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Last Sunday's Sermon

The Gospel

Matthew 22:15-22

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, 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?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

The Sermon

Proper 24 year A

Whose stuff is this anyway

Give to Caesar the things that are Caesars. Give to God the things that are God's. There is no parable here. There is not a lot to be interpreted. The back story is kind of interesting. Once again the pharasees are trying to trip Jesus up. 

Sure, these guys sound nice. They compliment Jesus by saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference.” Jesus sees through their compliments. He calls them hypocrites.   Hypocrites were actors and actors of course pretend to be something they are not.

These hypocrites, these pharasees, think they have got Jesus on this one. If he tells them they should pay taxes, it means some of that money will go to support the pagan temples. If he tells them not to pay taxes then he is breaking the law and could be arrested for sedition. Yes, they surely think they have got him.

Of course Jesus is better at this than they are and we know his reply.

One of the questions in our bible study was, what is on the face of our currency. We put on there the faces of those who are important to US history. Washington, Jefferson Lincoln, Hamilton. All of the people on our currency are dead. In fact that is a rule in our country. In Jesus time it was the opposite. Roman Emperor's had there face on the coin during their rule. Jesus reply when he looked at the coin was, this is obviously the Emperor's coin because his face is on it. You are basically giving back to the Emperor his coin. 

And then of course Jesus throws in the clincher. Everything else is Gods.

Think about that everything else is God's, including us..... the car I drive, my watch, my clothes, this church. Do we really think in those terms though. I just said my watch, my clothes. Everything we think we have is really just on loan. 

My cousin John used to say, “I'm spending my money while I'm here. I've checked out those caskets. There aren't any pockets in them. By the way, John succeeded in spending all he had....and then some.

I was counseling at the food bank last Friday and I was listening to a man talk about how he should have come into a large inheritance but the rest of the family was doing so much infighting that he just threw up his hands and walked away from it. He said it was not worth all the bad feelings. My comment was that we are just taking care of those things while we are here. It all really belongs to God. He laughed and agreed with me.

My next thought was if all things are God's and we are just the caretakers what is our responsibility. Do we want to leave healthy land, water, and air for the people who follow us? Of course we do!

Having said that, I would like to end this sermon with a prayer from our Book of Common Prayer. P. 87 no. 41


Ah! Music

We just returned from a concert by Simply Three.  It was wonderful.  Listening to music can be such a spiritual experience.  I was moved.  People often think of spiritual experiences as sitting quietly but it can be a wildly fun get on your feet and dance kind of thing too.  I didn't dance tonight but my left foot could not stop tapping!  What a great evening!

Thank you Simply Three

Last Sunday's Sermon

Proper 23, year A

God's Banquet

Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, `Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."

The Sermon

We studied these readings at bible study last Tuesday and one of the members of the group made an interesting comment. She said, “I'm glad I don't have to write a sermon on this gospel reading.” Another member recommended that I write the sermon on the reading from Paul. 

As we went through the questions I felt much more comfortable about this reading from Matthew so here it goes. I would like to preface my sermon with a comment. Sometimes I think we can get too bogged down with the details of a story and lose the reason for its telling, the message.

First I would like to look at the cultural context of this very complicated parable. The king sent out two invitations. This was common in the first century. Along with the invitation would be a list of who else received invitations. This culture was very concerned with social standing and if there were people invited who were of lower social standing, then the guests would turn down the invitation as happened in this case. If someone high in the social structure was seen eating and drinking with a person of lower status it was likely that he or she would be shunned by family and peers.

The king is humiliated by the treatment his servants are given and punishes those who did it. He then basically opens the gates and invites everyone to the banquet. In this first century scenario the king would have provided a wedding garment for those invited and they would be expected to put it on before entering the banquet. One person, however, chose not to put on the garment and he was thrown out. 

So, with this story, what is Jesus trying to tell us about the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe he is saying that you and I have an invitation to the heavenly banquet. If we choose to not attend because we have other interests in our lives or we are concerned more about our social status, then the invitation will be taken away. If we accept the invitation but we chose not to wear the spiritual garment that God offers us then we will not be allowed into the banquet either. 

How do we accept the invitation? I believe you all know. We follow the way that Jesus described for us in the Gospel. It is a way that is simply explained but not all that easy to do. We are expected to practice love for each other even at times when it is difficult to love. God expects us to occasionally fail and at those times we ask forgiveness and God gives it.

I would like to bring in a little of Paul's letter to the Philippians because it clearly states to me the spiritual garment we are expected to wear. He writes: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

If you wrap yourself in the garment of truth, honor,and purity and you do what is pleasing to God you will surely be welcomed to feast at God's banquet.