Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Year B Proper 28 WED 2021 Tax Fish

Year B Proper 28 WEDNESDAY, 17 November 2021

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Tax Fish”

Collect: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 17:22-27
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

This is a simple story. We start with the Passion prophesied, and the distress that it caused. Then we go into a story about Jesus fulfilling the letter of the law, and a sideways comment about his status.

I have always had a hard time with this story. It just seems, for lack of a better word, ridiculous. It strains my willingness to believe, because it is about getting money from a fish. It is like a fairy tale about the tin soldier. But even if I have a hard time with the factuality of it, I will be the first to admit that anything, absolutely anything, can happen with God. And I was not there.

But even when my rational mind wrestles with the factuality, my heart and soul reads Scripture for my betterment and growth. As we said in our Collect for the week: “...all holy Scriptures [is] written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life…” So let us hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this story.

The collector of the Temple Tax comes to Peter to make a cause against Jesus. “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” Peter answers without asking Jesus. “Yes, he does.” But Jesus brings it up. Does a king collect tax from his child, or from others? From others, Peter answers, obviously. Think on what Jesus is saying about who he is.

But because he knows not paying, and even worse his implication that he is the Son of God, would be offensive, he instructs Peter to go down to the sea, catch a fish, and pay the tax for both of them.

This story is about Abundance. I know you hear that word a lot with Stewardship season happening. But think about it. There is a need. Not for necessity, but rather for decorum. “So that we do not give offense.” Jesus even cares that he take care of those who do not understand or follow him.

And what does he ask of Peter? He asks Peter to do something he loves, something he does well. He tells Peter to go fish. And in doing something he loves and does well, Peter and Jesus’ needs are being met.

When we look at the Abundance of God, we are not being asked to do something that we cannot do. We are being asked to do something that we probably love, and are probably good at. We are called to be generous, and we are called to give to something that we care for. That is not hard. It is actually enjoyable.

We give abundantly out of the abundance that we were given.

We follow God’s lead. It is even hard to call it faith when we are just mimicking what we have seen.

What do you love doing? How can you give that back to God? Think on that today. Amen.

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Blessings, Rock