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The Weekly Word for October 19th-25th
Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts. Created by you, let us live in your image: created for you, let us act for your glory; redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus 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.
Sermon for October 19, 2014: “Jesus vs. Wile E. Coyote”
When I was studying our Gospel text for this week, I kept coming back to a certain image.
You guessed it.
Wile E Coyote.
Wait. I’m the only one who thought of that?
When I was young every Saturday morning I would watch the Bugs and Daffy Show on CBS.
I loved those cartoons. And every weekend they would show the never-ending battle between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.
In every battle, Wile E. Coyote would try his best to capture the Road Runner and…well…it never worked.
And just about every time, somehow, someway, Wile E. found himself in the trap he had set while the Road Runner “beep-beeped” to freedom.
The reason I thought of Wile E Coyote while looking at our Gospel is we have a trap that has been set for Jesus.
For the previous three Sunday Gospel readings, Jesus uses parables to publicly challenge and accuse the Jewish church leaders of failing God.
Those are some very big and powerful words.
One group that Jesus targets is the Pharisees.
And now it’s their turn to get back at Jesus.
So they set a trap.
Now, they do not set this trap alone.
That is what makes this story very odd.
Because the ones who team up with the Pharisees are a group called The Herodians.
The Herodians were the party of King Herod, the king of Galilee, who was placed there by the Roman government, thus he was the extension of the Roman Emperor: Tiberius Caesar.
What makes this an odd pairing is that under normal circumstances these two parties would be in bitter opposition with one another.
The Pharisees were God worshippers.
The Herodians were worshippers of their Emperor, who claimed to be divine.
The Pharisees hated Roman rule and could not stand the taxes the Jewish people had to pay.
But look at WHO brings these two factions together.
Strange bedfellows indeed.
Both are looking to trap Jesus.
And the trap is to ask Jesus a question that they hope will put him between a rock and a hard place: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
It’s actually a pretty smart trap.
Here is why:
Back in the time of Jesus (we are talking first century Palestine), the Jewish people were subject to the Roman Empire.
There were three regular taxes the Roman government exacted: ground tax, income tax, and the poll tax.
The poll tax was paid by every male from the age of 14 to 65, and every woman from 12 to 65. This tax amounted to one denarius which was the equivalent of the usual day’s wage for the working man.
The tax in question in our lesson is the Poll Tax.
If Jesus answers that the taxes are lawful, he will look bad in the eyes of not only the Pharisees but also his disciples and many in the crowd who happen to be Jewish — not to mention the poor Jews who are especially burdened by this type of tax.
On the other hand, if Jesus speaks out against the tax, the Herodians would practically invent email just to get the word back to Herod and Tiberius ASAP that Jesus is preaching an anti-government message.
But just like the Road Runner is always one step ahead of Wile E Coyote, Jesus is a lot smarter than his enemies believe.
First he sees through their question by calling the ones asking the question “hypocrites.”
The Greek term for “hypocrite” was someone who played a role, someone who wore a mask.
People who were good at acting but not so much in truth.
Jesus proves his enemies, especially the Pharisees, are hypocrites by asking for a certain object.
And then he asks whose image is on that coin.
The image was of Tiberius.
And on that coin there was the claim that Tiberius was divine.
So a good practicing God-loving Jew would not have such a possession in his hands, especially within the Temple grounds.
But these Pharisees do!
That is why Jesus calls them “actors.”
BUT WHAT IS REALLY COOL is that Jesus STILL answers their question!
Just not in the way his enemies were hoping.
You see, Jesus goes beyond the question of “payment.”
Jesus goes to ownership.
In the times of Jesus, coinage was the sign of kingship.
As soon as a king came to the throne, he struck his own coinage and that coinage was held to be the property of the king whose image it bore.
So the coin that Jesus holds has Tiberius’ head on it.
So Jesus says, “Well…this has Tiberius’ image on it. It’s his coin. So give to him what is his.”
And give what is God’s to God.
So while Tiberius can lay claim to a coin.
God has a bigger claim.
He claims us.
So the question for you today is:
Who do you give yourself to?
Who will you render yourself to?
Earlier in Matthew, chapter 6 verse 24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (6:24).
Jesus is saying our loyalties cannot be divided.
Each and every one of us has to make a choice as to who we are going to follow.
In the small catechism the very first commandment is You Shall Have No Other Gods.
And there are times in our lives when the answer is not so simple.
Someone or something can come into our lives and make claim of ownership.
The latest toys.
The newest cars.
The latest political candidate.
But what we cannot forget is that WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN CLAIMED.
We were claimed at the cross, where God’s only son paid the ultimate price.
We were claimed before we were born when God said “I knew you.”
We were claimed at our baptism, when we are sealed by the Cross, and the words of Promise are said BY God to us.
We are claimed at communion, where the body and blood are given to us as a sign of his gracious love.
As a sign of a victory that has been won.
As a sign of a life that is worth living.
While the coin bore the image of a human king,
We bear the image of God.
What we do with our lives with show whether we are REAL…or if we are just acting.
We have been claimed by God.
And God is not going to give us away.
So are we ready to give ourselves to God?
O God, the host at every meal,
at this table you spread out a feast for all peoples,
the bread of life and the cup of salvation.
Send us from this banquet
to invite others into these good things,
to let justice roll down like waters,
and to care for the least of our sisters and brothers;
through Jesus Christ, our Sovereign and our Savior.
Ella Bunting Open Arms September 2014 Newsletter
The Ella Bunting Open Arms Cancer Support Newsletter for SEPTEMBER 2014 is available now.
Just click on this link: September 2014
Grace October 2014 Newsletter Now Available!
Check out our latest newsletter to read about all the things going on at Grace this month! Grace Newsletter October 2014
NOW AVAILABLE “Recipes for Hope:Cooking with Miss Ellie and Friends”
The Ella Bunting Open Arms Cancer Support Group Cookbooks “Recipes for Hope: Cooking with Miss Ellie and Friends” are now available at the church! The cookbooks cost $15 each. We would love to hold a copy for you. Just contact the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-476-4114 and we will put one on hold WHILE SUPPLIES LAST.