Pentecost 20, Oct. 22, 2017

Title:Pentecost 20, Oct. 22, 2017

 Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, Pentecost 18 (full size gallery)

The week began with Catherine up at Shrine Mont for the fall clergy retreat. Leaves have been slow turning there. Wednesday was also the Village Harvest which set a record in people (170) and food served. Weather was beautiful on Thursday and Friday particularly with the sunrises. Sat. evening was an ECW planning session with 8 ladies. They planned next year’s Coffee Hour and donations they make at the end of the year.

Sunday morning turned out foggy on the river but quickly cleard. The children had a check in and then went to the river along the pier to distribute some of their painted rocks. They came back to practice percussion for opending hymn H 412, "Earth and all stars."

During the service we had several birthdays – Cindy Fields, Sydney Davis and well as Andrew and Felicia Huffman celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

Today’s readings assert the sovereignty of God over all human endeavor. The sermon was about being chosen by God even when conceived. "God has equipped us with the Holy Spirit. In thanksgiving, our calling is to put the power of the Holy Spirit to work out in the world— to be joyful people, to offer God’s hospitality to everyone, and to spread the good news of our hope in the one God, who made all that is and who is in control of all that is to come, far beyond the times visible to us."

In the readings, in Isaiah, the prophet proclaims that God directs the affairs even of Israel’s adversaries, causing them to act on God’s behalf. This is a Messiah long before Jesus. Paul greets the Thessalonians with the assurance that God has chosen them for great works of faith. In the gospel, Jesus deflects the Pharisees’ malice by redirecting their thoughts to God’s sovereignty.

In the Isaiah reading God directs affairs of Israel’s adversaries. Isaiah 45:1-7 speaks of God’s anointing of Cyrus to help bring the deliverance of Israel out of exile. This is the only occurrence in the Old Testament of the term "messiah" referring to someone outside of the covenant community. Of Cyrus it is said that God calls him by name, language applied previously to Abraham and Israel, indicating a close relationship between God and his anointed ‘agent’. God’s sovereignty is, however, absolute: I am the Lord; there is no other

Isaiah, while speaking to the Hebrews in exile about to return, gives us a glimpse of the kind of Messiah God would bring in Jesus–someone who would be an unlikely leader but one who would break through the gates and chains that kept the people separated from God–sin, the oppression by the religious elite, prejudice, poverty, racism, and all other barriers to freedom in God–Jesus would break these wide open.

Matthew 22:15-22 is the story of how Jesus was questioned about paying taxes. He redirects Pharisees thought to God’s sovereignty.

The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus, so they had the Herodians accompany them, members of the ruling family who were Hellenistic Jews–they had taken on the practices and culture of the Greeks and were mainly Jewish in name only, as they were privileged in living off of the wealth of the people and kept in power by Rome.

The question of whether or not it was lawful to pay taxes to the emperor was loaded. This tax put such a burden on impoverished Jews in Palestine that, at least on one occasion, it provoked rebellion

So, if Jesus answers his opponents simply by saying yes, it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, then he risks alienating the poor and the oppressed who bore the greatest burden. And if he says, no, it is not lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, he risks facing charges of sedition.

Jesus’ answer, therefore, is brilliant, as he allows for the possibility of paying these taxes but makes it clear to any person of faith that he or she must consider what belongs to God.

Jesus, in reminding them that the coin shows the Emperor’s face, saying the famous “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” shows that the Messiah is neither an earthly leader going to overthrow the Roman government nor is he a coward bowing to the pressures of the ruling class. God is concerned about Godly things–which is everything.

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