What is God’s

October 22, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 24, Year A
Isaiah 45:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

Listen here, or read below:

 

Oh great, the scripture passage that tells us we should pay our taxes. Always a favorite! Of course, it might be more helpful if we hear it in April instead of October. And while this story is sometimes used in that way, it isn’t really about paying taxes.

The passage starts out by telling us what the Pharisees are up to. Remember, Jesus has been telling parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, and through these stories, illustrating how the Pharisees aren’t exactly living into the spirit of God’s law. So, now the Pharisees are trying to entrap Jesus by asking him a controversial question. They took the Herodians with them to witness Jesus’ answer. These are those in authority under King Herod, who governed the Hebrew people, and had a certain amount of independence even though the Roman Emperor had ultimate authority.

To keep this independence, Herod was expected to pay a tribute tax to Rome, which was collected from the Jews. So, with Herodians and Pharisees on the offensive, they began by trying to butter Jesus up a bit, saying:

“Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

So these same Pharisees who were recently questioning by whose authority Jesus was teaching in the temple, are now addressing Jesus as “Teacher.” They’re saying he’s honest and teaches the truth of God. They go on to invite him to speak freely, reminding Jesus that he isn’t influenced by someone’s stature in society. He treats all people the same.

Don’t we see these same types of characters in every Disney movie ever made? We want to call out, “Don’t fall for it Jesus! They’re up to no good!”

Read the rest of this entry »

A Flip of the Coin

October 19, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Proper 24– RCL Year A
Exodus 33:12-23; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Matthew’s gospel is tough. It was written for a particular audience at a particular time in history. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to say to us today, but before we can attempt to understand how it might speak to us, we first have to do the work of understanding what it meant THEN, to THAT audience.

Most of us don’t take time for that kind of work. We hear today’s gospel and interpret it simply to mean that we should pay our taxes, give to Caesar what is Caesars’s, and get on with it. But, it’s not that simple. It’s Matthew’s gospel, so there’s work to do.

But, don’t be afraid, I’m here to help.

Matthew’s gospel is big on RULES and AUTHORITY.

We continually hear stories where the Pharisees challenge Jesus or his disciples about the Sabbath because they are healing people or taking corn from the fields and no one’s supposed to be working. And, a couple of weeks ago we heard the Pharisees asking Jesus, by whose authority John was baptizing people.

For all you rule-breakers out there, we like it when Jesus stirs things up! When he goes against the tradition and challenges the status quo.

And when we hear that the Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus with a question, we love it when Jesus turns the tables on them, and they are dumbfounded! Read the rest of this entry »

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