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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Pentecost 20 Proper 24A RCL October 22, 2017

Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

In our first reading, we rejoin the people of God just after they have made the golden calf. God and Moses are doing the work of reconciliation after the people have broken their covenant with God. Moses is realizing something we all face many times during our lives: he and the people cannot continue on the journey unless God is with them.

God promises to go with Moses and the people, but Moses needs proof. God says that God will “make all [God’s] goodness pass before [Moses].” But Moses cannot look upon the face of God and live. Back in those times thousands of years ago, people believed that the glory of God was so great that they could not look at God and continue to live.

The thing that strikes me about this passage today is that, because of God’s love, which is so clear to us, God came among us. God lived a fully human life in Jesus, and we have beheld the face of God and lived.

There is a story of an old French peasant who came to church every day and just sat and stared silently at the crucifix behind the altar. Someone asked him what he was doing, and he said, “I just look at Him, and He looks at me.”

Our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians is, first of all, the earliest writing in the New Testament, from the early 50s A.D. The Thessalonians had faced great opposition in beginning their community of faith; they had moved ahead with great determination; they had changed from worshipping the idols of their surrounding culture and now their faith is so renowned that everyone in Macedonia and Achaia knows about them. They are a shining example to their brothers and sisters in Christ.

In our gospel  for today, Jesus is in the temple. It is the Passover and people have come from all over the world. Whatever is going to happen is going to be seen by many, many people. Various factions who want to protect their power have gathered to trap Jesus. The Pharisees, who are anti-Roman, send some of their disciples to work with the Herodians, who are pro-Roman. They begin with flattery and then they ask if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar.

Jesus asks them to show him a coin. He does not carry Roman coins, so he is not showing loyalty to the feared and hated Roman Empire. He asks whose head is on the coin. It is the head of Caesar and he is the emperor. And then Jesus says that enigmatic thing that leads us to truth: “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

As we know, everything belongs to God. Charles Cousar, Professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia points out that the word translated as “head” in this passage is the Greek eikon.  Cousar writes, “The coin of course bears Caesar’s eikon and  belongs to Caesar. Humans, on the other hand, bear the eikon of God. They may pay the infamous poll tax, but they do not belong to the emperor. They themselves belong to God.”

Cousar points out that this passage does not make God and Caesar equals. He adds, “nor are they symbolic names for separate realms. Humans bear God’s image, and wherever they live and operate—whether in the social, economic,  political or religious realm—they belong to God.”

Cousar concludes, “Furthermore, the text operates subversively in every context in which governments act as if citizens have no higher commitments than to the state. When the divine image is denied and persons are made by political circumstances to be less than human, then the text carries a revolutionary word, a word that has to be spoken to both oppressed and oppressor.” (Texts for Preaching, Year A, pp. 532-33.)

We have seen the face of God in Jesus. We have walked with him and talked with him. He has taught us. He has led us to the green pastures and the still waters where we can drink from the freshness of his divine grace.

He has shared with us the vision of his kingdom, his shalom, where all people belong to him just as we do, and where all people live in peace, have the basic needs of life such as food and shelter and clothing and medical care and good work to do.

Because we belong to God, because we are following Jesus, we are called to keep his vision of shalom clearly in mind in all that we do and to make choices that will help to build that shalom.

May we sense how deeply we belong to God and how much God loves us and all people. May we pray the prayer of Christ, seek the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ. Amen.