It’s Not the Money!

Posted in christian, Christianity, gospel, homily, inspirational, John Chapter 2, Money, Uncategorized, Value by Rev. Martha on March 3, 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent 3-4-18

Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; Ps 19: 8-11, 1 Corth 1:22-25; John 2: 13-25

I strongly suspect that Jesus’ attitude about money and the accumulation of wealth was very different from the attitudes prevalent in America today.  Remember that Jesus was an itinerary preacher in the 1st Century in Judea – or as we know it, Israel.  We know that he owned no property and seemly had nothing more than the clothes on his back.  In Matthew 8:20, he says, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”   He said that in the context of the price of discipleship.  In other words, he had made a choice.  He could have decided to be a craftsman.  Current scholars think that Joseph was not just a crude carpenter, but a skilled artisan who might have worked on some of the larger Roman buildings of the day.  It would have been a good paying job, a respected occupation with steady work.  Jesus was never shy to tell us that discipleship is a choice, and there were social and economic costs associated with discipleship.

But while Jesus did not choose to pursue money, he was fully aware of the cost of what money can do to us. He carefully seemed to avoid having any money at all.  Remember when, in Matthew 17: 24-27, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter about Jesus paying the tax.  Jesus tells Peter to catch a fish, and Peter finds a coin that will be enough to pay the tax for himself and Jesus.  I doubt that Jesus’ clothing had pockets at all.

When Jesus watched the people make their contributions in the temple, Mark 12: 41-44, he remarked, “…this poor widow has put in (two pennies), more than all those who have given (greater amounts) to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” He was not impressed with the amount of money which was given, but rather the sacrifice.  Jesus knew that 2 cents is more than $1,000 when it is all you have.

And finally, in Matthew 22: 20-22, the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus by asking if it was lawful to pay the Roman census tax. His reply was, ““Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” You may say that we owe everything to God, or that that we should pay our taxes, but however you choose to interpret this brilliantly vague response, you know that Jesus was not awake nights worried about money or taxes. Money did not make his top 10 list of important things in life.

With all this being said, I find it hard to focus on the way the money changers in the temple exchanged currency. No doubt they were charging unfair rates.  The historical writings from the 1st century record the political and financial maneuvering and bribes that went into being given permission to have one of those merchant stalls in the temple.  That part of the story would be understandable, at least to us, despite being rather despicable.  Still, it was the same as bank fees and exchange rates for currency in much of our world.  So what was it that set Jesus off?

What was the gross sin of the money changers and the sellers of sheep, oxen and doves? Well, where were they doing business?  For that you need to know something about the temple.  The Outer Court of the Temple in Jerusalem allowed anyone to come in and pray and learn about God.  Only here could Jews converse with non-Jews and foreigners without being ritually unclean.  Only here could faithful Jews tell others about their God, their faith, and beliefs.  It was a place where what we call “evangelism” could take place.  Instead, the noise and the ruckus of the animals and the shameless profiteering prevented any serious conversation or meditation.

The merchants were not only stealing money from people by their excessive rates, but more importantly, they were stealing the knowledge of God from people who had come to learn. They were preventing people from coming to know God, and from praying.  Jesus told us in Luke 19: 10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”  So the sin of the merchants was to purposely prevent The Mission of God’s son.  The sin was to, for a little money, come between God and his children.  In Matthew 18:6, we find this description of the sin: “If anyone causes one of …those who believe in me…to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” No wonder Jesus was so angry.

We have a much larger “Court” than the Outer Court of the Temple where we can pray, and meditate, and talk about God with those who are seeking the divine.  We have much of our nation where it is permissible to talk with people who want to learn, to have their questions answered.  It is a wonderful privilege.  It, of course, is also a responsibility.  How do we present God?  Such conversations have recently felt more polarized, more political.  God, of course, is not political.  God is a God of love for the poor, a defender of children and those who are unable to provide for themselves.  God is the healer of the broken-hearted, those who have been used and abused.  God is not a God of religion, but a God of faith and trust and truth.   Are we ready to have these conversations in a tender way, with the attitude of a servant of God?

Many thanks to BJ on The River Walk blog for this perspective.


Homily, February 4, 2018-the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on February 2, 2018

5sun1In the gospel, we see Jesus leave the Synagogue and go to Peter’s house. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever and Jesus heals her and helps her up. She then waits on Jesus and his disciples. After sundown when the sabbath ends, the sick from the town start to come to Jesus to be healed. The following morning, Jesus arose early and set out alone in 5sun2the desert. Later when his disciples caught up, he said it was time to move on. He said he had not come to heal, but to teach the word of God. So he continued on. Jesus, more than any of us was aware of a mission, of a reason he was 5 sun3here. Unlike ourselves, he avoided distractions and continued his journey. His life, his service, his love left much for his disciples and followers who followed and came after him to do and imitate. His journey was to give his message to the whole world and so it has been for his followers. But the world today is not perfect, nor has it been in any century. The twentieth century, the last one, was filled with war and ugliness that people could impose on their peers. Violence, and war seems to be a part of what people are. But why? People are kind and loving with their own, why not beyond the family and the boundaries of town and country. Jesus taught who was our neighbor, and ultimately our neighbor is the one who can express love and care for others. Everything we do for a neighbor, a brother or sister, we do for a loving, unifying reason. More 5 sun4

than anything, we are called to reach out to the Jobs of this world. Even in our time there are those filled with despair and the drudgery of daily life. They need our support and help. We should reach out and offer a hand, a word, some solace. After all, we all have a bad time a some point or another. None of us can do it alone without God’s help and those around us.

Homily From St Francis and Clare Parish, Ft Lauderdale, Fl., for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Communion, Faith, homily, Uncategorized by Fr Joe R on October 21, 2017

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April 9, 2017 Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion At Holy Trinity Parish

A New View

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on October 20, 2016

30th Sunday 10-23-16 yr c Sirach 35: 12-18; Ps 34; 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18; Luke 18: 9-14


Every once in a while, we’re given the chance to look at something in a different way. For example, you might go on a ride down a familiar road, but this time someone else is driving, and you see a house or a business or a tree you don’t remember ever seeing before.

Sometimes this happens with Bible stories. But this new awareness is not always pleasant.  Take, for instance, the Pharisee in today’s Gospel.  Reading the Gospel of Luke, it’s hard not to develop an attitude about Pharisees.  In chapter 5, when Jesus heals a paralytic, the Pharisees begin a controversy about forgiveness of sins, laws about fasting, observance of the Sabbath, and Jesus’ habit of eating with “sinners” and tax collectors. In chapter 7, the Pharisees refuse to let John baptize them.  In chapter 11 Jesus harshly criticizes the Pharisees for their attention to minor details of the Jewish laws, yet failure to love of God.  In chapter 12, Jesus says plainly, “Beware of the leaven, that is, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees”.

Yet in Chapter 13, the Pharisees come to Jesus and warn him that Herod wants to kill him. Maybe they weren’t all bad.  What was the common view of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time?  And what were their prayers like?

Well, there were many devout and sincere Pharisees, spending their days studying and discussing the laws of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. They lived lives dedicated to careful and meticulous observance of those laws.  Pharisees could routinely quote entire books by memory. It’s hard not to admire their dedication; they seemed to love God.  Most Jews who went to worship in the temple stood and said their prayers aloud – it was the custom, and not a way this particular Pharisee might show off.  But Leviticus 19:18 (love your neighbor as yourself) somehow was set aside.  His prayer seems to follow the ancient commandments; still, the love commandment is missing.

One of best books I’ve read about the Parables of Jesus says that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were highly respected among most Jews, and were considered righteous. And the Pharisee in this passage far exceeded any of the laws for fasting or tithing.  To the people listening to Jesus, this Pharisee would have been the hero of the story, far better than any tax collector.

Tax collectors, of course, are rarely heroes. But in 33 A.D., the view of a tax collector was very negative.  They were collaborators with the Romans, they enforced an extremely heavy tax burden on the people, they were notorious for dishonesty and extortion, and were classified with murderers and traitors.  At one point they were not allowed even to be witnesses in court.  Some people have suggested that a tax collector wouldn’t have been allowed in the temple, but that is an exaggeration.  But everyone understood why the tax collector would not even raise his eyes to heaven, for failure to rise your eyes was a sign of nearly unpardonable guilt and shame in many cultures.  The tax collector would be, clearly, the bad guy to those listening to Jesus; and that would be supported by his apparent estimation of himself.

Imagine then, the how stunned people were when Jesus declared the Tax collector the one who was justified. Knowing this helps us to better understand the reading.  We need to look again at why Jesus told this parable and why Luke included it in his Gospel.  And of course, we need to consider what this might have to do with us, and not just that the Pharisee sounds like an empty braggart to our ears.

The opening verse of the reading is a good place to start. “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” Up front we know this isn’t going to be warm and fuzzy, my friends.  Jesus identifies two problems.  One is when we choose to be judge of our own goodness.  Ah, that is so easy.  It’s risk free – there is no chance that anyone will bring up any of my faults.  We always have a reason why we’re right when we judge ourselves.  It puffs up our ego, no painful change or correction is required.  We feel powerful and in charge, able to be faultless without anyone else’s help.

Of course, doing this robs us of any opportunity to see any other point of view, or grow in faith or in relationship to God or our fellow human beings – in fact, it isolates us and stunts our growth. Which leads to the second problem – when I think my self-perceived goodness makes me inherently better than other people, and above the need for God’s forgiveness.  If that is the case, then I have broken both the commandments to love God and to love my neighbor as myself.  Breaking both of them puts us a bad place indeed.

What is it like when guilt and shame bursts into our self-assessment? A friend sent me a link to a site on the internet that will tell you where you rank, both by income or assets, in the world’s wealth. With my little monthly pension and social security, I am in the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest people!!  It ruined my day to realize the bottom 5% is dying from preventable disease and starvation.  I went from what I perceived as a position of grace to feeling like a self-centered miser complicit in the world’s poverty.   My privileged status is largely an accident of birth.  It gave me much more compassion for the tax collector, and reason to relate to his prayer.

This is why Luke included this parable- to warn us, to ruin our day, to stun us, to shake us up. He makes us take a second look at our self-assessment.  Do we really follow Jesus or follow our own path, making life as we live it seem much more righteous than it really is?  Are we much more dependent on a merciful God than we’d like to think?  Luke gives us a chance to see ourselves in a different way, and Luke provides the assurance that Our Creator wants to grant us new sight, to forgive our false pride, and to have us part of The Kingdom of God.  Our God is the God of second chances.