Saturday, March 10, 2012

E-Z Pass or Exact Change

At St. John's, the clergy are using the Sunday lectionary this Lent to focus on a theme of "Pausing on the Road to Jerusalem."   Tomorrow's sermon is looking at the "Toll Booth Ahead."   I sent a note to the priest giving the sermon and remarked that in most states, we have a choice of entering the exact change lane or using the E-Z pass and have our tolls electronically debited from our bank accounts.  How would that concept fit with the gospel, which this week is from John 2?   Well, I guess I'll see tomorrow.

But as I look at the readings that are on tap, it would seem that the concept of an E-Z pass would be, well, non-existent.  We get the unequivocal statement of the law from Exodus with the reciting of the ten commandments.  This doesn't feel like an opportunity for the hearer of these commandments to simply whiz by and have the debt collected later.  This demands the exact change lane for sure, with its fishing in the pockets to come up with the quarters necessary to keep moving along.   These commandments which emphasize to love God first and foremost require a full stop to absorb what all that love will entail. Paul's Letter to the Corinthians would also seem to suggest an exact price of the cross, a price that is understood by those who follow Christ, but is misunderstood by those who don't. Perhaps the followers of Christ are the ones slowly making their way through the exact change lane as they get behind the one who asks for directions from the toll booth worker.

Perhaps if we look at the toll booth metaphor more broadly we can get to something out of the Gospel lesson.
This is the scene where Jesus is tossing tables and driving out the money changers in the temple.  Folks are up in arms over this house cleaning by Christ, and they demand a sign that shows where he gets off telling the merchants to take their merchandise out of this house of prayer.  And Jesus tells them: 

"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."  The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.--John 2:19-22

This story is coming earlier in the John gospel than where it appears elsewhere in the Bible, but it seems that Jesus is already assessing that being embodied in a body is going to require him to pay a price.  Like us, there is no E-Z pass lane that he can move into and pay this debt at some other time.  The debt will be paid.  Or perhaps we can say this moment is an E-Z pass for Jesus.  He will have other conversations and perform many other "signs" that will add up to his final debt before the authorities decide they have all that they need to nail him to a tree until dead.  Whatever way you may look at this particular toll, Jesus will pay by giving up his human body as a sacrifice.  But it will also be returned, with interest, in three days when he overcomes death and the grave.  

As we go forward in this week, it might be interesting to think about the ways in which we opt to pay now, or pay later.   And how conscious are we of our debts when we're flying through the toll booths and allowing an electronic device to scan our cars and deduct money from our accounts?  


Anonymous said...

Thoughtful and interesting sermonette, my dear.


Anonymous said...

I wasn't there to hear the series yesterday but I make this humble offer. It would seem we might want to consider that there is an additional lane...the one where exact change isn't required...the one where the attendant dutifully sits to answer all the questions, give all the directions,...and make change...the "I need to make change lane" may perhaps be another option that lots of us would do well to choose. The go now pay later as you see certainly has its pitfalls...but the toss in "what I believe to be the exact change" lane might have a bunch of those pitfalls too. It's certainly a worthy Lenten topic to reflect upon. Thanks for sharing!

SCG said...

Humble Anonymous,

Thanks!! That is a possible option. My discourse here had nothing to do with the actual sermon preached... which focused on toll booths as annoying obstacles, like the whole temple worshiping system requiring sacrifices of cattle, sheep and doves were an obstacle to God. Another good way to see the metaphor of a toll booth.

I appreciate your comment! In the future, please choose a pseudonym or sign your name.