O Christ our God, who at all times and in every hour, in heaven and on earth, art worshipped and glorified; who art long-suffering, merciful and compassionate; who lovest the just and showest mercy upon the sinner; who callest all to salvation through the promise of blessings to come; O Lord, in this hour receive our supplications, and direct our lives according to thy commandments. Sanctify our souls, hallow our bodies, correct our thoughts, cleanse our minds; deliver us from all tribulation, evil and distress. Encompass us with thy holy Angels, that guided and guarded by them, we may attain to the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of thine unapproachable glory, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.
Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my soul and my body. Do thou thyself bless me, have mercy upon me, and grant me life eternal. Amen.
I try to pray this prayer at night, as I am going to bed. At the very least, I commend my soul and body to God. And sometimes I fall right to sleep. As I have gotten older, I can sleep in a minute in my recliner. Sometimes it is in the middle of the day! (Gasp! I am old enough to nap without knowing it!!). But there are days when, exhausted, I crawl into bed and nestle down into my new mattress and pillow, and just lay there. Wide awake. Ugh. I have been using essential oils for about 7 years now. And I love using lavender. I love wearing it, and putting it on my pillow, and defusing it. My dog hates it. Absolutely hates oils. (Except for the cedarwood/vanilla combo I got for my husband. Go figure). So instead of diffusing lavender, or using it at all, I now take “ImmuPro,” which is a supplement that contains melatonin (from Young Living Essential Oils). Yay! It helps, a lot. Most days. It just helps me drift into a deeper sleep, and builds my immunity, too (win-win). Last night, not so much.
As I laid there last night, there were so many things going on, that I could not relax. I get up several times a night anyway (another old lady thing) and last night it was accompanied by text messages. Sigh. I have an iPhone. On the app for your timer, you can set bedtimes and wake times. And when you set the bedtime, you get reminders to go to bed starting at about 15 minutes before your set time, and your notifications are held until your wake time starts. (And my alarm is birds chirping. I love it! No jarring alarm for me!). Last night, out of concern, I was checking texts that had been held for my sleeping time. Stupid me. LOL. Looking at a backlit screen does not induce sleepiness. And so, as I laid down for the zillionth time, I began to petition God for everyone who has asked me to pray for them, for people who I know are going through rough times, for happenings in the world (Kobe Bryant’s death, along with his daughter, Gigi, and 7 others was on my heart). And I thought of the Impeachment thing, and then all sorts of political issues came to my heart. I thanked God for President Trump’s words at the March for Life – they truly moved me. And then I started thinking of other issues, when all of a sudden, the Lord spoke. Loudly. And I stilled. I distinctly heard, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). And then I started pondering that statement. I mean, what did that have to do with all my prayers? After parsing through it, it had everything to do with it.
What belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God? Are we giving justly to both? Well, and what is it we give? Time-treasure-talent are the three things mentioned consistently at Church. Am I giving all three to both areas? Well, I dutifully pay my taxes: I pay sales taxes and I pay income taxes. I pay all the taxes I am asked to pay. Do I offer my talent or my time to my government? Not really. I used to. I also used to work for the government. I used to be involved in politics and elections, even working the polls. I stumped for candidates. I held signs, had them in my yard, and attended gatherings, meetings, and fundraisers. I felt like I did my part and then some. To my God? I have volunteered for years. Volunteering is what brought me from an intellectual understanding of my faith to a religious understanding, and an emotional and direct commitment to God. My husband felt called to the diaconate and attended Seminary for four years. His ordination brought our volunteerism onto a new level; a new plane. We both reveled in it. Being that close to the altar on a regular basis is good for the soul.
As I thought more and more about rendering what is due someone, I thought about character and honesty. We were founded, in this country, on a central idea of individual freedom, freedom from religious persecution and imposition (the government may not impose a religion on its people, which is what “separation of Church and State” means), and to protect individuals from tyranny. The Founders were escaping tyrannical rule and wanted to protect American citizens from that same experience. We have developed laws, to protect people and institutions from each other, and for each other. We have the three branches of the government, so they keep an eye on each other and prevent one or the other from going rogue. The laws we operate under were developed for the good of the people. And in kind, it is our duty, as good citizens, to obey these laws. We are a representative republic, and there are safeguards against mob rule (the electoral college is one of those protections) and we elect people to represent us in governmental functions such as drafting laws. And then we ratify those laws. (I wish everyone would watch Schoolhouse Rock and their series on the government! Just thinking about them I am singing, “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” And, “We’ve got a 3-ring government…” LOL).
If I render to Caesar, I am being a good citizen. I invest my time and talent into making my country better. I volunteer for others. I may even seek public office. But even that is largely volunteerism and should not be thought of as a professional career (we are supposed to be citizen-politicians, not professional politicians who never work for a living, except as politicians. It was never intended to be that way – yay for the idea of term limits). And we obey the laws on the books. If there is a law you disagree with, you work to have it rescinded. Roe v Wade comes to mind. Some of the tax laws definitely come to mind (yeah, I’m a flat tax person). But you never ASSUME someone else will take care of it. That is the very definition of being “sheeple.”
And we come to my experience of God speaking, loudly, to me. I mean, it stopped my wandering mind; it stilled my prayers. He wanted me to see where I need to place my efforts. I need to be equally aware; I need to participate, but I also need to let a lot of the angst over things legal, or civil, go. I need to trust in the laws, in the workings of the legislature. And knowing I have helped my government by my participation, then I need to sleep. And I need to give my fervor to God, and God alone. Yes, be a participating, good citizen, but be a Christian good citizen. Watch out for others with a Christian perspective (again, Roe v Wade and “Thou shalt not kill”) and protect those who cannot speak for themselves; who have no voice. Give those issues over to Caesar that belong there. But also, give to God what is God’s – my heart, my fervent prayer, my love, my actions. They all belong, ultimately, to God alone. If we all could figure this our for ourselves, everything would fall into place. The world would be much more peaceful. Perspective. Godly perspective. Pray on it; think on it; seek guidance on it. But be active with your due rendering.
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21)