Call to worship
Today’s Scriptures call us to understand that all that we are and all that we have belong to God. Our allegiance to government leaders and to civil and national law must be in light of what we believe as followers of Christ and must promote the values of God’s Kingdom.
To the point: Jesus is not fooled by the Pharisees shameful flattery; he sees through it to their malice and hypocrisy. These vices lead to a false dichotomy between earthly and divine kingdoms. Goodness and truth help us recognize our place and proper conduct in both kingdoms. When earthly kingdoms are guided by God’s values, they are no less than the spatial presence here and now of God’s kingdom. We pay only one tax: the self-giving that bears the image of Jesus.
Connecting the Gospel (Matt 22:15-21) to the first reading: God uses earthly realms, as in the case of Cyrus the Persian* who liberates the Jews from Babylonian captivity, to further the presence of God’s kingdom. There need be no opposition between them. And when there is, it’s due to human malice and hypocrisy.
Connecting the Gospel (Matt 22:15-21) to experience: At times what we owe to God can put us in conflict with civil authority- conscientious objection to war, policy decisions concerning poverty and environment, etc. When conflicts arise, is it Caesar or is it God we serve?
* King Cyrus created a larger empire than the Romans and was more benevolent than any other conqueror. He subdued many nations and freed 40,000 Israelites from captivity in Babylon and sent them home to their holy land. He was known as “the Anointed of the Lord” by the grateful Israelites. Isaiah tells us that even though Cyrus did not know God, God was holding his right hand and guiding his every action. Cyrus was an instrument of God’s goodness to Israel so that all other nations would know the power and kindness of God. Cyrus became an image for the people of a Messiah, who would lead them and free them.
(Matthew 22:15-21 )
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
Did Caesar create the stars?
Hurl them to the ends of the universe?
Can he make blood course through our veins?
Or craft a hummingbird
or a Gerbera daisy?
Then his coins can’t buy what we really need.
God, Creator, you are the one
whose face we seek.
The domain of love that
you give in grace and peace.
We are in your image.
Please take us as your own.
(Isaiah 45:1, 4-6)
“It is I who arm you, though you know me not.”
God, you armed Cyrus.
You subdued nations under him,
anointed him, even though
he didn’t know you.
From the rising to the setting of the sun,
anoint us, and use us too, Lord,
to fix all that is wrong on our
planet and in our society.
When we know you
are using us, and when we don’t.
(1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b)
“Our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power
and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”
Please help us receive the gospel
not just in words or phrases,
but rather in power.
In the Holy Spirit,
with much conviction.
We want to labor in love
and breathe out your faith and hope.
Copyright © 2020, Anne M. Osdieck
Music for prayer & reflection
Like Cedars They Shall Stand
No Longer I