Pentecost 22-A/Oct. 22, 2017/Community Luth/Rev. Joseph Vought
Let a pastor start preaching about money and stewardship and some people will think he has gone from preaching to meddling. We get nervous about our money don’t we? It’s like when I go to church on vacation and they pass the offering plate. When I travel I carry larger bills than usual so there is a quick glance to make sure I have a few dollar bills to put in the plate rather than the 20s or 50s. It gets personal, like the misprint in a Church Bulletin: “Message from the Stewardship Chair: It’s time to pledge our money/offerings for the work of the Church. I upped my pledge. Up yours!”
With today’s Gospel there is no skirting the issue. Two groups of Jews try to trap Jesus with a question about paying taxes to Rome. The Herodians were allies of Rome who supported the tax. Pharisees were Jews who could not stand Rome or the tax. If Jesus said it was not lawful to pay taxes he could be accused of rebellion. If Jesus agreed with the tax he would be siding with Rome against his own people. They think they have him. So Jesus asks for a coin and his opponents produce one. On the coin was an image of Caesar with an inscription, “Caesar, son of God, divine.” Jesus says, “Give to the emperor things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Now Jesus has them. By carrying the coin they accept the pagan system. But Caesar’s rule will be judged by a greater rule.
Look at our money. On the front are faces of leaders who taxed us, waged war and, like leaders of the Roman Empire, they have all passed away like a dream. But on each bill printed, each coin minted we find an inscription, “In God we Trust.” Managing our money means much of it will go to care for our homes, families and daily needs. Some of it will go as taxes which is part of our civic duty. “In God we Trust” is also a warning to any ruler tempted to play God or any one of us who worship ourselves, our money or stuff. That’s always our temptation. Jesus reminds us, “Where your treasure is your heart will be also. You cannot serve God and money.”
They say the only things you can count on are death and taxes. But we proclaim a stronger truth: The truth of a God who gave us this good earth, who said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” We were made in the image and likeness of God, and because we bear God’s likeness we are to act like God. We see this in Jesus most clearly, the one human person who lived for and loved others. We are partners with God, to give life and love to all people. Because we are made in the image of God, we welcome a stranger or the refugee. We give to others who suffer from disasters and pain and we give money for those who can’t afford healthcare. These Godly virtues remind us that all we are and all we have are gifts for us to serve God and others. Why would we ever pretend our financial lives are not a reflection of our spiritual lives?
I am proud of Council for approving the “God’s Grace, Your Gifts” Campaign. We Welcome, Grow and Share Christ’s love- We are a church that impacts people’s lives for the sake of the Gospel.” The Kingdom of God is like 40 people from CLC and special needs friends from Green Meadow Home sharing a meal at a Wednesday Potluck; sharing our space with MarThoma Church, bringing healing with Narcotics Anonymous, space for Boy Scouts because they do Godly work too. It is forming Youth in Ministry and kids in Christian Education and it is a beautiful Muslim and Lutheran children singing songs for Peace. Because we are made in the image of God, we give our lives away. Because of the saints who built this church, we serve in our time, teach our children about Jesus. Because we can’t take it with us, we are learning about good giving and endowments so others may live. Because we can become addicted to our money we know that good giving is the only cure for the disease. Every Sunday we receive God’s grace in the Word and Sacraments. We worship and thank God joyfully and generously in the offering plate.
On November 5th Commitment Sunday we invite you to worship God, take a step up in your giving with your pledge for the coming year. Church Council will step up and make their pledges. Both of your pastors tithe and we will increase our giving. The last verse of our last hymn proclaims the truth, “Cast every idol from its throne, God is the Lord and God alone, to God all praise and glory.”
So flip a coin, (Pastor Joe flips a coin) heads or tails, it’s all God’s. Amen.