For the 20th Sunday in Pentecost 2020 fromPastor Matthew:
The Hebrew scripture reading for today follows hot on the heels of the great betrayal the people of Israel perpetrate against their God at the base of the mountain that we read about last week in Exodus. The people have corrupted themselves by worshiping graven images, other God's of their own construction. It is the fracture of the very first and primary commandment, and the God who saved them from slavery in Egypt is deeply hurt and dangerously angry. Thank God for Moses! Moses the people's litigator who convinces God not to "kindle His wrath and consume His people" but something has changed, God has been deeply wounded and will not go with His people into the promised land...again, Moses presses the case, reminding God that God has made and everlasting covenant with God's own people...and again, God, who loves Moses, relents and changes God's holy mind...Isn't that amazing!?
The Gospel also has to do with "graven images", the coin used to pay the tax, the denarius, has the image of the Caesar engraved upon it with the words. Caesar Augustus, Emperor, Son of God. Merely to have this coin in one's own possession is to be fracturing the first commandment. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God's...brilliant! For what is not God's? Caesar might own coins but God owns the universe! The gospel is a reminder to us that there are temporal civil authorities that need to be obeyed for the sake of good order but what happens when those temporal authorities behave in a way contrary to the eternal authority? What is our responsibility then? These are hard questions and we see them playing out in the news these days with alarming intensity. Once thing is sure, when it comes to the question of our "dual citizenship", we disciples of Jesus will always be citizens of the Kingdom of God first and subjects of the empire, however that empire presents, second.