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Oct 11

Matthew 22:15-22

If your church follows the Revised Common Lectionary, then you know that the Gospel lesson for this upcoming Sunday (Oct. 16) is Matthew 22:15-22.  This is the passage that those of us who randomly quote scriptures in conversation always manage to make a reference to around April 15th of every year.  Jesus responds to the Pharisees who are plotting his demise when they ask him a question about the lawfulness of paying taxes: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

It is a timely passage to read, to be sure.  Considering the “Occupy _____” protests that are going on all around the country, the various tax levy proposals and other issues that are being advertised as we approach Election Day in just a few weeks, and the numerous political debates and reports that have occurred recently, questions about taxes are on all of our minds these days.  The question of “what do we owe” is likely being asked by many in our congregations.  So, what might Jesus have to say to us?  Just what do we need to give to the powers that be?  And what do we need to give to God?

This is one of those passages where the King James Version gets stuck in my head — I always think “render unto Caesar…” instead of “give to the emperor”.  So, after reading this passage in the NRSV, I read it again in the KJV.  As I read the passage the second time, the word “image” jumped off the page for me.  The coin has the image of the emperor on it.  What then, we may ask, bears the image of God?  We do.  Give to the emperor what belongs to (bears the image of) the emperor… and give to God what belongs to (bears the image of) God.

This passage has “stewardship of self” written all over it, friends!

If you are going to focus on this text in worship on Sunday (or whenever you worship), here are some ideas:

  • The liturgical color for this season (Ordinary Time) is Green. Use traditional green paraments, or drape other green fabric over/on the Communion Table, Pulpit, Etc.  The “traditional” elements of a cross and a candle can, of course, also be displayed on the Table.
  • An interesting (and, perhaps, a bit provocative) image that you could use in worship (bulletin cover, electronic slide display, poster) would be a stack of tax forms pictured next to a stack of stewardship forms (pledge cards, time and talents sheets, etc).
  • Go to a dollar-discount store and get novelty, oversized plastic or metal coins.  These make great props for practically all stewardship campaigns, and definitely help illustrate the scripture reading for this Sunday.
  • While you are at the store, get a mirror — preferably one that is roughly the same size and shape as the novelty coins.  Often, you can find mirrors like this in the cosmetics aisle.  The reason for the mirror(s)…?  If you want to see what is imprinted with the image of God, look in the mirror.
  • The props of the coins and mirrors can be used in your display on the Communion Table — I would suggest propping them up against small blocks or using small picture frames/easels to display them side-by-side.
  • You could also use the coins and mirrors as props for a Children’s Sermon.
  • If you don’t have time to shop, you can always see what you have at home.  Half-dollar coins are large enough to be seen (at least recognized as being a coin) by the people in the back pews.  Quarters work well, too.  And you may already have a compact mirror stashed in a junk drawer somewhere.
  • For a greater impact, you could bring out a larger mirror during the sermon (say, at the point where you ask what/who it is that bears the image of God/Christ).

What ideas do you have?  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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