Evangelectionary for Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; I Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

Theme:  Christians enter into covenant with the Triune God of grace, this is their first loyalty in all things. Christians are to live out this loyalty in the way they related to the state and by growing Christian virtues int heir lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Message:

This week’s passages raise the question of citizenship and loyalty. The Christian lives in a nation, is part of a people who share a national identity. However that is not the Christians primary loyalty as these passages bear witness to. The Christian has a primary loyalty to Jesus Christ. Everything else is second place in comparison to the loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Such a discussion may appear to have little to do with missional concerns. However the Triune God is in the business of forming people into citizens who live bay the patterns of the Reign of God, and those patterns show up in the way Christians live, work, act, talk, and so on. Citizens of the Reign of God live out their missional calling in some of the ways described in these passages.

The Exodus text is the restoration of the covenant after the Golden Calf incident. The covenant renewal is built on the grace of God’s forgiveness. Moses’ statement in vs. 15 and 16, “Unless you go with us…” is probably best heard as a commitment on Israel’s part to live up to the covenant, for it was the covenant that made them “distinct from every people on the face of the earth.” A profound statement of what loyalty to the covenant meant for the people of Israel and for Yahweh. The “glory” of God which passes by Moses is related to God’s nature as evidenced in God’s goodness to Israel and the meaning and power of God’s name. Called by God’s name and receiving God’s goodness the people of Israel were marked as citizens of God’s Reign.

The question Jesus is asked in Matthew about taxes puts on the line the question of loyalty.  There is nothing that does not belong to God therefore the state has no claim to anything. But God has given a place for the state to exist and to have ways to fund itself. The state has a claim, but not an ultimate claim; it is a limited claim. The balancing act between God and state is not just about taxes but flows into all areas where the state seeks to claim loyalty. But the recognition that this is about more than taxes, does not mean that money is not in play. For Christians in balancing the claims of God and state with their money bear witness to their citizenship in God’s Reign. The preacher is invited to invite their congregation to reflect on how they are living out Jesus’ call in their use of money. In North American culture in particular there is a need for people who live their relation to money by Jesus’ words. Such living bears witness to the world that there is a different metric at play when it comes to money.

The Thessalonians passage describes the transfer of loyalty from following idols to following the living God. The growth of faith, love, and hope in the lives of the Christians in Thessalonica bore witness to this transformation. These are distinctly “Christian graces” which, when lived out in the lives of followers of Jesus, mark people as members of God’s Reign.

Christians are called to live as citizens of God’s Reign, and in so doing bear witness to the transforming goodness of that Reign in the face of many competing loyalties including the claims of the state, the challenges of cultural values, and the pressure to not live differently than those around.

Quotes

About Exodus 33

“…the special divine revelation which Moses requested and God provided is no longer seen primarily in terms of a visible appearance. Rather, God let all his ‘goodness’ pass by, which in v. 22 is identified with his ‘glory’. The revelation of God is in terms of his attributes rather than his appearance….along with the display of goodness is the proclamation of the name. The name of God, which like his glory and his face are vehicles of his essential nature, is defined in terms of his compassionate acts of mercy.”        — Brevard Childs

About I Thess. 1

“The Spirit’s activity was evident in the “work of faith and labor of love and steadfast hope” in Christ which characterized the Thessalonian believers’ lives from their first reception of the gospel. The Christ graces — faith, love and hope — displayed themselves in such a way as to leave no doubt that those believers had been enrolled by God along his chosen people.”   — F.F. Bruce

About Matt. 22

“Those words [of Jesus about Caesar]…gave to the civil power, under the protection of conscience, a sacredness it had never enjoyed and bounds it had never acknowledged, and [his words] were the repudiation of absolutism and the inauguration of freedom.”   — Lord Acton

“Jesus both dignified and delimited the state in his superb reply — dignified it by saying it had “things” due it, delimited it by distinguishing if from God.”   — Frederick Dale Bruner

“Jesus’ great sentence does not answer all the questions about Christians’ relations to the state; almost every day we must ask ourselves afresh if we are giving too little or too much of our energy to the political. Jesus’ Caesar sentence is a slide rule asking us regularly to readjust our use of time and priorities.”  — Frederick Dale Bruner

Music

  • “Baited, the question rose”  (Daw)
  • “A spendthrift lover is the Lord”  (Troeger)
  • “Stand up and bless the Lord”
  • “When voices are confusing”
  • “God of grace and God of glory”

Prayers

Let us remember before God our Father our country and its people

and give thanks for them and for all people.

We pray you, hear your people.

That everywhere on earth the Church may speak out without fear

for peace and the rights and dignity of the human person, let us pray:

We pray you, hear your people.

That justice, love and responsible freedom

may be the basis of the social order in the world and in our country,

that all may live in peace and security, let us pray:

We pray you, hear your people.

That all humanity may share equitably

in the world’s material and spiritual goods,

and that the state and civic organizations may help and protect

the weak and the victims of calamities, let us pray:

We pray you, hear your people.

That all citizens may have a strong sense of civic responsibility

and actively participate toward the common welfare; let us pray:

We pray you, hear your people.

That the Church in our country may bear witness to God’s kingdom;

that our country may play a role of honor in the family of nations

and cooperate to world peace and unity, let us pray:

We pray you, hear your people.

God, you love people and people are your concern.

Make us share in your care

through your Son who became one of us,

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

— from Liturgies Alive: Models of Celebrations      www.bibleclaret.org/liturgy/

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