Remember Me

Reign of Christ  |  Luke 23:33-43
End of Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary

“Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” a man says. He is dying, one of three men hanging on crosses, all of them dying, condemned by Roman law in the first century AD in Jerusalem. There would be no reprieve, no way down from those wooden beams except through death. The story is embedded in the common consciousness of western civilization.

“Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” says one man, a common criminal. The one listening is accused of sedition and blasphemy: Christianity knows him as the incarnation of eternal God.

Spiral Galaxy - Hubble image
Spiral Galaxy – Hubble image

God is eternal, untrammeled, existing both outside of time and within it. Outside of time, in the where and in the when that we cannot imagine, God does all that God wishes, a communion of God within God beyond our comprehension. That aspect of God is alien to us. Inside of time, in the places and ways and times that we might comprehend, God transcends our notions of linear time.

God is always creating—always, at every moment, from the beginning of time to the end. God is continually coming into the world, in forms as unnoticeable and unexpected as a child. God is forever teaching, forever healing, forever betrayed and handed over to condemnation. God is always dying on a cross, and God is eternally dead in the darkness of the tomb. God is resurrection, continually raising and being raised into life.

And God is forever listening to that tortured prayer, eternally remembering the thief hanging on the cross, continually in every moment remembering each of us.

“Amen, I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”

This day. To God, all days are this day. All the tomorrows, all the todays, all the days past that we thought were gone and lost to us, irredeemable in the passing stream of our time, are present in the mind of God.

This day, you will be with me.

God redeems all our past days, our lost moments, our lost loves and joys and defeats, all our future happiness and loss, in one eternity. Maybe that is what it means to say that God is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end—God stands at the ends of time and at all the points between, folding our linear experience into the eternal moment that does not pass or change.

That is the gospel message. This day, forever now, we shall be with God in that kingdom we cannot comprehend, the land without death and loss and tears, beyond the sands of the shores of time, where time will lose track of us, and death itself shall forget our names.

Remember us, Lord Jesus, when you come into your kingdom.

Above the Clouds

The Coin We Pay

The Coin We Pay  |  Matthew 22:15-22  |  Lectionary Project

PennyWideTaxes are as certain as death, we say. Those are the only two things we tend to say it about, death and taxes. Saying it may be more of a confession than we know. It may be that those are the things we believe are true.

Conniving tricksters came and asked Jesus whether it was right to pay taxes. They weren’t seeking clarity and insight, and they certainly didn’t have the courage to rebel and refuse to pay their taxes. They just wanted to throw Jesus under the express bus to Rome.

“Give to caesar the things that are caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” Jesus told them.

Separate what is God’s and what is of the world. That is the plainest meaning of what Jesus told the fellows trying to get him on the wrong side of the emperor. It is worth a second reading, though. Jesus saw through the deception, but he may have laid a trap of his own. What if there was another meaning to his answer?

Jesus asked what likeness was on a coin. The tricksters thought Jesus meant the one in his hand.HourGlassCoins6x4

What if the point was to get us to recognize the coin we use? The old challenge is to put your money where your mouth is. Maybe this challenge is to recognize the price we pay. The trick is to see that the coin we use is stamped with our own likeness.

Everything comes with a price. Each day, each choice. Every yes contains a no, as the saying goes. For every choice, we pay the price in time, in thought, in energy, and in the effect on who we are and who we might become. That is the price we pay.

The coin we use is life. And we pay it either for something ephemeral or for something that lasts. When we look in the mirror and see someone wrinkled and spotty looking back at us, what do we have for the price we paid? What did our coins get us? Where did we invest our assets?

The face on the coin is our own. The currency is measured in time, our time, our lives, and there is a hole in our sock. There is less in the bank every day, whether we buy anything with it or not.

Let the world collect its gold. It never was ours. If you don’t believe me, try dying and see what happens to the dollars you’ve got piled up. Our wealth melts away even faster when we move on than when we were alive, and after a couple of exchanges nobody remembers what hand held it.

Our lives are not like that. Even if we believe that after death there is nothing, there was still this life. We may feel that our lives are inconsequential, of no account, but we have a real effect, good or bad, on the people around us. Their lives are different because of ours, and ours changed because of them. We can’t see our own legacy. Perhaps that is God’s work.

And if we believe that life continues after death, then we carry that sum of choices with us, the transactions of our souls. Each moment continues to be an opportunity, a new investment.

The coin we pay is life. Shop well.