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Tag Archives: Matthew 22:15-22

Is God pro-Trump or anti-Trump? (October 22, 2017)

Is God pro-Trump or anti-Trump? (October 22, 2017)

Matthew 22:15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 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. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 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.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Does God want you to be a Trump-supporter? Does God want you to be a Trump-resister? Is there anything more divisive in our country right now? Where is God on this? Believe it or not, that’s what this text in Matthew is asking.

This text describes an admitted attempt to trap Jesus. The Pharisees and the Herodians were working together even though they had virtually nothing in common. They had less in common with each other than today’s Republicans and Democrats. The Pharisees represented the majority of the Jewish people, and the Herodians represented the oppressing Roman government. The only thing they had in common was their desire to get rid of Jesus. Think of Trump-supporters and Trump-resisters joining forces. That’s what’s happening in these verses.

When these two groups banded together against Jesus, they really set an ingenious trap—one into which Jesus shouldn’t get out of. The divisive issue for them is if it’s OK to pay a tax to Rome. If Jesus says “yes,” the Pharisees can turn the Jewish people against him, saying Jesus supports the oppressors and has validated the Roman currency, which would be idolatry and breaking the first commandment, since the denarius declares Caesar to be Son of God (the first Caesar) and High Priest. If, on the other hand, Jesus says “no,” the Herodians can declare him in rebellion to the emperor, and have him jailed or even killed for insurrection. Either way, Jesus will be out of sight, hushed, no longer a threat to anyone. Foolproof.

But Jesus turns the tables. Instead of falling into their trap, he ups the

ante. He raises the stakes and makes their question an even more important one. No longer is this about whether or not to pay a poll tax to Rome, but about the very nature of their relationship with God. Instead of a trap, this is now about who we are and who God is.

Go ahead, Jesus says, and give to the emperor those things that are his, but to do that you have to acknowledge that there are things that do belong to Caesar. Then you have to define what those things are. And in order to do that, you have to know why those things belong to Caesar. Some things might belong to him if you believe him to be the head of the Roman government, but that’s way different than what belongs to him if you believe him to be divine, as all of Rome declares. If he’s divine, Son of god, you’re saying something completely different about what belongs to him, and therefore what ought to be given to him.

Jesus turns this around on them. Now they have to say where their own allegiance lies, they have to define what belongs to the emperor and why? And also what belongs to God and why?

That’s the question we have to answer too. What do we believe belongs to God? The stars? The earth? All the things that live on the earth? Us? The Church? Our gifts and talents? Our checkbooks? Our children? Our next breath? Do we believe everything belongs to God? And what does that even mean?

It starts with admitting that we belong to God. Each one of us. We are created in the very image of God, in God’s love and wonderful creativity, we are uniquely and beautifully made. We are God’s precious and holy creation. We don’t have to try. We don’t have to achieve it. We simply are. We can’t stop it, we can’t change it, we can’t improve it. All we can do is live it. Go ahead and pay taxes, put money in a 401(k), give generously when the offering plates come around. But recognize that you belong completely and totally to God. You will always be surrounded and held in God’s love.

And, therefore, we can live that way. Every time we show compassion, we are giving to God something that already is God’s. Every time we stand up for someone who’s been victimized or hurt, we are giving to God something that already is God’s. Every time we listen without judgment, we are giving to God something that already is God’s. Every time we recognize Christ present in those around us, we are giving to God something that already is God’s.

Is it OK with God to be a Trump-supporter? Is it OK with God to be a Trump-resister? Is it OK with God to be a Democrat? Is it OK with God to be a Republican? Is it OK with God to type #MeToo on your Facebook page? Is it OK with God to be gay or divorced or have an abortion or anything else that we, as imperfect, fallible humans, may think might be divisive?

Give to the emperor the things that are he emperor’s. Give to your own views the things that fall within those views. But give to God the things that are God’s. If everything belongs to God—if we belong to God—then nothing else can get in the way of that. We give unconditional love because it is God’s. We give over-the-top compassion because it is God’s. We give unrestricted forgiveness because it is God’s. We give that which already belongs to God. Those things that divide us come a distant second—if they make the cut at all. We give to God the things that are God’s. When we do that, the rest becomes obvious, doesn’t it?

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Posted by on October 22, 2017 in Sermon

 

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Investing in the Main Thing (Matthew 22:15-22)

In Matthew, this text is happening during the last few days before Jesus is killed. There’s no time for trivialities. The Pharisees sent their minions along with the Herodians to trap Jesus. Normally, they hate each other, but to trap Jesus they become partners. Together they plan and scheme and spend all kinds of time coming up with a fool-proof plan to discredit Jesus. If he says, “Yes, pay taxes to Caesar,” the Pharisees can condemn him to the crowds as a religious fraud. If he says, “No, don’t pay taxes to Caesar,” the Herodians can have him arrested by Rome for insurrection.

They approach Jesus with disingenuous, empty flattery, and think that this question about taxes will trip him up? You’ve got to be kidding! God incarnate is about to be nailed to a cross. The central piece of God’s entire salvation history is a couple of days away. The redemption of all creation is coming to fruition right now, right in front of them. They think this is important? That this is where their energy is best used? Really?

I’m amazed Jesus answers them at all, considering what he’s getting ready to face. Yeah, pay your taxes. Whatever. Don’t let the emperor’s stuff get in the way of God’s stuff. Don’t let temporary, trivial things get in the way of the main thing.

And Jesus is all about the main thing. God is making everything new: forgiveness is now breaking into sinfulness; hope is breaking into despair; wholeness is breaking into brokenness; life is breaking into death. This is the main thing. God is all about this, and we in this congregation have been created to be part of it. Not only do we experience this among ourselves, but we proclaim the reality of this to the world. We exist as church to be with God in making all things new through forgiveness, hope, wholeness, and life.

Jesus got that, and didn’t seem to get sidetracked from the main thing very often. Certainly not here. Certainly not by the Pharisees and Heriodians. Certainly not by a question about taxes.

For the rest of this month, our council will be working on the 2015 budget. This isn’t just a spreadsheet of how we’re going to spend money; it’s a declaration of how we will live in the image of God, of how we will be part of God’s main thing.

And we will be part of God’s main thing. We will reveal generosity, compassion, and grace. We will proclaim forgiveness, love, and mercy. And quite honestly, doing that as a congregation in our culture involves having a budget. That’s just real. Our council will present an honest, authentic, balanced proposal of how LCM will take part in God’s main thing—that for which we exist.

Today we’re receiving Estimate of Giving cards for 2015. Part of that is to help our council get a better idea of what funds we’ll have for the year. But another part, I think, is more important. It’s the opportunity to think about, to deeply consider, how we will invest in God’s main thing. How we will invest in mercy, grace, compassion; forgiveness, love, and mercy being revealed in our world.

Don’t get all weird because we’re talking about money and pledges in the church. Money is just part of life. Oh well. So give or don’t give, whatever. Turn in a card or don’t turn in a card, whatever. So don’t worry about that. But I do invite you to take this opportunity to consider investing in the main thing. Consider how much you’re willing to invest in revealing God’s love and compassion in our world. Because the world needs more love, compassion, mercy, and grace.

Whether you turn in an Estimate of Giving card today or not isn’t the main thing. Whether you increase or decrease giving isn’t the main thing. God’s forgiveness and grace being shown in the world is the main thing. As a council, I assure you that with whatever money this congregation has, God’s main thing will be our main thing. That will be reflected in the budget we will propose for 2015.

I invite you to take the opportunity to make an investment in that. Give to the emperor the emperor’s things give to God God’s things. Whatever. We no longer let the temporary, trivial things sidetrack us. Because for us in this congregation, the main thing of God’s is the main thing for us.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Sermon

 

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