Sermon Notes for 23rd Sunday after Trinity 12 November 2023 Anno Domini, The Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity
O GOD, our refuge and strength, who art the author of all godliness; Be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy Church; and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Collect points out, rightly so, that God is the source and Author of all godliness (surprise!). He is, indeed, always ready to hear the prayers of the Church that are asked out of a righteous faith. He will answer according to His own will and not our own. If the prayers coincide with His will to grant our petitions, He will grant those petitions.
THE HOLY GOSPEL:
15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. 16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way (Matt 22:15-22)
The Image and Superscription of God.
In the United States Mint is an instrument resembling a hand, which is filled with blank pieces of metal, and carries them to a die which stamps them one by one with a clear and beautiful impress, and thus changes them into coins which bear the mark and authorization of the government. Most generally speaking, the metal is of little use without that seal. It is the seal that makes them of value.
So it is that every good thing comes to us with the image of God upon it, and the superscription of His love. There is nothing good in our lives but is thus marked as from heaven, and demands that we return our tributes of love to Him. Being made in His image and likeness, our lives should reflect the authenticity of that seal. American coinage is the only in the world that has consistently appealed to the trust of God in its mintage. In God We Trust! In America, we the people are Caesar. We set our rulers up, and we take them down by our exercise of the franchise. We can blame no one for the ungodliness of our rulers…. but ourselves. We will always get precisely the kind of ruler we deserve!
In the passages that both precede, and follow this text today, the Jewish rulers use The Sadduccees and the Pharisees to attempt to catch the Lord in His Words. Now, we see that they use the Herodians. Bear in mind that these three groups are natural enemies one to another; yet, they recognize in Jesus a greater threat to their opulent lifestyles than they see in each other – so, they overlook their differences and band together against Jesus. The Sadduccees rejected the doctrine of the resurrection. The Pharisees believed that doctrine with strings attached. The Herodians were hated by both for their compromise with Rome and the competition they represented in fleecing the people for their own benefit. We have the same three groups is almost every church in America today – those who doubt the resurrection, those who accept it but add strings (usually related to finances) to the fact, and the Herodians who compromise with governmental social policies and the immorality of abortion.
We read how those wicked men of the Pharisees conspire with their mortal enemies, the Herodians, to entangle Christ in His words and ministry. Strange how enemies can unite against One they consider of greater threat. They fear that One who speaks truth cannot be bested by those whose works are fleshly.
They fear their little positions of authority and seek to murder Him to whom ALL truth and authority belongs. It is a deaf EAR they turn to the Gospel of Christ. They only seek something of which to charge Him or of which to complain. They have witnessed more of His miracles of healing, restoration to life, and acts of mercy than most of His own disciples, yet, they fail to believe – WHY?
It is because they refuse to believe!
Such contentious ones have not the Mind and love of Christ in their hearts. True love and mercy are not divisible. That Love of Christ which we have received is authenticated by that same love and compassion we show to one another. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5)
Where the love of Christ is, there can be no division. Christ is not divided against Himself! His Mind is also constant – the same yesterday, today, and forever.
They cunningly say to Jesus: Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
Like good politicians, these men will use deception, or even flattery, to ensnare a good man.
We pay tribute today in the form of taxes. Taxes are essential to provide those limited government services necessary to ensure defense, order and a suitable environment for trade. It is something we owe Caesar if we are to live within the borders of his dominion. If Christ insists that we pay tribute to Caesar, He will have lost the support of the people. But if He says that we should NOT, He incurs the wrath of Rome.
So how does Christ respond to these scoundrels? “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?”
Christ never hesitated to call a spade a spade. He was not very politically correct was He?
He then says: 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? In Rome, Caesar money, inscribed with his image, was the coin of the realm. But are we not citizens of another kingdom.? Do we not bear a dual citizenship? Though we must remain IN the world, we are not to be part and party to it.
Ships are wonderful vessels constructed for the purpose of bearing great burdens of merchandise across the sea. They are, in fact, made to be in the sea. As long as they travel in the sea, all is well. But when the sea gets into the ship, tragedy stands at the door. Ships are like the church. The Church is made to season the world and to be a sweet savor to it; but when the world gets into the Church, it will lose its savor.
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
WE owe Caesar the obedience common to government righteously administered, but the Law of God always trumps the Law of Caesar. (see Ps 118:8 & Acts 5:29)
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way The Words of God confuse the learned and the deceitful. In His mouth there is no deceit nor shadow of turning.
Are we citizens of God’s Kingdom? Are we stamped with His image of ownership and authority?
What must we render unto God to receive that title of coinage of the realm? All of our selves – our being and our daily currency should reflect His Image just as the coin of the nation represents the image and authority of that nation.
When men know you, may they also know Christ through you. I pray that the stamp of Christ is apparent upon all who are within range of my voice today.