1Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
and strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him—
and the gates shall not be closed:
2I will go before you
and level the mountains,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I surname you, though you do not know me.
5I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
6so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7I form light and create darkness,
I make weal and create woe;
I the Lord do all these things.
The Word of our Lord.
1Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2Sing to the Lord, bless the name of the Lord;
proclaim God’s salvation from day to day.
3Declare God’s glory among the nations
and God’s wonders among all peoples.
4For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised,
more to be feared than all gods.
5As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols;
but you, O Lord, have made the heavens.
6Majesty and magnificence are in your presence;
power and splendor are in your sanctuary.
7Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord honor and power.
8Ascribe to the Lord the honor due the holy name;
bring offerings and enter the courts of the Lord.
9Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
tremble before the Lord, all the earth.
10Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is king!
The one who made the world so firm that it cannot be moved will judge the peoples with
11Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; let the field be joyful and all that | is therein.
12Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy at your coming, O Lord,
for you come to judge the earth.
13You will judge the world with righteousness
and the peoples with your truth. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
2We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
The Word of our Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 22:15-22
15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap [Jesus] in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Some things in this life just plain puzzle me like math and sweet potatoes. I just don’t understand either one!
Another thing that I don’t understand – is asking someone to guess what you are thinking. And trick questions are the worst!
I was always so dumbfounded by my friends in school who would play little guessing games with their boyfriends. As Valentines’ Day or an anniversary approached – their boyfriends would naively ask how they wanted to celebrate. Or what sort of gifts they would like.
Inevitably my girlfriends fell into 2 camps. First there were the ones who would profess – “I don’t want anything as long as I have your love. . .” And then there were the ladies who would declare – “Oh you – choose honey. Whatever you want to do will be perfect . . . “
And while I hate to say it quite so bluntly – both camps were a bunch of lying liars! Seriously!
I know this because the big day would roll around and their poor – innocent – deluded boyfriends would believe them and get them absolutely nothing for Valentines’ Day. Or they would opt to take them out for nachos and a pitcher of whatever was on tap – only to be met with a woman whose wrath can only be compared to that of a toddler being denied a cookie when she is both very – very tired and very – very hungry!
When my friends would share their outrage with me – I would ask – didn’t you guys discuss it? Didn’t you tell him what you wanted? (After all – I had been telling Jason for months that I wanted books and yarn at least twice a day!)
And inevitably they would reply – “I told him I didn’t want anything – BUT he should have known better . . .” or (my personal favorite) “He should have been able to guess what I really wanted . . . if he loved me . . .”
Wow – mean much?
Manipulating people is a pretty common way that we human beings interact. It is so unhealthy – but we love to do it. And that is exactly what is happening in our Gospel reading for today. The Pharisees and the Herodians are trying to manipulate Jesus. They were plotting to get Jesus into really big trouble.
Their plan is simple. They ask Jesus a question about taxes. This is a great place to start – if you want to get someone into trouble. After all – taxes always get people really worked up. And the Pharisees and the Herodians know this. So they ask Jesus if he thinks a good Jew should pay taxes to the Roman government.
This is a trick question. Because they know – no matter how Jesus answers the question – he will get into trouble with someone. If Jesus says – yes to paying taxes – then the religious leaders will condemn him. If Jesus says no to paying taxes – then he will get into trouble with the Romans.
To them it looks like no matter how Jesus answers their question – he is going to get into trouble. They think they have devised the perfect lose-lose situation for Jesus.
But Jesus knows what they are up to and doesn’t fall into their trap.
Instead Jesus asks to see a coin. Then he asks them whose picture is on the coin. And right on the front of that coin was a picture of the Roman emperor. So Jesus says: give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and give to God the things that are God’s.
Jesus is telling them and now us that we are called to honor both our government and our God.
But Jesus also wants us to know the government and God are never equals. Not even close! If we ever find ourselves in the truly difficult position of having to choose between our country and our God – Jesus tells us to choose God. God should always be first in our lives.
Actually – Jesus would tell us we should always choose God – no matter what the question is.
I think if you asked Jesus this question today he would ask you what is written on all of your money. And the answer is – of course – “In God we trust.” And then Jesus would say: believe your money. Trust in God.
But most of us don’t really believe the message on our money. We don’t put our highest trust in God. Instead we put our faith in our money and in the things our money buys. We put our trust in stuff. Rather than putting our trust in God. We cling to our money and our possessions. Rather than clinging to our God.
But we all know that money and possessions are fleeting. They just don’t last.
So Jesus reminds us we shouldn’t put our trust in things. Instead, we should put our trust in God who gave us those blessings in the first place. We should put our trust in the one who created us – in the one who is with us now and will be with us forever. We should put our trust in God.
Our God is trustworthy. Our God has proven this again and again. The Bible is one long – beautiful story about just how dependable and trustworthy our God truly is.
From the opening verses of Genesis to the very last lines of Revelation – the Bible tells us about just how dependable – trustworthy – and faithful our God is.
God was faithful to Adam and Eve – and to Sarah and Abraham. God was faithful to Joseph and all 11 of his brothers and their children and their children’s children’s children.
God was with the Chosen People on every step of their 40 year journey to the Promised Land – even when they didn’t trust God.
God was with the disciples on their good days and on their not so good days and each and every moment in between.
And God is with you too. God has been with you since the moment you came into being. God is with you today and will be with you tomorrow. And every single day for the rest of your eternal lives.
Our God is trustworthy. Our God and his love are more lasting than anything in this world. So believe what your money is telling you. You really can put your trust in God. AMEN.