Sermon (3) and Liturgy for Ordinary 29 - Proper 24 - Year A
I Thessalonians 1:1-10 and Matthew 22:15-22
"Unto Caesar and Unto God"

READING:  I Thessalonians 1:1-10 and Matthew 22:15-22
SERMON :  "Unto Caesar and Unto God"

by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or29sxse 1000 

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC. 

   Sources:  The Children's Story is based on one for this Sunday by
   Charles Kirkpatrick,, ¸2002 and is reproduced
   here by permission.  The prayer of dedication is adapted from one by 
   John Maynard ( in "Prayers and Litanies For
   Ordinary 29, Year A" as sent to the PRCL List, in October 1999,
   while the benediction comes from one by Nathan Nettleton as found in
   his "Eucharistic Preface for Ordinary 29 - Year A" as sent the the
   PRCL List, also in 1999.  

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Sing to the Lord a new song.   Sing to the Lord all the earth.
P  Declare God's glory among the nations,
   God's marvellous works among all the peoples.
L  Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.  All other gods are but
   - but the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that
   fills it.
P  Let everyone ascribe to the Lord glory and strength 
   and come into his courts with praise.
L  Worship the Lord in holy splendour.   
P  Say among the nations "The Lord is King".  
   He will judge the  world with equity.

Let us pray:  Gracious and Loving God, you are greater than we can imagine. 
Your goodness is seen all around us.  You provide food from the ground
enough to feed the whole world and bring forth from the oceans enough to
give everybody you have made all that they need each day.  Your bounty is
without measure.   You are so great that you have even come among us and
shown us how to live so that we need not fear anything - and you are so
wonderful that you even raise the dead and give them new life in your 
heavenly home.   We bless you and thank you.   Be with us today, O God, and
help us to see beyond the limits that people impose upon us.  Help us to
trust in you even when our world appears so dark and our troubles seem so
large.   Hear the sobs of those who weep and comfort them and accept the
prayers of those who turn to you today and bless them with what they need
so that they may sing your praises to the whole world.  We thank you for
giving us this new day - and we thank you for being a God who gives life
and light to us and to the whole world.   Amen.

* HYMN:  "Morning Has Broken"                                      - VU 409

CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Whose Image"
Object:   Lots of Coins - And a Mirror
Theme:    Giving To Our Government What is Their's and To God what Is His
Source:   Self and Charles Kirkpatrick,, 2002.

Good morning - I brought money today....   A lot of coins.   People like to
have money to spend on things that they need and things they want.   Money
is useful stuff.   But something strange happens to our money  when we go
to spend it.  The government takes a big portion of it for themselves -
which they call taxes.

Have you ever heard your parents or other adults complaining about having
to pay taxes?  You probably have.  Most people are not too fond of having
to pay taxes.  Do any of you pay taxes? Well, it might surprise you to
learn that kids pay taxes, too!

How many of you receive an allowance from your parents?  Have any of you
ever received some money as a birthday gift from your grandparents?  How
many of you have ever earned some money for doing some chores around the
house?   How many of you have ever bought anything with your very own

If you answered, "Yes" to any of these questions, you have probably paid
some taxes.  Did you know that every time you buy something, you pay a
sales tax?  In our part of the world that tax is 7%  per cent.  That means
that for every dollar you spend, seven cents of it is tax.  Let me show you
with these coins.  Oh - and then there is another tax - and that is 7% as
well.   Let me show you with these coins.

Now, I ask you, "Is that fair?  Do you think kids should have to pay
fourteen cents out of every dollar they earn in taxes?"

I wonder what Jesus would say if we asked him about it?  That is a tough
question.  If he answered, "Yes," all the kids would probably get mad at
him.  If he answered, "No," the government who make our laws would probably
get mad at him because the government needs that money to operate.  It
seems that someone would get mad at him no matter which way he answered!  
It looks like a no-win situation, doesn't it?

Did you know that something like that actually happened?  In Jesus' day,
the people were required to pay a poll tax.  It was not a very popular tax
with the people.  One day some religious leaders came to Jesus and asked
him if he thought the people should pay the poll tax.  They were actually
trying to trick Jesus, because they knew if he said, "Yes," the people
would be angry.  But if he said, "No," he would get into trouble with the

Jesus saw right through their plan and he did a very wise thing.  He asked
them for a coin, then he said, "Whose picture is on this coin?"

They answered, "It is Caesar."  Caesar was the Roman ruler and all taxes
had to be paid to him.

Jesus then said to them, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give
to God what belongs to God."

Look at all these coins.  Whose picture is on all of them??   (The
Queen's).   And the queen is the head of our government.  Well, I guess
that means that they all belong to her - and we will have to pay our taxes
- and be thankful that she doesn't ask for more..

But what about God?   Jesus also said "Give to God what belongs to God."  I
wonder what belongs to God?   Well take a look at this (hold up Mirror).   
What do you see here????   The Bible says that we were created by God and
that we were created in the image of God.  If we are created by God, and we
were created in His image, we must belong to Him.  That means we must give
ourselves to God!   That means  we try to do those things that God wants us
to do - to care for one another - to not fight with our brothers and
sisters, but be kind - to remember those who are hungry and feed them - as
this food from thanksgiving will help do - to play and work and to not be
mean - because everyone around us also belongs to God...

The wonderful thing about giving to God what is God's is that God gives
back to us a wonderful and joyful life when we give him ourselves in
obedience and trust. 

   Let us Pray....  Dear God - you made us in your image - and we
   belong to you.  - Because of that  we give you our hearts - and will
   try to do what you ask - because we know dear God - that when we do
   - you make many good things happen.  We thank you God - in Jesus'
   name.  Amen.

And in the word's of Jesus who taught us to pray together as one family:

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen

* HYMN:  "Jesus Bids Us Shine"                                     - VU 585

- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries     
- Special Matters      
- Sharing Joys and Concerns

  Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God they will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

   (NIV)  Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians
   in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  Grace and peace to

   We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 
   We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced
   by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired
   by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For we know, brothers and sisters
   loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you
   not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and
   with deep conviction.  

   You know how we lived among you for your sake.  You became imitators
   of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed
   the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  And so you
   became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  The
   Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia -
   your faith in God has become known everywhere.  Therefore we do not
   need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind
   of reception you gave us.  They tell how you turned to God from
   idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from
   heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescues us from
   the coming wrath.

L  This is the Word of The Lord
P  Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 99  (VU 819) & the Gloria Patri (sung)
   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  
   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
   World without end.  Amen

   (NIV)  Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Jesus in
   his words.  They sent their disciples to him along with the
   Herodians.  "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of
   integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the
   truth.  You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to
   who they are.  Tell us then, what is your opinion?  Is it right to
   pay taxes to Caesar or not?" 

   But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are
   you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax." 
   They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is
   this? And whose inscription?" 

   "Caesar's," they replied. 

   Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God
   what is God's." 

   When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN:  "Faith of Our Fathers"                                    - VU 580

SERMON:  "Unto Caesar and Unto God"

   O Lord, we pray, speak in the calming of our minds and in the
   longings of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the thoughts
   that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen.  Amen.

It is a sign of poverty to conceive of everything in terms of what you
already know or think you know;  a sign of destitution to evaluate
everything and everybody according to categories that will admit nothing
new because those categories are already fixed in the concrete of what you
believe to be true.

The Pharisees were some of the best church people of their day, but some of
them were very poor.  Their understanding of the world and of God was boxed
in and confined by what they had learned and what they expected to be true. 

Because they were like this, as so many people are, 
when they looked at Jesus and listened to him they were alarmed by what
they saw and heard.

Jesus taught many things about the Kingdom of God that they could agree
   with -  things like God will judge evil doers and condemn them, while
   rewarding the righteous with good things, 
yet Jesus associated with people who were obvious doers of evil:
   prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers and the like - and spoke of
   God's forgiveness of them and of God's desire to give them new life.

The Pharisees could not understand that.

They were also uncertain about how to classify Jesus because He taught that
   obedience to God and his law was necessary - that in fact they needed
   to obey it from their hearts and souls, 
yet he healed people 
and allowed his disciples to pick corn 
on the Sabbath day,
   and he touched and blessed those persons their faith told them should
   not be touched nor blessed.

Jesus disturbed many of the Pharisees and the religious authorities of his
   day.  He upset the world they had created by their beliefs. 
And because what he said and did would not fit into their neat little
   boxes, those boxes which defined for them what was from God and what
   was not
they ended up rejecting Him.

2000 years ago a philosopher by the name of Epictetus said, 

       "Men are disturbed not by things that happen but by their
       opinion of the things that happen." 

This is the problem of some of the Pharisees.  

Their understanding of events tell us more about who they are than it does
about who Jesus is.

One day, after having decided that Jesus was a danger to the true faith of
Israel, the Pharisees, who were Jewish Nationalists, combined forces with
the Herodians, who were a group that counselled collaboration with the
Roman Government, to trap Jesus in his own words - so that either the
people would reject him or the Roman authorities would arrest him.

They decide to ask Jesus if paying taxes to Caesar is lawful, knowing full
well that if he said NO -  then the Roman authorities would arrest him, and
that if he says YES -  then the common people would  reject him.

Their question was exceptionally clever.  It was the kind of question that
gets a person no matter how they answer it, a question like the old
chestnut that asks: "have you stopped beating your wife yet"?

The scriptures say that Jesus knew their evil intent and said to them;

       You hypocrites - why are you trying to trap me?
       Show me the coin that is used for paying the tax.

Hypocrisy is defined in dictionaries as claiming a virtue one does not
have.  It comes from the root word in the Greek - to play a part or to act
on the stage.

The part, or role, that the Pharisees were playing was the role of being
learners of God.  They, with the Herodians, pretended to be in interested
in what Jesus had to teach, but in reality they were more interested in
finding him at fault than they were in learning from Him,
   they were more interested in protecting their own understanding of what
   God was like, and making sure that everybody else fell into line with
   their views, than they were in seeing if, in fact God was doing a new
   thing through this prophet.

Jesus, by calling them hypocrites, suggests that they are not really people
who want to know God and understand his law.  That they would rather live
out what they already think they know about the living God and God's will
and purpose - than to actually encounter that God and do what that God
wants them to do in the here and now - in the reality of what is happening
around them - in the place where God is -  in the time when God can be

Are we a people who believe in a living God and a living word?   

Do we have a relationship with God - a relationship with the Christ - that
is current, that is up to date?

Or are we a people who believe certain things about God - and try to impose
those beliefs on others 
   - without thinking about how God might be doing something new 
   - how God might even now be in our midst healing and helping, teaching
   and commanding, warning and leading, 
much as he did in the past 
as he did through those whose teachings we quite rightly value so highly.

Are we willing to see God where we don't think God will go?

Are we able to hear God in the voices of those we think are misguided?

Are we able to know the presence of God even in those whom we know to be

There is a story in the Old Testament about how God spoke to a prophet
   through his donkey - well, that isn't the actual word that is used -
   but you understand - and that the prophet, though he was in the hire of 
   the enemies of the people of Israel,  was able to hear the word of God
   from this dumb animal and did what that word asked of him.

Do we shut out the voices of the donkeys around us because - as everybody
knows - donkeys can't speak, and thus miss the message that God wants us
hear - the message we need to hear?

One the major problems that we have in this life is that we tend to value
comfort over truth,
   that we prefer the world to work according to the formula that our
   experience has provided us, rather than to have to adjust our
   expectations and our ways of doing things according what is happening.

We tend to live out our expectations and impose them upon others so that
the things will work as they we think  they should work - rather than
allowing the world - allowing God - to shape us and to work for us.

What tremendous gifts we miss out on because of this side of our human

Jesus once said to the religious teachers who gathered around him and who
were criticizing him for breaking the law of God as they understood it by
healing on the Sabbath Day - and by daring to say that God was his Father.

   "You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them
   you possess eternal life.  And it is the Scriptures that testify
   about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life"

As it was then - so it is now.

Our knowledge of God - our understanding of the scriptures - our traditions
- our formuli for what makes for life all has great value to it  - but the
risk is that we will not look up from what we already know to actually see
God working around us - the risk is that we will immerse ourselves so
deeply in those things that are meant to help us encounter God - that we
will miss God even when he walks up to us and calls us by name  and seeks
to gift us with his presence.

We sing here each week before the scriptures are read a verse from the hymn 
"Open My Eyes That I May See".

We ask God to open our ears that we may hear voices of truth that he
sendest clear.

We ask God to illumine us - to show us His will - to set us free.
   Free from our preconceptions
   Free from our judgements,
Free to see what is really real - and to live by it - and adapt to it - and
to share it rather to simply hear and see and do the same old same old.

Our traditions - our teachings - our understandings - they have great
value, like a road map has great value.  They help to guide us - they tell
us where we are.  

But they should not be allowed blind us to the beauty of countryside around
us; or to the actual conditions of the roads upon which we are called to
travel - or to who is travelling with us.

They should not become a substitute for the actual experience of loving God
and entering into a relationship with the living Christ and loving one
another as he loves us.

Jesus responded to the question put to him by the Pharisees and the
Herodians by giving them an answer  that was not an answer that could be
turned into a formula - though many have tried ever since.

Just as the words "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God
what is God's" did not allow the Herodians and the Pharisees  to rouse the
crowd or the Romans against Jesus - so those words do not tell us exactly
what we should do when the demands of the state seem to contradict the
demands of our God.  

What they do tell us is that we need to struggle with and pray about every
situation in which our civic duties seem to be leading us into activities
where our duty to our brothers and sisters is imperiled.

Each person here is made in the image of God.
Each one of you "belongs to God".

And God - if you allow it - belongs to you.

Not as a fixed possession that you can box up and use as you see fit when
you see fit, but as a partner - a friend - a lover - a companion - who fits
you perfectly 
   - one who challenges you to change your ways when you are going astray
   and who loves you and seeks you out when you have wandered away
   - one who encourages you when you are down and lifts you up when you
   - one who works with you - not against you - even when they are rightly
   angry with you
   - one who forgives you before you even ask - and who expects and hopes
   and prays that you will love them in return.

God is here in our world.
God is here in our church.
Christ is in our midst.

In our hearts - if we allow him
and in the person next to you - if you will see him.

May you see God where God is to be found 
and give Him what is due to him.

Blessed be the Lord our God, and Christ Jesus His Only Begotten,
And the Spirit that works to make us one.  Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE  (Rx - And In Your Love Answer) Singing #400 at the
start and the end of prayer time

       Lord, listen to your children praying,
       Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
       Lord, listen to your children praying,
       send us love, send us power, send us grace!

God of majesty, Your glory fills the earth and the heavens.  You are the
maker of all that is, of all that is good , of all that seeks good, of all
beauty and truth and nobility.  You surpass all that we think of you.  You
are found in places that we do expect to find you.  You speak to us in ways
that are so ordinary that we often fail to hear you and you reveal yourself
in things that are so wonderful that the we often fail to grasp that you
are behind them and in them.  Lord, we pray that you may help us to see you
and hear you this day.  In silence now, O Lord, we ask that you speak to us
and that you hear us and help us.  We offer to you our prayers - and we
offer to you our hearts and minds and souls so that you may fill them with
what you want us to have..........................   Lord, hear our
prayer...  And in your love answer.

Father and Mother of us all - we know you care for all that you have made
and for all whom you have made.   Hear now our prayers for our world and
for the nations that fill it - for those who hunger and thirst for the
bread and water you give in abundance, for the justice and the mercy that
you want all to experience, for the peace and the wholeness that you want
all to know....   Lord, hear our prayer....

Tender and caring Lord, hear our prayers for those whose pains and sorrows
and joys and thanksgiving s are upon our hearts this day.   We lift them up
before you by name in our hearts - and with the words of our lips.....

... Lord, hear our prayer.....  And in your love answer.  Amen

       Lord, listen to your children praying,
       Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
       Lord, listen to your children praying,
       send us love, send us power, send us grace!

MINUTE FOR MISSION:  A Moment For Giving Thanks and Blessing upon the
                     Departure / Retirement of a Musician  

   Let us pray - We thank you O God for all those who give themselves
   and the talents and gifts you have poured out upon them in your
   service.   We thank you especially this day for the all the
   offerings that Helen has made to you in this sanctuary of your
   presence and beyond - the gifts that have helped your people to
   worship you and to serve you.  We thank you O God for keeping her
   strong and giving her  a love that has touched many.   And we pray
   that you would continue to bless her and all of her family - and the
   churches she has loved and served in your name - and those that you
   may yet lead her to.   We bless her on her way to her new home - in
   the name of Jesus.  Amen.

* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of

   O God, our creator and our redeemer, we acknowledge ourselves to be
   made in Your image.  Help us to dedicate our whole selves to the
   joyful task growing in our understanding and dedication to You and
   to Your Church, so that we might help others to understand and
   experience the fullness of your grace and love.  Bless what we give
   you here on these plates - and what we offer to you now in the
   silence of our hearts.......    We ask these in the name of Your
   blessed Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ who gave himself to you so
   that all might live - and who lives so that none may die.  Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Sent Forth By God's Blessing"                  - VU 481

* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
Go in peace,
- and may the glory of God's goodness be revealed to you.
- may the grace and peace of Jesus Christ take root in you.
- and may the inspiration of the Holy Spirit fill you with joy
both now and forevermore.

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                              - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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