October 18, 2020

Matthew 22:15-22 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 “Everything to God!” In a season of elections and political debates, today’s Gospel story seems very fitting. Jesus is approached by two opposing groups who scheme together to try to trick him into saying something that he shouldn’t. Commentators note that the Pharisees and the Herodians are a strange pairing because they would have been on opposite sides of the political spectrum and, in particular, the tax question. The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas (King Herod’s son) and Rome’s puppet ruler and collaborator with the empire. The Pharisees were against the Roman occupation, so they had little in common with Herodians – except their mutual opposition to Jesus and the trouble he was stirring up among the people. The Pharisees and Herodians first soak Jesus in flattery, and then ask him a trick question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” If Jesus says, “Do not pay taxes to the emperor,” the Romans will get him for treason. If he says, “Yes, we should pay taxes to the emperor,” his own followers in that occupied country will call him a traitor. It makes me think of other questions asked of our political hopefuls in the course of campaigns and debates in which someone asks a “yes or no” question and demands a binary answer when the question is not really that simple. Sometimes we see the politicians avoiding the questions altogether, even looking awkward and uncomfortable as they do so. … Read more »

October 29, 2017

Matthew 22:34-40 “First things first: Seeking God’s Priorities” When you are learning how to preach, one of the things you learn about is the most common error in preaching – and that is to try to preach more than one sermon at a time. Both the blessing of the Scriptures and the problem for preachers is that any given biblical text can lead us in dozens of different directions. We read and study the text, we consider what other commentators and preachers have said about it, we take it to Bible study and listen to the ideas of others in our own churches, and then… at some point before Sunday arrives we must choose which sermon we are going to preach. You don’t want to hear 2 or 3 sermons with multiple ideas mixed up together. If a sermon is going to do its job, it needs to have focus and clarity that will be accessible and helpful for its listeners. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes a difficult choice to make to leave a precious thought or idea unsaid, to leave it for another sermon sometime in the future. One commentator I read this week pointed out that the preacher must choose which of the lectionary readings to focus on today, and that most will choose the Gospel with Jesus’ teaching about the greatest commandment. For me, the choice today also included the push to somehow preach about the 16th century Reformation which began 500 years ago, as well as the desire … Read more »

October 15, 2017

Exodus 32:1-14 Matthew 22:1-14 “Dressed and Ready for the Feast” Join with me if you remember this song based on Luke’s version of the Parable of the Great Banquet: I cannot come. I cannot come to the banquet, don’t trouble me now. I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow. I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum. Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come. It’s a catchy little Sunday School song that captures the joyful spirit of Jesus’ parable as it is recounted by the author of Luke’s Gospel. Sure, some of the people who are invited to the Great Banquet send excuses and they miss out on the party. But when some of the expected guests send their regrets, the host sends out invitations far and wide. He sends his servants out into the streets – to the highways and the byways and compel them to come in. My table must be filled before the banquet can begin. When we read the parable or sing the song we are reminded of God’s wide and gracious welcome to all people. There are no pre-requisites for getting an invitation, and the meal is free. And as we celebrate the good news of God’s gracious welcome to us, we are challenged to consider the times and ways in which we let other things distract us from spending time with God. But Luke’s version of the Parable of the Great Banquet is not the one we heard … Read more »