Posts Tagged ‘Two Kingdoms’

Give to Caesar What’s Caesar’s and…

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

20th Sunday After Pentecost-A, October 22nd, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Matthew 22:15-22

Our text for this morning is one that is very familiar with many of you. “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” [Matthew 22:21b] I’m sure that you’ll all agree with me that the one thing our modern day Caesar wants the most from us is our money! Oh they’re going to get it, you can be sure of that, after all their name is all over “your” money… even though it’s in your pocket right now, it isn’t really yours, it’s Caesar’s, and he’s just letting you use it!

In this political season there’s a lot of talk about the best way to take our money and then the best way to spend it. In our political system here in the U.S., we are assured that we have a say in how this decision will be made; we have elections and the person or the party with the best ideas in how to collect and spend our money will supposedly be the one elected. But in the end, no matter who is elected we are always reminded that it never really was our money. We are reminded that the golden rule of any form of government is, “He who makes and distributes the currency, makes up the rules.”

But if we would just remember that our money really belongs to someone else, life sure would have a lot more peace and contentment in it. Like the old folks use to say back home, “Money will buy ya a nice dog, but only love will make him wag his tail and be your friend!”

In our gospel lesson this morning we discover something else about money… it can be a trap, even when you use it to trap someone else!

We meet Jesus teaching in the temple and it is the week of His passion; in other words He is only days away from His suffering and death. He knows this; He knows what is waiting for Him, so this is His last attempt to bring faith to an evil self-serving nation. He is teaching in the temple for good reason; it is the very heart of their identity as a people called by God to relate to Him in love and trust and then reflect that relationship to other people… other nations. He has just finished condemning the religious leaders as phonies, imposters. The word I used last week was posers! And now they’re flaming hot with anger and thinking only of revenge; they want to trap Jesus with His own words so that they can arrest Him and turn Him over to Caesar for execution.

The Pharisees went off away from the others and devised a way to trap Jesus. Jesus own words will be coaxed out of Him and they will be words of treason! Once that was done, with the members of the Herodian political party as witnesses, the governor will quickly arrest Jesus. So the Pharisees picked some of their youngest and brightest disciples and taught them what and how to ask Jesus. So while Jesus is teaching, this group of strangers approaches Him and begins to ape the words of admiration and praise that their teachers taught them: “Teacher, we know that you are (the real deal and that you) teach the way of God truthfully, and (we know that) you don’t care about anyone’s opinion (of you, because you’re) not (fooled) by appearances.”

Now stop and think about that for a moment. If they really believed that, would they have said what they just said? After all weren’t they just doing the very thing they said Jesus could see through? If only they had eyes of faith to see that they were actually talking to God! Well so much for that; the puppets had to ask the question that the puppet masters put into their mouths. So here it is: “Tell us, then… Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Now remember, because of their lack of faith they do not see God in Jesus. To them there is nothing divine about Him; he is just a man who’s causing troubles with the status quo; He’s rockin’ the boat and they want Him thrown out so that they will continue to have smooth sailing. But Jesus is God and He sees the evil intent in their hearts, so He says to them: “Why are you putting me to the test you hypocrites? (You who say one thing with your mouth but then you do the evil that is in your hearts. You don’t really want to hear God’s powerful Word and allow that Word to change you. You are in it for the money! You are here to just keep getting richer while God’s Kingdom suffers at your hands and His people pay for your greed!) Show me the coin for the tax.” And out of their own pockets comes the very thing they supposedly hate… Caesar’s money; money that undeniably belongs to Caesar, because it has his name and his face on it! So Jesus asks, “Whose likeness and inscription is (on) this?” And the answer they gave not only reveals their hypocrisy but Jesus divine wisdom. “And they (answered) “(It’s) Caesar’s.” (And Jesus) said to them, “(Then give back to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar), and to God the things that are God’s.” Scripture says that they were amazed at Jesus answer; they marveled at the wisdom in His Words, but they would not let that wisdom change them. Why? Because they were hypocritical impostors that didn’t care one bit about being rich in the Kingdom of God; they only cared about becoming rich in the kingdom of men!

The funny thing about money is that it will buy you a bed, but not sleep. It will buy you books, but not brains. It will give you a beautiful house, but not a home. It can afford medicine, but it can’t give you good health. It will bring you amusement, but not happiness. It can buy a beautifully hand carved crucifix, but not the Savior who hung upon it! No, to have the things that money can’t buy, we have to be resting in God’s mercy and forgiveness, and that rest can only come through Jesus Christ!

When the Pharisees presented a coin to Jesus, He pointed out the image of Caesar.

By doing this He’s presenting the reality that each of us lives simultaneously in two kingdoms: the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God. He was teaching them and us that just as the coin was created in the image of Caesar, we are created in the image of God. This means that every thing on earth and every part of our bodies, even the smallest of thoughts in our minds, belong to God!

Now there may be some here this morning that are like those disciples of the Pharisees; they’ve given God their mind but their heart is far away from Him. Some may have given Him their heart, but they’re unwilling to truly hear and learn from the Word, because they have their own way of thinking about how God’s Kingdom should be built. Some may be willing to give their muscles, but unwilling to bring their bodies consistently to worship and Bible study! Many give God 1 or 2 hours a week of their time, but God wants all 168 hours of every week! Some consistently give God about 2% of their income, thinking that someday they’ll reach the 10% goal, when in reality it all belongs to God, even if Caesar’s image is on it!

It becomes so easy for us to forget that God is actually with us in this sinful society when all around us evil greed and injustice seems to control everything. But just a few short days after the occurrence of our gospel reading, Jesus would be standing before Pontius Pilate, teaching him this very truth. There before Pilate, Jesus stands beaten and bloody, and Pilate asks Him if He realizes that he has the power to free Him or execute Him. And to this Jesus Words ring in our ears with the truth about the kingdom of men: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” [John 19:11] And here is the meat of Jesus teaching for us this morning: While the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God are two separate kingdoms, they both are ultimately controlled by God!

In God’s Kingdom of grace we are changed… we are recreated so that we can be in God’s presence even while living in the kingdom of man. God’s Word gives and teaches us and eternal righteousness of the heart so that through us and the sharing of the gospel, others may know of God’s mercy and love and be drawn into His Kingdom of Grace also. But God’s Kingdom does not destroy or take over the kingdom of men, instead it enters into individual families, communities, and governments it and changes them by changing the people who live in them.

What is the change that the gospel brings into these various groups that make up the kingdom of man? It brings a realization of God’s presence! As individuals, families, communities, and governments begin to realize that everything they do is not only seen by God, but ultimately judged by Him, God’s Kingdom is breaking in and His way of love, forgiveness, and mercy begins to be seen in how all of these groups serve each other. Individuals begin to give of their time, talent, and treasure in a way that honors God and helps build His Kingdom. Families begin to work, live, and worship together in a way that is pleasing to God! Communities begin to care for the weakest and poorest members in a way that reminds them that they aren’t alone! And governments remember that they are there to serve first the will of their Creator, and then address the needs of their constituents.

Now I know that all of this can seem a bit ideal, and that is because it is ideal!

It’s a picture of the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdom of men! It is what was happening that day in the temple when Jesus was teaching the people about God’s love as the Pharisees were demonstrating men’s greed! Jesus, God in human flesh came to His people that day to plead with them one last time to repent. He asked them to turn to Him and walk to the cross; a place where God’s own blood would be spilled for them as a payment for their sins. He asked them to follow Him by faith and see a better way; a way that trusts in God even when it seems that evil has won the day. He asks them and He asks us today to hear His Words of forgiveness spoken for those evil men that persecuted and crucified Him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” And He shouts so all can hear God’s proclamation of victory, even you and me today: “It is finished!” Your debt is paid in full! I your God have broken into your reality; I came to you myself and became your Savior, your Brother, and Friend!

So there you have Jesus teaching. It is not as simple as the simple minded hypocrites like to make it. Living in two Kingdoms at the same time never is easy. One kingdom says the rich should keep getting richer so that they can provide for the poor, and the other kingdom says you will always have the haves and have-nots, the question is what is it that they have or don’t have? Do you have Jesus? Is he the most important thing in life to you? Are you resting in the Kingdom of God knowing that Jesus is with you while you’re waiting and working in the kingdom of man, or is the Kingdom of God something that you will take seriously someday, just not this day?

I’ll close with this story. A businessman had an angel come to visit him, and the angel promised him that God would grant one wish. The man asked for a copy of the Wall Street Journal, with the stock market quotes for one year in the future. As he was studying the future prices on the stock exchanges, he became excited at the certainty of acquiring even more wealth, wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But then he glanced across the newspaper page, only to see his own picture in the obituary column. Suddenly, all of his current and future wealth meant nothing to him. He fell on his knees and confessed before God his sinfulness and his lack of faith and trust in Jesus gift of eternal life. How do you think that man spent his wealth from that point on?

And now dear friends, God grants the same blessing to you. He tells you now, that one day, perhaps soon you will die! Knowing that will you turn to Jesus? Will you rest in what God has done for you upon the cross and within your baptism? Will you allow the Kingdom of God to transform you and work within you, and then use the time, talents, and money that God has given to you to break into the kingdom of man? Will you be satisfied with what you have and use it to help those who don’t know Jesus have peace with God? I pray that God will enable each of us to do this very thing. And I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Two Kingdoms: Man vs. God

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Twenty Third Sunday After Trinity-HL, October 30th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” [Philippians 3:20]

churchstate-300x186Tomorrow is the official 499th anniversary date of the Reformation of Christ’s Church. It all began when Martin Luther, a simple parish priest and monk published a professional paper now know as the 95 Theses. This document was meant to begin debate and discussions about what Luther felt were grievous sins and errors of the church. What began Luther on this life-long journey with God were really two distinct passages of Scripture. Let me share them with you now: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” [Ephesians 2:8-9] And second is this Word: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” [Romans 1:16-17] From these two portions of scripture the very basis of the Reformation was born, and that basis can be summed up like this: “Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone. All under the banner of Christ alone!”

But the reformation also brought us another very important doctrine of scripture that I am afraid seems to be neglected in our current time, and it is this…

We live in two kingdoms. The kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God.

Christians are citizens of two worlds. First, we have a heavenly citizenship, where Christ is our King. This Kingdom is more than a future hope it is a present reality as we gather in Christ’s church where we are given new birth, and nourished and sustained by His very Word and Sacraments. As Christians, we are at home in this Kingdom of God. But we are also citizens in a community, in a nation of communities where we are subject to its laws.

And there is no contradiction between these two citizenships. We don’t have the same relation in this world as we enjoy with God, to be sure. So, in regards to the two Kingdoms, we must always be sure that we are not serving two masters. But to serve God and the nation we live in does not mean that we serve two masters. Because behind the nation we live in is the authority of God.

The Bible teaches that the government with all its orderly processes of law—those things the Bible calls “human institutions”—is also a creation of and maintained by God. The Bible goes so far as to say that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exists have been instituted by God.” [Romans 13:1] And those words were written at a time when the authority of the Roman Empire was in pagan hands.

To understand this we must remember that God rules the world also through the powers He has placed in the hands of men and women. He has given us a natural intelligence, a sense of what is right and wrong, a love for home and family, the ability to organize society and to enact good laws. These powers function just as clearly among people who do not know Christ or believe on Him as they do with Christians. This is why communities are found and maintained wherever people exist. Now, because these institutions are made up of sinful imperfect people, problems are bound to arise. But however defective these governments might be, they are still an effective deterrent to violence and wild individualism. They become one of the means by which God shows His concern for our earthly welfare. This is why God’s Word commands us to be loyal and obedient to human authorities, not simply because of the fear of punishment but also for the sake of a “good conscience.”

The duty of all governments is to uphold justice and to show concern for those who otherwise would be wrongly treated. So the government and those who serve within it are “a servant of God for the righteous.” And everyone who has been granted power by God to rule over others must one day answer to God how he has used that power.

But the state can misuse its powers. It is not true to say that if something is “lawful” it must also be right in the eyes of God. There are rules concerning marriage and abortion for example, which cannot be observed without sinning against the commandments. This is why Jesus’ teaching this morning is so important for us to understand.

In our gospel lesson [Matthew 22:15-22] Jesus is confronted with a trap devised by the Jewish leaders.

It was a pit so to speak that was dug for Jesus to fall into and be trapped by His own Words. Foolish men; they were told Who Jesus was and where He came from, but they would not believe that the very One they were attempting to discredit was in fact God in human flesh. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” The popular answer that was sure to garnish public support for what they saw as Jesus’ campaign to be the Messiah was, “Heck no, it’s not lawful! We are sons of Abraham and have never been enslaved by anyone! We are sons of King David and I, Jesus of Nazareth am a direct descendant of David, so let’s get rid of Caesar and I’ll be your Messiah-king!”

But Jesus was not that kind of king and He had not come to lead a rebellion. So seeing the trap they set, He allows them to fall in it instead. “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?  Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”  They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

And this dear friends is where God both gives to you wisdom and demands that you use it. We are called to give to the government what is theirs and give to God what is His! So what are we to do when the law of the government is in direct contradiction with the Word of God. In such a time, we must obey God rather than man. Christians in the early church suffered martyrdom rather than give sacrifices to Caesar. And the Bible speaks clearly about a day in the future when we will have to reckon with a state that is under the dominion of the Antichrist. This is why our Gospel lesson and Jesus Words this morning must be taken very seriously.

Today in our own time, several pits have been dug for you dear Christians. Our government by the people has presented two great traps for us to fall into which will then lead us to withhold giving honor to God and His Word, and thus abandon our Christian faith. These two great traps are the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of unborn human life. These are watershed issues on which your Christian faith will either stand or fall. They are just as important as grace alone, faith alone, and scripture alone, because they are also under Christ alone.

Marriage is not a relationship instituted by man but by God. When a man and woman wish to live together, God commands that it be done not in simply living together, but within the bonds, within the blessings of Holy Matrimony. These rules for marriage were not invented by the church but they were commanded by God. “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (his woman) and the two will become one flesh.” So intimate relations between two people are to be within the confines of marriage and they are to be between a man and a woman.

But society and even our government will counter with, “What is the harm of two people living together first before they are married? What is wrong with making sure they are compatible? And what is wrong with that couple being of the same sex if they are in love. Shouldn’t we celebrate their marriage just as we celebrate a heterosexual marriage?”

Beware dear friends, this is a trap just as real as the one set for Jesus. On it’s own, there is nothing wrong with love. And on our own who are we to judge what makes others happy? We are no one but fellow sinners, struggling to find happiness just as they are. But we cannot ignore what God has spoken.

Human life is sacred. It’s sacred because God’s Word says that we were created in His image. Throughout God’s Word, He speaks this truth and He reaffirms that in the womb He knows us; He knows and loves all human life. When we read these Words we are moved by the Spirit to agree with God! But when confronted with the trap of society, the edict of the government, we begin to see the issue of unborn life from a different perspective. “Does not a woman have a right to choose what she does with her body? What about the future of a young pregnant teen, and what about exigent circumstances? Surely you can’t be saying that God has no compassion for these women?”

Do you see the trap? You are being asked to speak for God about something that He has not spoken to you of. You are being asked to defend God or deny Him by abandoning what He has spoken.

So what are we to do? Well, in both of these circumstances of life we are to love our neighbor. We are to understand the pain and the fear that is behind both examples. We are not to judge them but to love them. We love them when we simply repeat what God has said and we encourage them to embrace God’s truth and do as we do everyday, repent. We repent when we simply surrender to God and admit that He is right and we are wrong. We repent when we turn to the cross of Jesus, and receive His forgiving love, which was poured out upon us within the waters of holy baptism. We demonstrate our love for those who are caught within these two life styles that conflict with God’s Word by being both friend and brother or sister. We do not abandon them but we accompany them on their journey of turning back to God; giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and giving to God what is God’s.

Our love for sinners is given under the same manner and authority as it is given to us, through…

The Office of the Keys. Each of you I trust remembers this teaching from your catechism. The Office of the Keys is…

A spiritual power, which must always be clearly distinguished from the temporal power of governments and societies. It’s a spiritual power because it pertains to the spirit and soul of men and women; it offers and gives spiritual blessings, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. It does not use force but the very Word of God.

It is a power that was given by Jesus Himself to His Church here on earth. A church that also exists within the confines of a temporal government. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” [John 21:22-23]

The Office of the Keys is also the power of the Word of God. By the Word we are to be sanctified, brought to faith, and gathered together as one in Christ Jesus. As the church, we have no right to use violence to institute change that is pleasing to God. That is the power of the state not the church. Our power is found in the Word of God and our trust and faith is in it alone.

The Office of the Keys is simply repeating to all who will hear what God has said in His Word. The church is to teach men to observe all that Christ has commanded, and only what He has commanded. This is the only power the church has, and beyond the Word, the church has no power.

Finally, the cardinal truth of the Word and the commission of the Church within the office of the Keys is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the cross of Jesus, God has forgiven all people their sins for Christ’s sake. This is the truth that the church must always proclaim to this world of sinners who are trapped as we once were. We speak God’s forgiveness to sinners who are then convicted to repent of their sins just as we are convicted and just as we too must repent.

The church is to perform her mission by preaching and teaching the true Word of God, both the law and the Gospel, and we are to bring that Word with the love of God. We are to administer the sacraments, which are also the Word of God, and we are to release and bind sins as God Himself works to offer grace and forgiveness to all men and women by these means of grace alone. And as the church works to administer these means of grace, we are ever watchful for our loved ones and neighbors who have turned to Jesus by faith alone. We stand ready to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to them by reminding them they are part of a greater community of fellow forgiven sinners who were also saved by Holy Scripture alone.

I pray that each of us will be empowered to continue giving to Caesar what is Caesars while standing strong under the banner of grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone, and serving Christ alone unto eternal life… AMEN!

 

 

FAITH ON THE BORDER

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 21-C, October 13th, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

The song you just heard, “On the Border” by the Eagles will serve as our mental hook to hang this message on.  Because, you see our message will be speaking to those of us who live here, on the Border.  Those of us who may forget that there is a whole other existence just waiting for us, outside of this border.

In our gospel reading this morning (Luke 17:11–19), Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem; on His way to die upon a cross.  He will be punished severely and die the death of a criminal even though He had committed no crime.  Jesus knew that this death was waiting for Him; He knew that it was time for His appointed ministry to be completed; to make all things new and right with God the Father.  But before He proceeded to Jerusalem, it was also His appointed time to do something else; something wonderful.  He must confirm to a bunch of sick outcasts that God really did see there suffering and sickness and He really did care!

Jesus had been traveling for the last few days along the border with Samaria.  He zigzagged back and forth across the border, from one side to another and now He is entering a small village somewhere in Galilee, of Judea.  Those of us who have lived any length of time at the border here in San Diego know what the border is like, and we can identify with what comes next in our gospel reading.  Jesus is met by 10 lepers, and one of them is a Samaritan.

Many of you know that prior to my entering ministry as a pastor, I spent 30 years in law enforcement.  My last 23 years were spent right here in San Diego, as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent.  So, I think you will concede that I know a little something about life on the border.  One thing that always amazed me during my time on the border, was how easily and freely the homeless, mentally ill, and addicted mixed and looked out for one another, regardless of what side of the border they were from.  Even language was not enough to separate them.  But I also discovered that this phenomenon was not just limited to just the immediate geographical border area, but it also played out in the surrounding cities.

There is an area many of you may be unfamiliar with here in this beautiful city of San Diego; you see, it is not so beautiful.  It is an area that surrounds 12th Street and Imperial Avenue, and its know by those who exist in it as “the Bottoms.”  I say exist, because that is about all we “normal” folks, you know, we who are truly blessed with so much stuff, would call the lives of those who live in the bottoms; they simply exist.  There you will find those folks that the government calls disenfranchised; that is they have been cut off from many privileges of our enlightened society.  Hence the name “the Bottoms!”

Even there, in the bottoms, those poor little ones look out for and take care of one another.  And that is the situation we encounter in our gospel reading.  The Samaritan is accepted by the Judeans like part of the family.  And do you know why?  All 10 of them are considered already dead by the rest of society.  They have each contracted what was then an incurable disease that would shortly claim their lives.  They are lepers; the disease they had, we now know as Hanson’s disease.  They are unclean and may not mix with the “normal” enlightened folks or they will be punished with an even quicker death.

And now, along comes Jesus, the master and Rabbi that everyone is talking about.  He is the healer that the disenfranchised have heard comes to them; why they heard that He even touches and heals lepers!  Imagine that, and now there He was just in front of them.  Wow, talk about luck, they must have thought that this was indeed their lucky day.  So they “lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Now this is the amazing part of the encounter; Jesus simply looks at them and says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (So that the priest could declare them clean and healed.)

Now can you imagine the looks on their faces?!  They must have stood and looked at each other and then argued over just what Jesus meant by that.  Imagine what response you would get if you went down to “the Bottoms” and said those words to the hungry, the homeless, the mentally ill and addicted!

But they did eventually go; they did what Jesus told them to do.  And when they turned to find a priest, just like that, each was healed.  They must have looked at each other saying something like, “Dude, your healed!”  And the others saying, “So are you bro!”

“And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” [Vs. 14b-19]

Dear friends, you who live on the border are also those who were once disenfranchised.  You live on the border, not because you are in San Diego, but because you have one foot in the kingdom of man, and one in the kingdom of God.   You are simultaneously saint and sinner.  You, who were once blind, now see.  You who were once sick with sin, which ate up your entire existence, are now clean.  You who were once a foreigner to God are now adopted as His very son and daughter.  You are just like the 10 lepers who was healed, the only question is, which one are you?  Are you in the group of the nine who left rejoicing at their good fortune, or are you represented by the Samaritan who returns and falls at Jesus feet in worship and praise?

Here is the good news; which one you are and will be is entirely in the hands of Jesus Himself!  You cannot will yourself to have faith in the One who has healed you; faith is simply a gift that your empty beggar’s hand receives and clings to every day.  What is it that you cling to?  It is the Word of God, the message of Jesus Christ, the very Son of God!

In our epistle reading (2 Timothy 2:1–13), Paul declares this same message, that strong doctrine to Timothy and He commands and entreats him to trust in it as well.  But more than that, he instructs Timothy in the way that God has determined to ensure that His Word is never bound, lost, or deteriorated.  That is, Timothy is to pass this strong doctrine along to other men, who will pass it on to others, until the end of this sinful age, thus ensuring that you and I today would hear it and be healed by it, just as the leper was healed that day when he encountered Jesus.

What is that message?  It is Jesus Christ true God and true man, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in Paul’s gospel; the very gospel that Paul was about to be executed for!  Paul may be in chains, but the message about Christ’s atoning death could not be shackled.  It will never be bound, because God has determined that it is the only message that can set us free from our prison of sin and the sentence of death.  It is a message that declares, “Christ died to save the world from sin!”  It is a message that is completely objective, that is it is not bound to any ethnicity or social status; it is not restricted to the religious or to genders.  It is for all people, even those who are trapped on the border; those disenfranchised who live in the bottoms!

But while it is objective, as a free gift for all, it is also very subjective, that is, it’s a personal gift that must be received and lived out.  In your baptism, you were not only washed clean of your leprosy of sin, you were also recreated.  That is you were crucified with Christ Jesus.  His death was an atoning one and yours is a repentant death.  Every day you are to put to death your sinful nature so that your new perfected nature may live free and become stronger.  Or as Paul says it in our Epistle reading, “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure (that is if we cling to Christ), we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.”

Dear friends, Jesus is with you here on the border.  Even though at times you embrace the part of the border that rejects God’s love and Christ’s passion upon the cross, Jesus will not forget you.  The offer of grace is always yours if you will have it.  His Spirit still calls you to repent; to turn to Him and His cross; to remember the mighty work of your baptism.  And when you do, you will always find Him faithful to complete the work that He began in you long ago in your baptism.  For you see, you are part of His body, the church, and He cannot deny Himself.  He ensures that the church will always exists along with His Word that can never be bound on this side of the border.  It is that Word alone, which gives you the peace of forgiveness, and the love and strength of God.

Jesus is here with you on this side of the border.  He knows what it is like to be lost in the bottoms; to be part of the disenfranchised.  And to prove it, He chose to have His death upon the cross occur outside of the walls of the holy city Jerusalem.  He died on the border; as a foreigner he died the death of a leprous sinner.  It was a suffering of agonies that we will never have to endure, because He died it for us.

Jesus is calling to you now.  He is telling you that one day soon enough you too will cross the border and enter the Holy City of Heaven, where  you will be called to show yourself to Him, your High Priest and in the presence of His Heavenly Father, He will declare you CLEAN!  May you cling to this message of faith through the work of Christ alone, always… AMEN!

Give to Caesar What’s Caesar’s and…

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, October 16, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

Matthew 22:15-22

INTRODUCTION: Our text for this morning is one that is very familiar with many of you.  “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” [Matthew 22:21b]  I’m sure that you’ll all agree with me that the one thing our modern day Caesar wants the most from us is our money!  Oh they’re going to get it, you can be sure of that, after all their name is all over “your” money… even though it’s in your pocket right now, it isn’t really yours, it’s Caesar’s, and he’s just letting you use it!

In this political season there’s a lot of talk about the best way to take our money and then the best way to spend it.  In our political system here in the U.S., we are assured that we have a say in how this decision will be made; we have elections and the man or the party with the best ideas in how to collect and spend our money will supposedly be the one elected.  But in the end, no matter who is elected we are always reminded that it never really was our money.  We are reminded that the golden rule of any form of government is, “He who makes and distributes the currency, makes up the rules.”

But if we would just remember that our money really belongs to someone else, life sure would have a lot more peace and contentment in it.  Like the old folks use to say back home, “Money will buy ya a nice dog, but only love will make him wag his tail and be your friend!”

I. In our gospel lesson this morning we discover something else about money… it can be a trap, even when you use it to trap someone else!  We meet Jesus teaching in the temple and it is the week of His passion; in other words He is only days away from His suffering and death.  He knows this; He knows what is waiting for Him, so this is His last attempt to bring faith to an evil self-serving nation.  He is teaching in the temple for good reason; it is the very heart of their identity as a people called by God to relate to Him in love and trust and then reflect that relationship to other people… other nations.  He has just finished condemning the religious leaders as phonies, impostors.  The word I used last week was posers!  And now they’re flaming hot with anger and thinking only of revenge; they want to trap Jesus with His own words so that they can arrest Him and turn Him over to Caesar for execution.

The Pharisees went off away from the others and devised a way to trap Jesus.  Jesus own words will be coaxed out of Him and they will be words of treason!  Once that was done with the members of the Herodian political party as witnesses, the governor will quickly arrest Jesus.  So the Pharisees picked some of their youngest and brightest disciples and taught them what and how to ask Jesus.  So while Jesus is teaching, this group of strangers approaches Him and begins to ape the words of admiration and praise that their teachers taught them: “Teacher, we know that you are (the real deal and that you) teach the way of God truthfully, and (we know that) you don’t care about anyone’s opinion (of you, because you’re) not (fooled) by appearances.”

Now stop and think about that for a moment.  If they really believed that, would they have said what they just said?  After all weren’t they just doing the very thing they said Jesus could see through?  If only they had eyes of faith to see that they were actually talking to God!  Well so much for that; the puppets had to ask the question that the puppet masters put into their mouths.  So here it is: “Tell us, then… Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Now remember, because of their lack of faith they do not see God in Jesus.  To them there is nothing divine about Him; he is just a man who’s causing troubles with the status quo; He’s rockin’ the boat and they want Him thrown out so that they will continue to have smooth sailing.  But Jesus is God and He sees the evil intent in their hearts, so He says to them: “Why are you putting me to the test you hypocrites? (You who say one thing with your mouth but then you do the evil that is in your hearts.  You don’t really want to hear God’s powerful Word and allow that Word to change you.  You are in it for the money!  You are here to just keep getting richer while God’s Kingdom suffers at your hands and His people pay for your greed!)  Show me the coin for the tax.”  And out of their own pockets comes the very thing they supposedly hate… Caesar’s money; money that undeniably belongs to Caesar, because it has his name and his face on it!  So Jesus asks, “Whose likeness and inscription is (on) this?”  And the answer they gave not only reveals their hypocrisy but Jesus divine wisdom.  “And they (answered) “(It’s) Caesar’s.”  (And Jesus) said to them, “(Then give back to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar), and to God the things that are God’s.”  Scripture says that they were amazed at Jesus answer; they marveled at the wisdom in His Words, but they would not let that wisdom change them.  Why?  Because they were hypocritical impostors that didn’t care one bit about being rich in the Kingdom of God; they only cared about becoming rich in the kingdom of men!

The funny thing about money is that it will buy you a bed, but not sleep.  It will buy you books, but not brains.  It will give you a beautiful house, but not a home.  It can afford medicine, but it can’t give you good health.  It will bring you amusement, but not happiness.  It can buy a beautifully hand carved crucifix, but not the Savior who hung upon it!  No, to have the things that money can’t buy, we have to be resting in God’s mercy and forgiveness, and that rest can only come through Jesus Christ!

II. When the Pharisees presented a coin to Jesus, He pointed out the image of Caesar.  By doing this He’s presenting the reality that each of us lives simultaneously in two kingdoms: the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God.  He was teaching them and us that just as the coin was created in the image of Caesar, we are created in the image of God.  This means that every thing on earth and every part of our bodies, even the smallest of thoughts in our minds, belong to God!

Now there are some here this morning that are like those disciples of the Pharisees; they’ve given God their mind but their heart is far away from Him.  Some have given Him their heart, but they’re unwilling to truly hear and learn from the Word, because they have their own way of thinking about how God’s Kingdom should be built.  Some are willing to give their muscles, but unwilling to bring their bodies consistently to worship and Bible study!  Many give God 1 or 2 hours a week of their time, but God wants all 168 hours of every week!  Some consistently give God about 2% of their income, thinking that someday they’ll reach the 10% goal, when in reality it all belongs to God, even if Caesar’s image is on it!

It becomes so easy for us to forget that God is actually with us in this sinful society when all around us evil greed and injustice seems to control everything.  But just a few short days after the occurrence of our gospel reading, Jesus would be standing before Pontius Pilate, teaching him this very truth.  There before Pilate, Jesus stands beaten and bloody, and Pilate asks Him if He realizes that he has the power to free Him or execute Him.  And to this Jesus Words ring in our ears with the truth about the kingdom of men: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” [John 19:11]  And here is the meat of Jesus teaching for us this morning: While the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God are two separate kingdoms, they both are ultimately controlled by God!

In God’s Kingdom of grace we are changed… we are recreated so that we can be in God’s presence even while living in the kingdom of man.  God’s Word gives and teaches us and eternal righteousness of the heart so that through us and the sharing of the gospel, others may know of God’s mercy and love and be drawn into His Kingdom of Grace also.  But God’s Kingdom does not destroy or take over the kingdom of men, instead it enters into individual families, communities, and governments it and changes them by changing the people who live in them.  What is the change that the gospel brings into these various groups that make up the kingdom of man?  It brings a realization of God’s presence!  As individuals, families, communities, and governments begin to realize that everything they do is not only seen by God, but ultimately judged by Him, God’s Kingdom is breaking in and His way of love, forgiveness, and mercy begins to be seen in how all of these groups serve each other.  Individuals begin to give of their time, talent, and treasure in a way that honors God and helps build His Kingdom.  Families begin to work, live, and worship together in a way that is pleasing to God!  Communities begin to care for the weakest and poorest members in a way that reminds them that they aren’t alone!  And governments remember that they are there to serve first the will of their Creator, and then address the needs of their constituents.

III. Now I know that all of this can seem a bit ideal, and that is because it is ideal!  It’s a picture of the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdom of men!  It is what was happening that day in the temple when Jesus was teaching the people about God’s love as the Pharisees were demonstrating men’s greed!  Jesus, God in human flesh came to His people that day to plead with them one last time to repent.  He asked them to turn to Him and walk to the cross; a place where God’s own blood would be spilled for them as a payment for their sins.  He asked them to follow Him by faith and see a better way; a way that trusts in God even when it seems that evil has won the day.  He asks them and He asks us today to hear His Words of forgiveness spoken for those evil men that persecuted and crucified Him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”   And He shouts so all can hear God’s proclamation of victory, even you and me today: “It is finished!”  Your debt is paid in full!  I your God have broken into your reality; I came to you myself and became your Savior, your Brother, and Friend!

CONCLUSION: So there you have Jesus teaching.  It is not as simple as the simple minded hypocrites like to make it.  Living in two Kingdoms at the same time never is easy.  One kingdom says the rich should keep getting richer so that they can provide for the poor, and the other kingdom says you will always have the haves and have-nots, the question is what is it that they have or don’t have?  Do you have Jesus?  Is he the most important thing in life to you?  Are you resting in the Kingdom of God knowing that Jesus is with you while you’re waiting and working in the kingdom of man, or is the Kingdom of God something that you will take seriously someday, just not this day?

I’ll close with this story.  A businessman had an angel come to visit him, and the angel promised him that God would grant one wish.  The man asked for a copy of the Wall Street Journal, with the stock market quotes for one year in the future.  As he was studying the future prices on the stock exchanges, he became excited at the certainty of acquiring even more wealth, wealth beyond his wildest dreams.  But then he glanced across the newspaper page, only to see his own picture in the obituary column.  Suddenly, all of his current and future wealth meant nothing to him.  He fell on his knees and confessed before God his sinfulness and his lack of faith and trust in Jesus gift of eternal life.  How do you think that man spent his wealth from that point on?

And now dear friends, God grants the same blessing to you.  He tells you now, that one day, perhaps soon you will die!  Knowing that will you turn to Jesus?  Will you rest in what God has done for you upon the cross and within your baptism?  Will you allow the Kingdom of God to work within you and use the time, talents, and money that God has given to you to break into the kingdom of man?  Will you be satisfied with what  you have and use it to help those who don’t know Jesus have peace with God?  I pray that God will enable each of us to do this very thing.  And I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!