Our October 18 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. Our social spacing seating arrangement assures minimal risk when you come in person.
The October 25 worship services will be held in our church sanctuary at 8 and 10:30 am with members and friends in attendance. We will not hold an outdoor service on the last Sunday of this month. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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Isaiah 45:1-7 | Psalm 96:1-9, 10-13
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 | Matthew 22:15-22
Over the last few weeks, the Gospel lessons have been telling us, Jesus has been bantering with the chief priests and the elders, and embarrassing them in the Temple. Today, the Pharisees and the Herodians enter the fray. The Pharisees, we know. They were a group of laymen (actually, there were eight different groups of Pharisees) who were trying the hardest to keep the Covenant of Moses. Jesus tends to hold them up for ridicule (as in, “They don’t have it right!), and so does the Talmud. The Herodians are different. They were not a religious group. They were a political group, who favored the kingship of King Herod and his line, which then excludes the Maccabean line (the Hasmonians was the group that supported the Maccabeans); and excludes the line of kings descended of David (of which Jesus is a member, people forget that part). These two groups, the Pharisees and the Herodians plot to entrap Jesus. That is interesting when you just kind of assume that they have seen what Jesus has done to the priests and elders. But Pharisees, in particular, believed that they were better than everyone else. I guess that included the discipline of rhetoric.
Since we are in an election year, and we are being bombarded by all kinds of political ads and political rhetoric, which often we just let slide over our heads without paying much attention. Realize that nothing has changed in politics in thousands of years either, contrary to what some may think. Think about the nuances in the lesson today. Their trap is very political, and not very religious, considering the Jewish situation at the time, being a client state of Rome. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” It actually sounds pretty innocent. There is a double trap here. They must have thought long and hard on this one. If Jesus says no, the emperor, who was Tiberius at this time (who liked his money to keep up his debaucheries), would get upset, and the Romans would see this as an act of rebellion. Jesus would be arrested then for sedition. Interestingly, Jesus will be crucified as an insurrectionist by the Romans. If Jesus says yes, the people, who hated the particular tax being asked about, which was paid by all people from 12 to 65, will turn against him. This is quite a quandary. Jesus answer is beautifully simple, “Whose image is on the coin?” The answer was, “Caesar.” “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” No wonder they were amazed and went away. Jesus cut them off at the knees. He used the image of the emperor on the money to lead into the image of God placed upon humanity. It is beautiful. He turned the political question into a religious answer.
I was thinking about this question and answer long and hard this week, and came up with an interesting situation myself. Who is our emperor in this country? What is the image? Our current President sometimes acts like he is. But no, I went back a bit further. Do the words, “We the People” sound familiar? We the people of these United States, we are the ultimate power here. If we the people are the emperor, the ultimate power of the political scene, what are our things that we should give to ourselves? What do we render unto ourselves? For that, I went to another document, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They were the Founding Fathers ultimate goals. True, taxation without representation was the catalyst for our revolution. Indeed, it often is the cause of revolutions.
Life: It is agreed that all people are deserving of a life, hopefully a quality one – here we call it “the American dream.” Liberty: Freedom, for all our talk about it, and our different understandings and misunderstandings about it. And I’ve noticed over the years that many good Americans have no sound idea about what the concept of freedom was for which our Founding Fathers fought. It is really freedom from oppression and to pursue that quality life that we mean. It is not freedom to commit those things which we consider evil and are outside the realm of decency and law, rather it is in favor rather of the common good. Think of individual rights for the good of all. We have freedom within limits. Some people don’t like those limits. They are free to complain, but not to infringe. The pursuit of happiness: each of us hold as precious the right again, to strive to live a quality of life as we are each able to achieve it, to enjoy that life, and assist our fellows if possible to achieve those ends as well. Those, in the simplest terms of our founding documents are the aims of the underpinnings of this nation, of which, we are the emperor. These are all good things when sought after properly. That’s part one.
What then do we owe to God? What are we to render unto God? Part Two: We’re back to that image question again. Humanity alone is created in the Image of God, see Genesis 1:27. According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the geniuses of Early Church leaders, that means among other things, that we are free to obey God, and unfortunately it also gives us the freedom of will to disobey. Guess which way we usually choose? We owe to God our very selves, our creation, redemption and sanctification. Because of sin, we are broken as a species, and so will always will the wrong ideals. In other words, sin has perverted our freedom of will. We choose to disobey. Because of the Law, we will be condemned in God’s sight, and even twist the Law (like the Pharisees and Herodians) to a wrongful understanding. That is our quandary. We can’t help it. But Christ’s answer to that also exceeds our human expectations. We are no longer bound to God’s Law. Through Christ, we are freed from God’s Law. But we are also freed to God’s Law. No longer does it just condemn us for our sinfulness. No. Through Christ, it now drives us to the Gospel. Christ takes our condemnation unto Himself; and gives to us his righteousness. He redeems us. Through faith in Christ, we are now freed from sin, death, evil and even God’s Law which was held over us. But, he also frees us towards the Law. Confused? We are freed to live our lives now in accordance to the way God would have us to live, as God’s faithful children, in God’s image. That is the other side of the Gospel. Through Christ, we are freed twice. No longer standing in condemnation and unable to free ourselves, we find ourselves freed by the Son of God himself, claimed by God through Him as fellow heirs with him, and empowered now by the Holy Spirit to live our lives giving to God His due: glory, laud and honor. Praising God, worshiping God, and giving thanks to God, even praying to Him as a loving Father, for all the grace and mercy which has been bestowed upon us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; carrying within ourselves His very image.