Monday, October 20, 2014

From Glory to Glory

Proper 24 + Year A + 2014                 The Rev Robert R.M. Bagwell+
October 19, 2014 + Holy Baptism      Trinity Parish, Stoughton, MA
Exodus 33:12-23                                                     Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10                                            Matthew 22:15-22

A man suffered a serious heart attack and had an open heart bypass surgery. He woke up from the surgery to find himself in the care of nuns at a Catholic Hospital.
As he was recovering, a nun asked him questions regarding how he was going to pay for his treatment. “Do you have health insurance?”
"No,” the man croaked. “No health insurance."
“Do you have any money in the bank?”
"No money in the bank."
"Do you have a relative who could help you?" asked the nun.
"I only have a spinster sister. She is a nun."
The nun bristled. "Nuns are not spinsters! Nuns are married to God."
“Alright, already!” croaked the patient. "Send the bill to my brother-in-law."

In the collect we prayed: "Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations:  The glory of God, the light of God's holiness is called in scripture: "the shekinah"   In Greek this word is "kabod", 'glory' as in Icabod Crane of New England lore whose name means "the glory has departed."  If you have seen my Facebook page, you will see this verse from 2 Corinthians: " For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6  NIV  Today we see God's glory revealed in Moses and in Jesus Christ. Today we baptize into that glory, two children of this parish. Let us begin with the gospel.  First comes the smooth talk...@teacher, we know that you are sincere and what you profess to be and that you teach the way of God truthfully, regardless of the consequences and being afraid of no man for you are impartial and do not regard with the person or the position of anyone.@ (Amph)

Do you believe those lines?  Is this buttering up or what?  But Jesus knew the hearts of these slimy religious politicians.In our days, astute people usually respond to such a preface with: AOk, what do you want?@Of course what these wanted was no less than Jesus= destruction.

Have you ever noticed how much the Jewish leaders tried to use the government (that they themselves claimed to hate) against Jesus?  Of course, it did keep them in power! We=ll that=s another sermon.  They have made the double entendre Bfaux pas of mixing both politics and religion!  Then the deadly bait comes: AIs it lawful to pay tribute levied on individuals and to be paid yearly to Caesar or not?@ (Amph)

This is not a simple question about paying taxes, it is one about ethnic and spiritual loyalty and could be considered seditious and cause his arrest by Rome or cause all of his Jewish followers to label him a pretender and leave him. 

In the same the story setting here and in the gospel of Mark  the term "image" ("eikon') is used, referring to the image struck on the coin.   By using this object, they have put Caesar's and God's Kingdoms  in conflict with one another. 

The coins, showing Caesar as a God and inscribed "Caesar, Augustus@ AKing and Son of God" broke two commandments at once. The temple authorities would not even allow the use of Roman money to pay the yearly temple tax, required of all Jewish citizens. . 

Notice how Jesus chooses to deal with the set up. First he asks for a coin. Presumably one of them was carrying such a coin and offers it to Jesus.  What was one of them doing carrying a coin that called Caesar God?  Doesn't= the use of such money imply worship according to the 10 commandments?  But no matter, we never see our own hypocrisies only those of others.  Now it gets dicey for both the Pharisees and for us.AWhose likeness and title are these?@ Jesus asks.Of course they were Caesar=s.  Then Jesus makes a startling statement:ASurrender therefore to Caesar the things that are due to Caesar and surrender to God the things that are due to God@.

Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and give to God the things that are due God. Do you see what Jesus just did? Rather than give them an answer to the question, he turns it back upon they themselves.  Who will answer the question?  They will!

Now fellow Christians as we are addressed by this Word of God this morning who will answer the question for us?  We will, one by one as individuals.

The flip side of the question even tightens the arena we have to squirm in.  Where is God=s likeness to be found?  Genesis 1:27 says@ So God created man in His own image in the image and likeness of God He created him: male and female He created them.@


It is  we who are created in God=s image.  It is he whose image we bear. You bear the image of GOD! In a few moments, we will bring two children to the baptismal font,  a font where many a child or adult have come before them.  After the baptism, I will take "chrism" anointing oil used in several sacraments, and I will say these words: "you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked
as Christ's own forever. Amen."  To quote one of my mentors, Fr Terry
Fullam, now with the Lord, "when we anoint the forehead it is like a sign on our foreheads saying 'under new management'."  We enter into a new relationship with God.  He knows us by name.  A name is the most important thing to all of us.

US government currency bears an image that indicates  that it is tender of , property of the United States Government.  That is why Alan Greenspan can tell you how much it is worth!  You bear God=s image.  And God has turned the issue back on us as well  - APay therefore to Caesar the things that are due to Caesar and pay to God the things that are due to God@.  Who is your Caesar?  How do you determine what is Caesars?  Your loyalties?  Your bottom line?  That which you value most?

We must begin with the presumption that if we are Christians all that we have is God=s and comes from God.  Certainly it can be said of material possessions and of money as well as its use, our position and our place in society and family….One stewardship seminar instructor once stated that he always makes it a point to give more to his church through his offerings than he gives to the government through his taxes. That was a way he could indicate the place of his greater allegiance -- who has the greater authority over him.  So todayBwhose Lordship are you under? Are you experiencing the light and life that Jesus brings?  If we do not engage him, we will not.

This morning we will use the names of the baptismal candidates. Dale Carnegie said that our names are the sweetest sounds to our ears.  We read this morning that God said to Moses: "`I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.'"To whom do you belong?  What is your worth?  Does  God personally call you by name. as a friend , does God know you by name?  Only  you can answer those questions. In the old 1928 Book of Common Prayer, there is a rubric or instructions to the priest for baptism. It reads: " Then the Minister shall take the Child into his hands".  There's a problem.  There is no instruction to give the child back to anyone!   Notice this:  this morning these children are being offered back to the God who gave them to their parents till such time as they profess faith in Jesus Christ for themselves. St Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth: " You are not your own;  you were bought at a price." (I Cor 6}  So do each of us "buy" into this from God?  We began this sermon with a story of a man who needed to pay a hospital bill.  In a very real sense, each of us has that same bill to pay.  We have been injured by our own sin and need a hospital.  The hospital is grace and the one who can pay the bill is not our brother in law, but our brother, our Savior and his Name is Jesus.  the receipt for the debt we owe.   But we must send him the bill.  That is in our hands.  The old hymn says:"Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe…."

God wants each of us to bathe in the Light of Eternal Life, to let that Light remake us in our daily lives, in our relationships, in our living out God's glory every day in everything we do.  So let Him in, open the doors of your hearts: Christians and non-Christians, and let Jesus shine in.  Then your lives will be changed into Light.

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