October 22, 2017
Pentecost 20A
Matthew 22:15-22

 

 

In this week’s Gospel the religious leaders try to trap Jesus with a question about allegiance, a question about living in two different worlds, a question about ultimate concerns. They butter Jesus up with flattery and then with no sincerity ask him, “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” You see the Pharisees know that if he says “no” to paying taxes the Romans will arrest him for treason; and if he says “yes” they can perhaps discredit him with the faithful as a Roman sympathizer. Once again it’s a trick question, he will be damned if he says “yes,” and he will be damned if he says “no.” It’s funny how allegiance is always framed in such ultimate ways in this world, often leaving no room for critical thinking and honest questions as if such things like patriotism are solely a matter of blind allegiance.

 

But Jesus does not fall into the trap, as he so often does in the Gospels, he does not answer the question with a “yes” or a “no” answer. He rejects that kind of simplification of life, he refuses to reduce things to “black or white,” or “red or blue.” Instead he asks those with questions to be thoughtful and reflective about answers, he invites them to seek after truth, to be in dialog, and to engage the way. Jesus shows us all once again that he is not the answer, but rather that he is the question that leads to abundant life.

 

“Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

 

It’s a tough question, it causes me to wonder, “Do I belong to one of the kingdoms of this world or to kingdom of God?” “Can I live in both these kingdoms?” “And what happens when these two different kingdoms make claims on my life?”

 

 

      1. Exorcism

 

 

 

The world’s going crazy morally insane
Mass produced children with preprogrammed brains
The machine runs fine, the American way
Doesn’t anybody see ….
It’s time to exercise the demon away

 

We’re all trapped spectators watching a shot to the moon
Addicts on dope, sex, TV, and booze
Unable to choose we watch everyday
Doesn’t anybody see ….
It’s time to exercise the demon away

 

The rich make their money at the expense of the poor
And most of the world sleeps with that whore
On and on and on, day after day
Doesn’t anybody see …
It’s time to exercise the demon away

 

God is not in heaven with all well on the earth
God is with the oppressed and the poor and all Hell’s breaking loose
All hell’s breaking loose

 

The governments are run on the power of death
Can’t you hear what they’re saying don’t pretend that you’re deaf
The truth is that Babylon is not far away
Doesn’t anybody see …
It’s time to exercise the demon away

 

The world’s going crazy morally insane
Mass produced children with preprogrammed brains
The machine runs fine, the American way
Doesn’t anybody see ….
It’s time to exercise the demon away

 

 

The Kingdom of God by its very nature is always going to be in conflict with the world. Its word of love; love for neighbor, love for the needy, love for the forgotten, and even love for enemy; challenges each and every allegiance of this world. In a world that loves to divide and separate, look out for number one, build walls and not bridges, the reign of God is always at odds.

 

As you find yourself struggling between kingdoms, struggling with demanding allegiances, struggling with the ultimate concerns of your heart, I invite you to reflect on the question that brings life abundant, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” And then to act accordingly “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Amen.

 

 

 

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