An audio version is available.
An outline of the service followed at 7.30 & 9.15 this morning is given below.
Please note: We have resumed Sunday services at 7.30 and 9.15 in the church.
INTROIT: CP 202 Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty
COLLECT: Holy God, you govern all things in heaven and on earth: enable us to be obedient to your authority that serving in the world we will be faithful witnesses of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. AMEN
FIRST READING: Isaiah 45:1-7
GRADUAL: CP 391 Blest are the pure in heart
GOSPEL Matthew 22:15-22
OFFERTORY: CP 508 Lord of all power I give you my will
3rd EUCHARISTIC PRAYER
RECESSIONAL: CP 556 Praise the Lord Ye heavens adore Him
This Sunday is also a focus on Doctors, Nurses and Hospital Chaplains, who have been most appreciated during this Covid period.
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ went about doing good and healing all kinds of illness: continue his gracious work among us in hospitals and homes and wherever his people gather. Give wisdom, sympathy and patience to those who minister to the sick, and prosper all that is being done to prevent suffering and to forward the purposes of your love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Please find the text of the sermon below.
Sermon Revd Andrew Warmback
All Belongs to God
During this Stewardship Season, we continue to consider our priorities, commitments and responsibilities to God. The question put to Jesus in today’s gospel reading about the payment of taxes can make us think particularly about our attitudes towards our time, treasure and talents.
In our gospel story we read some of the religious leaders – specifically the Pharisees and the Herodians – wanting to trap Jesus. They want Jesus to say something that would get him into trouble.
They start by flattering him, softening him up, by saying that he speaks the truth, irrespective of what people will think of him.
They then ask him a question: “Is it lawful to pay the tax to the emperor, or not?” The tax here is the census tax or poll tax, which each person was required to pay. They wanted Jesus to answer one way or the other.
The dilemma Jesus faces is this: if he says “yes”, then he could be seen as a supporter of Rome, justifying the Roman occupation and oppression of the Jews. This answer would obviously not be a popular answer among the Jewish people and all those who suffered and were trying to oppose the Roman rule. A “yes” answer would definitely alienate them. On the other hand, if Jesus answers “no”, that this tax should not be paid, then he would in effect be defying Caesar and they would catch him out on that and could report him to the authorities.
So we can see it was a loaded question, and Jesus knew this too.
Jesus tells them that they are trying to test him, to trick him, and secondly points out their flattery by calling them “hypocrites.”
He then asks them that he see the coin used to pay the tax.
Jesus does not seem to have any coins myself but his opponents quickly produce a denarius which was used to pay the tax.
Jesus then put a question of his own to them: “Whose image and what inscription is on it?”
They answer correctly “the emperor’s face and title.”
Now remember this coin was problematic: The denarius had on the one side “Tiberius Caesar, august Son of the Divine Augustus” and on one side and “Pontifex Maximus” (high priest).
It was considered blasphemous, idolatrous, as the emperor claimed to be divine.
Jesus then gives his answer to the original question put to him about the need to pay tax, ‘Give then to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s to the emperor, and the things that are God’s to God’” (verses 20-21). It leaves them amazed.
Jesus manages to wriggle out of this this trap. But what does he actually mean by the answer? Let us consider some implications of his answer:
The payment of tax
Firstly, the political authorities are due what is theirs. Some form of government is necessary, and the paying of taxes are usually necessary. By participating in the economy and receiving services from the authorities implies taxation should be paid. Jesus seems to acknowledge this.
Jesus is not saying, however, that the paying of tax is necessarily expressing moral support for Rome or for what it is doing. Jesus may well in fact, be limiting the authority of the emperor – pay him only what he is due and no more.
We know that Jesus was aware of the problematic nature of taxation which, while a source of revenue was also used as a tool to exploit the people.
When you think of taxation then don’t think of SARS and mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth.
No. Think of the tax collectors that Jesus interacted with and their reputation for extracting more from the people than was due.
We know that later Jesus was to later challenge the tax system openly in the overturning of the money changers’ tables in the temple.
Give to God the things of God
What about giving to God the things that are God’s, as Jesus says.
Firstly, following the words in Psalm 24:1, we are conscious that the earth is God’s and all that is in it. There is little that falls outside of God’s real, God’s concern. We recognise too that we are made in God’s image – that is the image we bear. In giving to God what belongs to God, we give ourselves. We belong to God, with our time, treasure and talents.
And in giving ourselves to God we give ourselves in our in service to one another. We belong to one another.
People paid taxes to Rome because they were obliged to do so, or forced to do so. However, our commitment to give to God is our choice. Jesus invites us to make a choice for God’s kingdom, or reign. We care called to build a different kind of kingdom, one of caring, wholeness, transformation and healing. It often opposes the ways and values of Caesar’s kingdom. Wealth and possessions
In the area of wealth and possessions, the important thing is where our loyalties lie. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said “No one can serve two masters; for a person who is enslaved 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” (Matthew 6:24). Our loyalties cannot be divided. Those whose main focus is money and things exclude God.
Jesus calls us to become detached from our money and possessions and show love and compassion by sharing with those in need. It is not always easy. We have competing allegiances in life that we need to navigate – we are forever confronted by consumerism and materialism.
Finally, in considering our attitude towards and use of our money and possessions, and all we possess let us never forget that we are made in the image of God. Our attachment is to God. In God we find our identity. God accepts us as we are, we are enough in God’s eyes. God affirms us, and loves us.
We belong to God. And we belong to one another.
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426