Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon ~ 22 October 2017 ~ “Give it back to God”

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon - 22 October 2017
“Give it back to God” ~ “Of thine own have we given thee”

Listen to the audio HERE

Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, which we heard just a few weeks ago, when Jesus was teaching in the Temple, Jewish officials questioned his authority to do “these things”.  Jesus declined to answer the question, for the answer could only be understood by those with faith.  Just before our gospel today, we find the parable of the Wedding Feast, which the Pharisees saw as an attack on them.

Now followers of the “Pharisees” and “Herodians”– who all wanted to get Jesus arrested  – speak to him. They appear to respect him, but speak with irony. And then the question, the subject of great debate in Jewish circles: should we pay the annual poll tax to Rome?

As with any good question, the possible responses varied:

If Jesus says yes, Zealots and other Jews hostile to Rome will turn against him; if he says no, he will risk arrest for inciting rebellion against Rome. We know his answer, as translated, but “Give” can be give back or repay.   

So he says, “Give back to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God, give back the things that are God’s.”

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee”
2 Chronicles, chapter 29, verse 14

Pharisees try to entrap Jesus, and he uses some rhetorical brilliance to get out of a jam.
But is there more than that?
Is there more to say here.
Of course.
Look at the end.
Look to the very end, the part that Jesus adds to his answer to the Pharisees.
“And to God, render the things that is God’s”
And so, we should consider what is God’s, after all.
After all, you have made the time to be here in this glorious place.
Everything is God’s

The emperor - that’s fine...give him a bit…


But, to God, give to God what is God’s.  Jesus was not playing around with these petty entrapment kind of questions.  He knew the truth of God’s gift.  He knew what Thomas Merton later wrote:

If you want a spiritual life, you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not at all.

And, what have we received from God, that we might give back to show our gratitude, our Thankfulness?  What might we “give back” to God?

God’s People
Money to the church
Time to the church
Good will
Wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.

But to God, render what is God’s.

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”

And so, if we were thinking that this was merely a debate about a coin, whose head was on a coin...let’s remember that Jesus knew his Bible.  And his Bible was the Jewish Scriptures.  And he knew his prayer book.  And his prayer book were the Psalms.

In today’s psalms...ALL creation sings to the Lord.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.
12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the Lord when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.

Of course it does.
Every instant
Every moment
Every love
Every pain
Every pleasure
Every suffering
Every fellowship
Every loneliness
Every cup of coffee
Every slice of bread
Every sip of wine
God is in it
It is God’s

And so, this is the state of mind of Jesus when he is asked about giving money to the Emperor, giving back the money which was minted by the Roman Empire.  Jesus says fine - give back to the Emperor.  BUT, give BACK to God the things which are God’s - which is all.  Jesus’s life was unified, and he was deep in Holy Week when he answers their question with this great truth.  

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”

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