Today’s Gospel lesson continues the confrontations between various Jewish groups and Jesus. In last week’s reading, the Pharisees asked Jesus if it were lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not? They hoped his answer would arouse the Roman government who collected the taxes or alienate the people who despised paying the taxes. He said, “Give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and give to God what belongs to God.”
Woe unto you Pharisees – James Tissot
In today’s reading they try their luck again, “perhaps he was just lucky last time.” They send an expert in the law, a lawyer, to ask a simple question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment of the law?” This was a point much debated by the religious leadership. You notice that Jesus does not enter the debate but goes right to the point. He said, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There was an old woman that loved to dip snuff.
- When the preacher preached against adultery,
- she said, “Amen, preach it.”
- When he preached against drunkenness,
- she said, “Amen, preach it.”
- When he preached against stealing,
- she said, “Amen preach it.”
- When he preached against the evils of tobacco,
- she said, “Huh! he’s quit preaching and done gone to meddling!”
So long as Jesus talks about loving God, that’s preaching. But when he talks about our relationships with others, he’s meddling. When Jesus says, “on these two commandments depend or hang all the law and the prophets,” the sense of it is that these two commandments are the two hinges on which the door of faith hang. With only one hinge the door doesn’t quite work right. The door never quite operates smoothly. If one loves God, then one in turn works out that love for God in the marketplace of daily life.
Thomas Moore says that:
- the mind thinks,
- the body does
- and the soul Imagines.
Paul Ricoeur in a sermon preached at the University of Chicago in 1980 speaks to the language of imagination that Jesus uses. “ … The use by Jesus of an extreme language, such as the extravagance of a parable, or the hyperbole of the proverb: a log in the eye or a camel through the eye of a needle. Parable, paradoxes, hyperbolas, and extreme commandments all disorient only to reorient us. But what is reoriented in us? – And in what direction? I would say that what is reoriented by these extreme sayings is less our will than our imagination. Our will is our capacity to follow without hesitation the once-chosen way, to obey without resistance the once-known law. Our imagination opens us to new possibilities, another way of seeing, or acceding to a new rule in receiving the instruction of the exception.
As Ray Hart suggests in Unfinished Man and the Imagination, while the will is the intention to a specific project, the imagination is the intention of dominant direction. It is at the level of dominant direction that we are overtaken by the disorienting logic of Jesus.”
Jesus answers Pharisees – James Tissot
Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Since you are all here, let me ask you a question, “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said, “The son of David.” He said, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? “If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” Jesus seems to be deliberately disorienting us to reorient us. This work is done not in the will as I have often thought. If I just tried harder, if I just worked harder. If I just held my mouth just so and wished real hard.” But what has to be reoriented first is not our will but our imagination.
What goes on us in this process of reorientation?
Disorientation: We realize that the way we thought things were is not the way they are. There are other possibilities some of, which are scary to us. We are threatened. We then have a choice to make: will we continue in this new way of imagination or will we decide to turn and willfully go in the other direction? This is the dilemma facing the Pharisees. Jesus has just showed them that Messiah is superior to David. But what does that mean?
Reorientation: We put ourselves in the place of others. We can see the possibilities and visions of God’s call to us. We will to move in the direction that the vision beckons.
· We put ourselves in the place of others.
Many of the ethical problems that confront us are born from a failure of imagination.
· We can see the possibilities and visions of God’s call to us. The Kingdom of God is the chief message that the rule of God is breaking out in the world, one heart at a time. We are called to live as authentic human beings. We are free to choose. And we can choose to turn to God and be energized by the Holy Spirit into a new creation.
· We begin to make choices and will that we move in the direction that the vision beckons. This is not easy or convenient
At 10:39 we baptize the Higley twins into the Body of Christ – the Church in this place. These brothers are born with imagination. Children often see clearly the foolishness of adult systems and say so. Our culture will work that out of these boys, as they grow older. We make some promises to God on their behalf. We promise to bring them up in the Christian faith and life. We promise to immerse or marinate these brothers in the Christian faith and life. To do this we must re-orient our imagination – and allow the Spirit to guide us that we continue in the way that leads to our and their loving God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves.