Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not to Offend

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Matthew 17:22-27

I have spent some time in my life casting a line in the surf, hoping for a fish. I am not very lucky or skilled, but I do enjoy the fishing itself. There is a lot of waiting and dreaming in casting a line, hoping this time you get a strike. A person has lots of time to think and contemplate the ocean, absorbing the variable light and sounds created by being close the waves and the water. It is for me, a holy experience, sometimes being hip deep in the surf, as prayer slips off my lips and songs fill my heart.

Jesus and his followers have arrived in a new community and were expected to pay the visitors fee. The disciples thought their teacher above all that, as they believed he was too important to mess with taxes and the drudgery of common life. And yet Jesus as aware that the small tax to be paid was a way to honor and respect the people of Capernaum. Jesus was a guest, and knew there more could be won by offering the honor expected than being above it all. The disciples had no money to give and in Jesus sending them to go fishing, he reminds us all of the importance of honoring and respecting others' traditions, despite our lack, confusion or misunderstanding. We are invited to know that as we honor others God is glorified.

Today, I ask God to help me honor others, and to never cause offense or hurt. We can do so much good by our work and undo it in a few short moments by insensitivity and ignorance. May we be moved today to care for the small and common things of human relations, so that all people might glorify God and not be bound by anger and hurt. May our love of God bring us a renewed humility, knowing that the smallest acts can bring the biggest transformations.

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