PENTECOST 20 Thought of the Week

October 22, 2017

The second lesson notes that the people in Thessalonica imitated the apostles who were themselves imitating or reflecting Jesus.

I wish I could imitate Jesus.  I might be able to, but only for very brief periods.  I know, however, I am not as big-hearted, quick-minded, non-defensive, wise, gentle, loving, seeing, reaching, caring, sacrificing as Jesus.

Case in point: the gospel exchange today.  People with a different spiritual perspective try to box Jesus into a corner that will reveal to everyone how absurd his position is.

Have you ever been in a meeting, a confrontation, a conversation where people were backing you into a corner and were going to have a laugh at your expense or going to feel superior to your badly articulated position?

I was in a larger church meeting a few years ago in which I was unable to make my point well enough to be heard by others.  After a try or two, they kept on their path, a direction that upset me.   I got so frustrated – with them and with me -- that I dropped out of the rest of the meeting.  The facilitator of that meeting must have noticed.  Guess who was asked to close the meeting by leading everyone in prayer?

In the gospel the opponents want to trap Jesus so they can blog on social media about his response.  Either answer about paying taxes is wrong. If he says paying taxes is okay, then he appears to be a co-conspirator with the Romans and he distances himself from his rabid religious base. If he advises not paying taxes, he opens himself to be seen as a traitor in the Roman empire.  The questioners really don’t care how Jesus replies.  They think: either way, he loses.  They have placed him on the horns of a dilemma.  He will be gored by either horn.

So he thoughtfully and cleverly asked them something seemingly innocuous: show me the coin you are talking about.  They quickly show him a coin to emphasis their clever question, not realizing they have just exposed themselves to his challenge – and escape from their dilemma.  That they have such a coin indicates they are cooperating with the Roman occupiers and their system.  Then Jesus says to give accordingly, being responsible to both the civil and religious system – because we already are receiving something from God through both.

For further reflection:

Under what conditions do you do your best imitation of Jesus? 


Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts. Created by you, let us live in your image; created for you, let us act for your glory; redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

            Isaiah 45:1–7
            Psalm 96: 1-9
            1Thessalonians 1:1–10

            Matthew 22:15–22

CHILDREN’S SERMON: “ Imitators”   

SERMON:  “ Show Me”

WORD OF THE WEEK – from Matthew 22
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."


FIRST LESSON from Isaiah 45: 1-7
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,
            whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
            and strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him—
            and the gates shall not be closed:
2I will go before you and level the mountains,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
            and cut through the bars of iron,
3I will give you the treasures of darkness
            and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
            the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
            I surname you, though you do not know me.
5I am the LORD, and there is no other;
            besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,6so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
            and from the west,
that there is no one besides me;
            I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7I form light and create darkness,
            I make weal and create woe;

            I the LORD do all these things.

SECOND LESSON from 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
            2We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
            8For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Matthew 22:15–22
The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap [Jesus] 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.