the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sunday 10/16/05 Year A - Proper 24

Isaiah 45:1-7
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

Psalm 96:1-9

1 O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.
4 For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength.
8 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9 O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.


All year, we have been following the story of Jesus as told by the Gospel writer, Matthew. We are nearing the climax of our story. The climax of arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.

For several weeks now in our scripture lessons Jesus has been in Jerusalem. But in the story he has been in Jerusalem for only a few days. He entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, which was the ancient custom for the coronation of Israel's Kings. He went into the Temple, also part of the coronation service, but instead of being crowned King, he overturned the tables and drove out the money changers. At night he and his disciples left the city and walked two miles to Bethany, where they stayed at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

The Chief Priests, you might say the City Fathers, the power brokers in Jerusalem, were angered at Jesus' rampage in the Temple. They were trying to find a way to trap Jesus into comitting blasphemy or at least showing him up as a hypocrite, himself. So far, it has not worked.

In our reading today we learn of a secret meeting between the Chief Priests, the Pharasees and members of the party of Herod. Instead of a bipartisan comittee, this was a tri-partisan committee. They conspire about how they can entrap Jesus.

When they went out to Jesus they greeted him with flattering words. If there is one way to put someone off his guard and open him up to entrapment it is to shower him with flattery. "Teacher, we know that your are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth." Nothing was further from the truth. They did not revere Jesus. They did not think him sincere. And they certainly did not think he was preaching the word of God or they would have believed in him instead of trying to entrap him.

Then comes the trap. The trap is in the form of another question. Hear the question: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?
By lawful, they meant in accordance with God's law as written in the Torah and interpreted by the rabbis. If Jesus answered yes, then they could accuse him of disobeying God: Thou shalt have no other Gods besides me. If he said no, then they could have him arrested by the Romans for preaching sedition. They had him. There was no answer he could give that could save him.

Jerusalem, all of Judea and the surrounding area of Palestine had been under the strong arm rule of the Romans, since 66 BCE, when they were invited to come and put down a civil war. When they were invited, they never left. A period of occupation of nearly 70 years.

To put that in perspective, the Nazi regime in Germany lasted barely 20 years, the Soviet Union dominated Eastern Europe for less than 50 years. The current period of conflict between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine has been going on for about 60 years.

The emperor, Tiberius, like Augustus before him had declared himself to be a god. He had decalred that all persons in the realm should give tribute to him. Paying the tax was an act of worship to a man who claimed to be God. The Roman money was embossed with the image of the emperor and this was the only money that was accepted for paying the tribute.

God had said, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." The Jews had no statue representing God. They had no pictures depicting a likeness of God. For this reason ancient Judahism is almost devoid of art. The coins with the Roman emperor's image on them were not allowed inside the Temple. That is why there were tables of money changers at the gates to the Temple. The Roman coinage had to be exchanged for Temple currency to prevent people from blaspheming God.

Jesus asked to see a coin that was used to pay the tribute tax to the emperor. They handed him such a coin, a denarius, the value of one days pay for manual labor or about $100.00. On the coin was the image of the emperor. Jesus asked whose image is this? They responded "The emperor's" So Jesus simply said, give to the emperor what belongs to him and give to God what belongs to God.
What belonged to the emperor? In the mind of the devout Jew, or Hebrew, NOTHING! On earth nothing belonged to anyone except to God alone. And what belonged to God? EVERYTHING!

Everything belonged to God. But Jesus here is using a little irony on his accusers. On the coin is the image of the emperor. It clearly belongs to the emperor because it has its image on it. But God created man in his own image. Mankind, men women, children are all created in the image of God. We all belong to God.

So the answer to the question I asked you earlier is a resounding YES! YES! YES! Yes I am created in the Image of God, So What? So what? So what?

If I am in the image of God, if I have God's image on me then I belong to God. Every thing that I have, All that I am, every breath I take is from God. SO WHAT? So if all I have comes from God, if I, in fact, belong to God then why don't I behave like it?

Why don't we act like we are a child of the King? Instead we act like we belong to the world. We worry about not having enough money. Not having enough things or the right things. Not having the best clothes or the right car or the house in the right neighborhood. We worry about not having the right friends or not belonging to the right society. It is not God and his way that concerns us, it is the way of world that concerns us.

Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me." If we are truly made in the image of God we should behave like his children. We should obey his teachings and apply them to our daily lives. Jesus gave us two commandments that sum up the entire scripture: Love God, Love eachother. So I implore you today to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your strength. And I beg of you to love your neighbor as yourself. Do good them who abuse you and treat you spitefully. And above all, remember the words of Jesus who said "If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.


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