18 October 2020: Us and Them

Layperson Lecture #15

To quote Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 1, “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.” So now it’s time for a Layperson Lecture! I’m Constance McEntee, seminary drop-out and the Idiot Before G0D.

A note for those who might be using screen readers: all links will open in a new browser tab. Or, if I coded this properly, they should open in new browser tabs.

Before we get started, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that I am the descendant of European settlers and currently live on colonized Ohlone, specifically Chochenyo, land.

The scripture selections for Sunday, 18 October 2020, can be found at LectionaryPage.net.

EXODUS 33:12-23 seems to start with Moses asking G0D for an Us and Them situation between the Hebrews and the rest of the world. G0D seems to agree with this idea.

PSALM 99 seems to be a general song of praise, suggesting G0D will reward those who offer praise.

ISAIAH 45:1-7 seems to reinforce the readings from Exodus and Psalm 99.

PSALM 96:1-13 seems to be more a song of praise, rather than praising G0D to get rewards.

1 THESSALONIANS 1:1-10 talks about chosen ones. To me, this continues the theme of Us and Them from the first three readings.

I was excited when I saw the Gospel according to Saint MATTHEW 22:15-22 was on the lectionary for today. It’s the story about, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give unto G0D what is G0D’s.” I’d always thought of this one as a means to explain why taxes aren’t an evil and are necessary for a functioning society. But when this selection is combined with the others, it suggested there could be another interpretation.

The Pharisees in the Gospel reading seem to be asking Jesus about an Us versus Them situation. And in the case of this one, there’s a power dynamic as well. Israel is part of the Roman Empire, and Israel doesn’t like it. Which authority should they pay tribute to: the Earthly or the Holy?

“Both,” Jesus answers. He ignores the question about which is greater: Us (the Faithful) or Them (the Empire). Instead, he seems to validate the existence of the Us and the Them. But why? Why would Jesus seem to say there is indeed an Us and a Them? Well, Jesus took sides, and he always took the side of the powerless and less powerful. But, wouldn’t paying taxes to imperalists be oppressive to the people? Quite possibly. We see that today in America. 

Those who had the financial privilege to buy and the intellectual privilege to complete the course of study at a seminary will doubtless have an easier time coming to a conclusion between the lectionary readings for today. There seem to be two distinct themes: G0D rewards Us (the faithful) in our struggle against Them (oppressors), and G0D is always worthy of praise.

But, maybe that is the conclusion: Us and Them are real distinctions even in the Eyes of G0D.

I offer this BENEDICTION: Jesus took sides, and so must we. So, go forth and choose and do so with the blessings of the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love Overflowing. 

Amen, and go with G0D.