October 23, 2020

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This months Website is 

sponsored by

C J & Gary Glader

in Memory of

Mr. & Mrs. R J Brown

&

Mr. & Mrs. N S Glader

 

 

If you would like to sponsor a month

contact the office.

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Ash Wednesday Service

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Last week's Sermon

October 18, 2020


Matthew 22:15-22 & 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

“Put your money where your mouth is”

Many of us know at least one person who “talks a good talk” but never really live out what they say. It is at those times when that certain person is going on about what they could do or would do if they only had the chance, when you would like to respond with the idiom, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Or “put up or shut up.”


This is basically the point that some of the Jewish religious leaders are getting to. Jesus’ popularity and the crowds that follow him are growing. They are getting tired of being bested in their debates and discussions with Jesus. So, the religious leaders conspire one more time to attempt to trap Jesus into saying something that will get him into trouble. Then send their disciples along with some Herodians to question Jesus.


Now, what we might not understand with our reading today, but would be understood in the time of Jesus and at the time of Matthew’s writing of the Gospel, is that these are two oppositional groups. The Herodians were Jews that supported the Roman government. They supported the idea of paying Roman taxes as a necessary endeavor that was a part of their reality. It was the Roman law.


The Pharisees, on the other had opposed paying the Roman tax. They understood that the tax money that they paid only kept them in oppression. Besides that, they understood that paying the tax was an act of blasphemy. The Roman tax could only be paid with Roman money. The Roman money had a picture of the Roman emperor with the inscription, “Tiberius Caesar, august son, of the divine Augustus, high priest.” To even have a Roman coin in one’s possession could be understood as blasphemous to some Jews.


So, Jesus’ opponents attempt to set him up in a no-win situation. They begin with a compliment and an acknowledgement. "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.” In other words, “we recognize that you have no political allegiances.”


Then comes the kicker. “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"


Aha! They got him now. It’s a trick question. The Law in which the religious leaders are referring to is the Jewish Law …the Torah, not the Roman law. If he says yes to paying taxes, he risks upsetting most of the religious establishment as well as most of the Jewish people for supporting a foreign regime. If he says no to paying taxes, he risks alienating those who do support the Roman empire and worse yet, could be arrested for treason. Either way, it is a question of mixing religion and politics in which there is a no-win situation. The religious leaders were hoping that in their question “put up or shut up” question that Jesus would shut up for good.


After calling out their hypocrisy, Jesus, in typical Jesus fashion being one step ahead of his detractors asks for a Roman coin, which they easily produce. He then asks them whose head and whose title are on the coin. They reply, “The emperors.”


Jesus is basically saying, “Pardon me, Pharisees, but your hypocrisy is showing. First of all, you are carrying a foreign coin which has an image on it which could be considered blasphemous. Secondly, you don’t really care which answer I give. Thirdly, you are attempting to get me mixed into politics and religion, and I’m not going there. Fourthly, what matters most is not loyalty to religion or politics, but rather loyalty to God. How you live out your loyalty to God in the reality of your political situation is left up to you.”


Mixing religion and politics is never an easy thing to do. There have been some questions around the current nominee to the Supreme Court as to whether her religious understandings would influence her rulings should she be seated on the Supreme Court. In many ways, this is really a non-question. Of course, it will. At least it should. Our religious understandings, or our faith is a part of who we are. Our faith understandings shape how we think, the decisions we make, the choices we make, the way we act, and how we live. If our faith is important to us, then it would be quite natural for our faith to spill over into our politics and shape our political thinking. The thing to always remember is that our faith understandings should shape our politics not the other way around. Too many times we search for biblical passages that will fit our political understandings. Faith should shape our politics, not our politics shape our faith.


Mixing faith and politics can be messy and confusing. In today’s divisive partisan politics, both sides want to claim religious. Both sides want to claim that they are more faithful to the Christian faith. Whether for or against, both sides point to connections between policies and Biblical understandings. Religious leaders are lining up on both sides. And yet, partisan politics leave them on opposite sides. It is so confusing. How do we know which candidates or policies to support?


It is not easy and yet that is the world that we live in. Our reality is that we live in a world that is both political and spiritual. We cannot ignore either one. Both of them affect our lives. But they are not equal. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s. God takes priority over politics. As people of faith, that we understand. But that still does not tell us how to faithfully live out our lives in a political world. Jesus is vague on that response as well. That is up to us to decide how that best fits our faith.


When it comes to how to live out our lives in faith, Apostle Paul points to the example of the perfecter of our faith …Jesus Christ. Several years ago, I was visiting with one of our elder members of our church who spent much of his time living in a different city. He was sharing with me that he would regularly have coffee with a very diverse group of men. There was an atheist, a Muslim, a Jew, as well as others from different denominations. One of member of the coffee group from a different faith asked him, “Why Christianity? Why do you choose to be a Christian?”


Our church member replied, “Because Christianity gives me the guidelines on how to live my life in this confusing world.”


One of the members of the other faith traditions replied, “But so does ours. Our faith traditions give us guidelines on how to live our lives too. What make Christianity different?”


Our church member replied, “But I have a living example in Jesus Christ to try to imitate.”


He echoes the words of Apostle Paul …be imitators of the Lord. How do we live through this crazy world of religion, politics, and the demands of life? If we profess to be Christian, we attempt to follow Jesus as our living example. We look not only to the teachings and preaching of Jesus, but also to his character and his actions. We look to Jesus’ compassion and grace …the way he offered forgiveness …his nonconfrontational debates and discussions with his opponents …his empathy with the struggles of others. Those are the qualities we should attempt to imitate in all aspects of our lives.


As followers of Jesus, we are called to put our professions into action. As Apostle Paul reminds us, our actions speak louder than our words. Amen.