12/5/12 Bran Potter (Professor of Geology) and Cindy Potter (6th grade teacher at St. Andrew’s Sewanee School)
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.
So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand
him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent. -Luke 20:19-26
This Gospel message is an Advent gift, a call to daily discernment that brings clarity to my life. The discernment begins with the reality that we live in two distinct worlds, and at times these worlds seem interwoven in ways that are difficult to untangle.
What are those things in my life that are of God? Certainly the natural world, in all its bounty, harshness, and beauty, is of God. It renews and inspires me, and allows me more patience with time spent in Caesar's world. Much more tellingly, God's world is represented by the people in my life - family, students, and friends - saints on their own journey of discernment. I give to God by learning from saints that surround me, and by acknowledging that even with all my failings I am also a saint.
The discernment of those things that are God's is sharpened in times of celebration, as in the preparation for a wedding. Is it a coincidence that "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "Simple Gifts" are commonly sung with gusto at my family's weddings? No. Each eloquently acknowledges where we find God in our lives: in the beauty of the created world and in the challenge of sharing journeys of discernment. The journeys are difficult and require the ability to turn from one task or pattern to another, and they make evident the truth in the last phrase of "Simple Gifts": "To turn, to turn, shall be our delight, 'till by turning, turning, we come 'round right."