Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Pentecost 18

Sermon for Pentecost 18

Augustana, 2011

Click here for mp3 audio  55 Sermon for Pentecost 18.mp3
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon today is the Gospel just read.

Today’s exchange probably happened on Tuesday of Passion Week in the temple courtyards.  It is mere hours before the Last Supper and Judas betrays the Lord and Jesus is arrested.  Jesus is now being confronted by the religious leaders in Jerusalem at every turn.  They are trying to get Jesus to say the wrong thing and entrap Him.  When Jesus says these things is important because I think there might be a tendency to hear these teachings as merely bits of wisdom not as teachings from One who knows it’s a countdown to the cross.  We can hear Jesus teach about the active reigning of God on earth because we know He knew He was headed to the cross to ratify His kingdom.

For several weeks now, Jesus has been arguing with the Pharisees and the chief priests and the scribes, but this morning a new party is mentioned, the Herodians, supporters of the royal family, Herod, and politically aligned with Rome.  There couldn’t be two greater opposing factions in Jerusalem.  The Pharisees saw Herod as an illegitimate king of Israel so they would never have been in cahoots with the Herodians but, as they say, politics makes strange bedfellows and so now they have joined forces to try to set a trap for Jesus.  And look at what they do.  This is no mere “religious” discussion; this is politics.  They’re trying to get Jesus to say it’s wrong to pay the Roman tax.  There’s a little history here.  Josephus the historian records that about thirty years earlier, in the year 6 A.D. there was a Jewish Zealot named Judas of Galilee.  He led a revolt against the first Roman governor for precisely this reason.  Any true Jew would have thought paying the Roman tax to be dishonoring God and an acknowledgement of their slavery to the pagan Romans.  So, the Herodian trap was a fine one, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”  Either way Jesus answered would be bad for Him.  If He answered, “Yes,” He would loose the vast majority of His followers who hated Rome.  If Jesus said, “No,” He put Himself at odds with the Romans on charges of treason.

But Jesus was wise to their plan.  And so He answered the question in the way that He has answered such questions throughout His ministry.  “Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Now, on the surface, this is a great answer.  Brilliant, really.  This is the way rabbis justified paying taxes even to pagan overlords, God was in control.  This is the link, by the way, with the OT lesson for today noting the Persian King Cyrus, a pagan, as the Lord’s anointed one.  That means messiah, folks.  Cyrus, pagan King of Persia, is used by the Lord to rescue His people out of exile in Babylon.  God is in control, even if pagans are in government.  So, yes, dear Christian brothers and sisters, pay your taxes.  But Jesus’ answer reflects something far more profound than that.

For those with ears to hear, Jesus is saying that the community He came to establish must be content to render to whatever Caesar is in power whatever belongs to that Caesar.  Jesus is describing how His disciples will live under the hidden rule of God in the kingdom of heaven for as long it takes for the second coming to come to pass.  And in this answer we have a clue to the true nature of these words from our Lord as Gospel, as Good News for us.

Give to Caesar what’s his.  Render to God, the things that are God’s.  As I mentioned with the children, in an indirect way, Jesus is saying something very radical about the nature of who we are.  You are God’s.  That’s what Jesus says hours away from the cross by which He would restore the image of God for all people.  Jesus paid the terrible price, He suffered the wrath of God for your sin.  You who have been baptized into Christ, like little Karl today, now once again bear the image of God.  You are His.  You have been reminted, as it were, given new value.  Each of you, Jesus has bought with the price of His lifeblood.  You know to whom you belong.  Render to God what is God’s.

The Southeastern District Conference I attended at the beginning of the week was about Christian stewardship.  So much of what we’ve learned over the years about stewardship is of the Law.  How much is a tithe?  How much are we supposed to give?  Ten percent.  Ten percent of my time.  Ten percent of my talent.  Ten percent of my treasure.   And if I give my ten percent, then God will bless me, quid pro quo.  He has to; it’s the Law.  That’s all Law and it it’s all wrong.  God doesn’t want ten percent of you because He did not save ten percent of you.  He saved you, every bit of you.  There is no part of you that is not His.  Through Holy Baptism, He has restored His image on you.  You are His.  He wants you to see that all your time has been given to you.  All your talent comes from Him alone.  All your treasure, even the means you need to survive, perhaps even thrive, in this world has come as a result of His benevolence and grace—all of it.  This is an essential truth to the nature of the Gospel.  Only those who understand the grace of God understand what it means to truly give as they have been given to.

Some people misunderstand this and then wonder if all their time must be given to work in the congregation.  No, and I say that in the hour when we need to elect officers for 2012.  We understand that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and children have God-given duties and roles in their homes.  These duties always outweigh the secondary duties of church committee member or leader.  It’s easy to confuse the organization that is the congregation with the kingdom of heaven.  I have seen it, though not here at Augustana, but I have seen an otherwise well-meaning Christian husband and father give so much time to the congregation as an organization, that he has confused the true Christian duty to his wife and children.  I have to watch myself so that duties to the organization that is the church do not take me away from the kingdom calling as Christian husband and father.  To turn the phrase, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole congregation, but to loose his family?”  The same can be said for talents and treasure.  So, yes, we need officers for our organization, in fact we need at least one more person to agree to serve on the board of deacons today.  These are the very valuable people who are charged with the stewardship of the congregation’s temporal affairs.   And we will pray the Lord to raise up for us someone to serve as He has those who have already agreed to serve but we could not in good conscience ask someone to give beyond what is right.  There is always a delicate balance.  We should never be stingy about giving from what we have been given but we should not serve in any position for which we are not given to serve.  To turn the phrase once again, “What does it profit a congregation to gain a whole slate of officers, but to loose their families?  Living in the kingdom of heaven should never be confused with volunteering in the congregation.

Living in the kingdom of heaven is living in the shadow of the cross on which Jesus shows us price He paid that we might be God’s own once again, our image restored.  Living in the kingdom of heaven is living as one among many who have been bought with great price.  Oh, what great joy it is to see others as Christ sees them, in the image of God, reminted after the image of His Son.  Oh, what great joy it is to see ourselves as Christ sees us, reminted, revalued, restored in the image of Jesus Christ.  This is as true today for you as it is for little Karl.  Jesus has said, “You are mine.”  Amen.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: