Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for Pentecost 19 ~ October 19, 2014

Matthew 22:15-22

We sat around the table the other night looking at pictures.  We found a bin of old photo albums in the closet.  There were pictures of our wedding, the birth of our children, birthday parties, trips, friends.  Lots of images.  I took pictures of some of them and sent them by text message to my daughter in Toronto.  She received them immediately and started to respond.  Some she had seen and others not.  She showed friends and the stories grew.  The reality, the memory, the emotion comes back with images like that.  We keep pictures because of their deep effect on us. Isn’t that why you have yours?

 

(Show a Toonie)

Here is another image.  You have the same one in your pockets or purses.  The coin has a polar bear one side and the Queen on the other.  The money clearly belongs to Canada – but we all use it because it has the power to change things.  That’s the message.

 

Jesus used two examples in the story today.  One was the image on a coin, and the other… what was it?  Did you see it?

 

The things that are the emperor’s

 

The gospel reading describes another exchange with the Temple authorities. Jesus had challenged their exclusive attitudes toward others.  They liked religion, but not relationships.  Jesus kept putting his finger on that nerve.  Now both religious and secular join forces against him.  The Herodians supported the puppet King kept in place by the Romans.  After a lot of phony platitudes, they tried to discredit him on the topic of taxes.  If he said not to pay, he could be arrested.  If he supported Roman taxation, the crowds might abandon him...

 

But he turned the tables.  Someone handed him a Roman coin. It had an image with one side reading Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus; and on the other Pontus Maximus – High Priest.  The Roman ruler claimed ultimate power in both secular and religious fields. Jesus begged to differ.

 

He simply tells them: “When the emperor wants his currency back – give it to him.”  When Canada wants its money give it.  Give to those who manage in the world. Like everyone else, people of God have always paid for the roads, the lights, the police, the fire department, social services, and everything else that makes our lives and our country the relatively safe and peaceful place that it is.  We are citizens and share the cost.  So says Jesus.

 

But then there is that other example that I mentioned.

 

The things that are God’s

 

Jesus gives the coin back and reaches over to the nearest person, takes him by the shoulder and says, “And give back to God what is God’s.”  That’s a whole other story.

 

What belongs to God?  We do… all those around us, and everything that affects us… including health, support, love, companionship, journey with family, smiles, possibilities, futures, laughter, camaraderie, the grind against each other that causes us to grow, honesty, the positives in life and the struggle.  We felt all these things while sitting at the kitchen table going through all of those old pictures.

 

If we are created in the image of God, and we look at the picture of each other… what is God’s message?

 

Whenever I sit with someone, a part of me wonders what God is saying here.  I may sense a need for friendship, forgiveness, encouragement or help of some kind… and I think about what I can give, or what we can give as a community.  When I see someone at their best and they share joy or delight or laughter I see the grace of God and receive that gift in wonderful human ways.  When I see someone at their worst, I see the human condition and offer something back.

 

 A call came into the church office on Thursday morning.  The lady told me that she is a pensioner who has no home and lives in her car. It was a strange picture. She told me that she was managing alright but was wondering if we could help her a little.  A small grocery gift card would make a big difference.  “Thank you!” she said.

 

We sat at the table talking and laughing at some of those photos.  I saw a group of former inmates in little party hats on my birthday and my heart warmed.  I saw my mother-in-law and a lump developed in my throat.  I turned the page and saw my mom and my eyes watered up. The pictures of these people affected me.  If those around us are hidden messages from God – then what we do for others, we do for God.  Jesus twinned love for God and love for others as the two greatest commandments.  If we belong to God and Jesus says to give back the things that are God’s… is God calling on our lives in relationship?

 

So many of you do this – I see it all the time:

  • Being a trusted friend to someone who struggles.
  • Offering time to a lonely person.
  • Giving rides and encouragement and practical help.
  • Listening and waiting and helping.
  • Taking an arm to help a person walk.
  • Phoning a shut-in.
  • Making quilts, sending Care Kits.
  • Gifts to Loaves and Fishes.
  • Providing a gift for medicine, or milk or bus fare.
  • Being a volunteer.
  • Making this little congregation a welcoming place.

 

These kinds of offerings are: giving the things of God back to God.

 

Giving and receiving

 

We will have to trust the one in whose image we are made – for our daily bread, to take care of our needs, to give us peace – as we give to others. We can give and God will take care of us.  We can receive help without shame.  We all take a turn with giving and receiving. Jesus says, give what is needed – to Caesar, to Canada, and to God.  When we give we will find our way. 

 

Jesus walks down the road to give: his cheek to the betrayers kiss, his hands to being bound, his head to the thorns, his back to the whip, his shoulder to the cross, his flesh to the nails, his forgiveness to our sins, his friend to his mother, his mother to his friend, his spirit to God, his body to the tomb, his life to our death… and we receive the mercy of God.  This is our faith: giving and receiving.

And so we reach out to our neighbor who carries the image of God… the person next to us or down the street or in the ditch.  We give care, honor & respect – the things of God that we have received.

 

People of God, you do this all the time.  You teach me about God.  You are the picture that touches my heart. Thank you.

Amen.

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