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Trust & Allegiance

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We have been taught to avoid religion and politic among polite company.

However, this is a disservice to our lives as individuals, community, and entre world. We should be taught how to be in respectful dialogue about both religion and politics, which listens to understand rather than listens to respond.

Our language for ‘politics’ is from the Greek word for citizen/city (public), it is the language used to describe our public life together. The opinions about how our public life together should be lived is as numerous as persons existing within all time and all places. This leads to potentially harmful and destructive dialogue among family, loved ones, friends, co-workers, and beyond.

Jesus did not avoid public life, or politics.

We enter into a conversation between Jesus and the religious elite, the dichotomy that has been established in this context is rather intense.

The religious elite question Jesus about a topic people have loved throughout the ages… NOT. It is about the lawfulness of paying (Roman) taxes. Their question is not rooted in mere curiosity or an intellectual exercise, but it is rooted in a malicious intent to entrap Jesus with words of treason against the Roman Empire.

Jesus will not be so easily tricked.

Jesus asks these religious elite to produce a Roman coin, which they can.
It displays the image of the Caesar and his inscription upon it.

Jesus tells these religious elite to give to Caesar want belong to Caesar, or give to the Roman political life what belongs to it. Jesus continues teaching that we are to give to God, what belongs to God.

Jesus transforms the question into one about where we place our trust and our allegiance.

Martin Luther discussed that the source of our greatest trust and allegiance is our god. We often hear this language in association with substance abuse or an addiction for wealth, power, authority or otherwise.

But, these religious elite were displaying their trust and allegiance in Rome, perhaps in the security of Pax Romana (“Peace of Rome”) established and maintained through oppression and violence as needed. This “peace” is not aligned with the Hebrew Scriptures summarized as a mission of seeking
justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

Where do we place our trust and allegiance?
Where do you place your trust and allegiance?

  • the United States of America;
  • elected officials/candidates; or
  • the Democrat or Republican Parties.
  • the Christian Church;
  • Lutheran Confessional teachings;
  • the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); or
  • Trinity Lutheran Church.

Perhaps, we place our trust and allegiance in another human institution.
Perhaps, we place our trust and allegiance in our relationships with:

  • a parent;
  • a significant other;
  • a child;
  • a friend; or
  • a pet.

In another words, our trust and allegiance must be prioritized.

God is not naïve. God is aware that we place trust and give allegiance to institutions and persons.

But, what or who is at the top of of our priority?

We, similar to the Roman coin, bear an image.
We bear the image of God, the image of Christ.

We, similar to the Roman coin, have an inscription.
It is written on our hearts by God alone, it is the law or teaching and it reads “You are ay beloved”.

We are called to give God what belongs to God.
That is our entre being: mind, body, soul, trust, and allegiance.

God uses people, in their personal and public life, to bring forth the Kingdom of God to Come through justice, compassion, mercy, love, and service.

God uses human institutions to bring forth the Kingdom of God to Come again through justice, compassion, mercy, love, and service.

God, again, can use any person to bring forth said Kingdom to Come including the Gentle (uncircumcised, pork eating Pagan) political leader in our Isaiah passage.

This Kingdom to Come should be the frim ground all our personal and public action is rooted. It should be the priority, well above and beyond:

• nations;
• governments;
• leaders;
• political organizations;
• religious institutions;
• human relationships; and
• otherwise.

Where do you place your trust and allegiance?
Where do we place our trust and allegiance?

May it always and forever be in the Triune God
who has placed the divine image upon us and
who wrote the inscription “You are my beloved” upon our hearts.

May our personal and public lives reflect
the justice, compassion, mercy, love and service
of the Kingdom to Come.
Amen.

Scriptures were Isaiah 45: 1-7 and Matthew 22: 15-22.
Originally preached 18 Oct. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana)

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Invitations & Robes

Jesus continues to teach the Pharisees, Scribes, and other religious elite in parable about the Kingdom of God.

It is a parable that paints a grand wedding banquet, which is more reminiscent of the ever-expanding, universal nature associated with the Gospel of Luke instead of the Gospel of Matthew. Luke often enlists the imagery of banquets with food, drink, and space abundant enough for all people, but Matthew adds a bitter taste of judgment, not once but twice, within this parable.

Recently I had been invited to the wedding of my cousin, who lives in Ohio. The invitation was expected.

Similarly, the Pharisees, Scribes, and religious elite would expect an invitation to the Kingdom of God, to this wedding banquet.

Despite the invitation to the wedding for my cousin, I declined after confirmation that my immediate family in Arizona was not invited. The reasons given were applicable to myself with the exception that my address read Indiana.

Similarly, the Pharisees, Scribes, and religious elite declined the invitation to the feast, the Kingdom of God. Additionally, members of the spiritual elite had seized, caused harm, and killed massagers from the host.

I did not seize, cause harm, or kill any person.

But as we can image, the host was not amused by their declining of the invitation and further their violent actions. Thus, the host ordered his military to destroy and burn their property.

Perhaps, my lack of violence is the reason my Jeep, house, and otherwise was not destroyed, although it apparently caused drama between my aunt and uncle due to a lack of communication. I also was not invited to the bridal shower.

The first part of this parable emphasizes, yet again, Jesus informing the religious elite that they will not enter the Kingdom of God before the sinners, who are considered unworthy. Jesus also emphasized again that the religious elite have ignored, seized, caused harm, and even killed the true messengers, or prophets, sent by God.

The parable shifts into scene two.

The host sends messengers into the town, on the road, in the back alleys to invite all persons to the prepared banquet, again seemingly with food, drink, and space abundant enough for all persons. Yes, the unclean, the unworthy, the sinners, the vulnerable easily dismissed by the elite.

This is that ever-expanding, universal invitation of God for all persons, despite:

  • Race, ethnicity, or nationality;
  • Gender, gender identity, or sexuality;
  • Socio-economics;
  • Political affiliations;
  • Religious adherence or lack thereof; and
  • Any boundaries we seek to place on God’s grace freely given.

These unexpectedly invited guests seize such an opportunity, put on the expected robes, and gladly arrive for this banquet.

Then, we arrive at the third and final scene of the parable and that second bitter taste of judgment.

The host notices and questions one of the unexpectedly invited guests, who was not adorning the proper robe, or clothes, for the celebration. The host has this unwelcome guest removed from the celebration.

This parable does not reflect the reality of the Ancient Near East (ANE), which is common for parables, for the poor and vulnerable may not own the proper robes for such a celebration. And yet, it is deeply ingrained with theological importance, particularly the early practice of Holy Baptism.

In our rite of Baptism, we note that the newly baptized is clothed in Christ. This is when I place a quilt around the newly baptized.

This is to symbolize shredding our sinfulness, in order to take on the commitments, to imitate and embody Christ through proclaiming Christ in word and deed, seeking justice, acting with compassion and mercy, while loving and serving all persons but especially the most vulnerable.

In the ancient rite of Baptism, it occurred in a room with a small but fairly deep pool of blessed water. The soon to be  baptized begun on one side of it, while the community of the baptized stood on the other side. The soon to be baptized would strip themselves of their clothing, or old self, and walk naked through the pool ensuring complete submersion in the water, symbolizing their own drowning death to the old Adam, or old self. They would exit the pool among the community of the baptized and be clothed in a white robe to signify taking on those baptismal commitments, of being clothed with Christ.

The wedding and celebratory robe in our parable is simply being clothed for the Kingdom of God. It is God’s freely given grace that incite our good deeds, which to quote Martin Luther:

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does”.

It is not about proper theological belief.
But it is about how God’s grace changes us.

It is not about completing particular rites or proper worship.
But, in the words of Micah 6:8, it is about seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.

It is not about upholding the letter of the law.
But, it is about upholding the spirit of the law.
In the words of the Apostle Pau, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10, NRSV).

Ultimately, it is about being clothed with Christ.
It is about a change in us by God’s grace alone.
And thanks be to God for said grace. Amen.

Scripture was Matthew 22:1-14.
Originally preached 11 October 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Holy Wednesday: Stump the Rabbi

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him 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…
34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 15-22, 34-40)

After Jesus’ authority is questioned, the religious elite conspire to terminate his popularity, public ministry, and the revolution it was inciting. These religious elite knew that it would require Jesus’ death.

Thus, the Pharisees and Sadducees (religious elite) sought to entrap Jesus in his teaching, in order that he might be arrested, condemned, and crucified per the Roman Empire. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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