tasting, a time of feasting and merriment. Larry from Glen Ro shared with us his about dad who is in the ICU at Bridgeport Hospital. And we surrounded him with love and hope, as we ate wonderful food and drank great beer, as we celebrated life in its beauty in our lives, with laughter and joy.
I think of the words of Grandma Moses from her life history, “I have written my life in small sketches, a little today, a little yesterday, as I have thought of it, as I remember all the things from childhood on through the years, good ones, and unpleasant ones, that is how they come out and that is how we have to take them. I look back on my life like a good day's work, it was done and I am satisfied with it. I was happy and contented, I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” (1951)
There were always be challenges to our lives, but making the best out of what life offered is what we do to live life to the fullest. Even Jesus had to do this.
What at the temple, they asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" Aware of their malice, Jesus said to them, "Whose head is on this coin, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” (KJV)
Jesus moves the conversation of paying taxes to the emperor from what the Herodians and Pharisees wanted to hear, a trap that Jesus couldn’t escape, to a deeper level of truth. Yes, give to the emperor that which is the emperor's, it’s his picture on the coin, give it back to the emperor. And give to God that which is God's.
In his response, Jesus is not saying, "give to the Emperor those things that are the Emperor's, and the rest to God." Nor is Jesus saying, "give to the Emperor the worldly things and give to God the spiritual things."
These statements would put Caesar equal to God. We may give our money back to the government, to the Emperor in the form of taxes, we pay bills with it, we spend it, we save it. But the almighty dollar isn’t almighty, and it belongs to God just as assuredly as we do.
“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”For God created everything that is & by God’s will they were created and have their being. Everything is part of God’s creation. We are made in the image of God. So the answer that Jesus gives, remind us that we owe God everything, & we owe God our lives: how we live them, how we give them away, it’s all important.
So the right question to ask, as Bishop Andy Doyle puts it is, “If all things are God's, how does God want me to use everything?”
Be a talent for creating great food, or signing, or fixing things around here, or reaching out to mentor a child, or to invent, it should make us ponder and think about how God would have me help others with what I have been given. Another way of putting it: How do I as a steward of God's stuff in my life, understand and enact the kingdom of God through what I do with them?
“Life is what we make of it always has been, always will be.”
There are emperors in our lives that demand many things of us. Be that at our workplaces, be they the government, even friends, there are many things in our lives that act like Caesar and demand of us our time, talent and even treasure. Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s…
But we are not to see in those places and those people the true control of our lives, and make them our God. We need not make fortresses to protect what we have done and then give only small offerings to God who has created all things and brings life into the world. Render unto God the things that are God’s…
What Jesus has done these past few weeks in the parables and again today, is to remind us that God invites us into a sacred relationship with the gardener, with the vineyard owner, with the host of the great banquet, the holy one who is God, the Creator of life. And we are given the privilege of serving as stewards for all the gifts so freely given to us, for life is what we make of it.
So how are we honoring that gift today? How are we making our lives into what God wants of us? Amen.