Worship from Home October 18th 2020
"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"
Roman Coin with the face of Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180) Photo taken by Ned Wells
Scugog Island United Church
October 18th 2020
Announcements and Opening Prayer:
First Hymn: Here I am Lord
Second Hymn: O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Prayers of the People and the Lord's Prayer
Third Hymn: Love is the Touch
Offering and Blessing
Closing: "Go Now in Peace"
Scugog Island United Church
October 18th, 2020
Good morning. Thank you for worshiping with Scugog Island United Church today.
Next Sunday we will be celebrating the 154th anniversary of our church community.
I’m excited to share that on October 31st from 9am to 12pm at the church we will be holding our first ever Drive in Food Drive for Operation Scugog Foodbank.
· Every year our church has supported a family or families through Operation Scugog’s Christmas program. This year Operation Scugog has made a few changes for everyone’s safety. This year families will be given gift cards to do their own shopping.
o So we are asking for donations of gift cards to local businesses, cash or cheques made out to Operation Scugog Foodbank
o Toiletries and non perishable food items are also needed at the foodbank
o So if you would like to make a donation and are able to drop by on October 31st between 9 and 12 we will be very excited to see you. If you are unable to come to the church, but would like to make a donation please contact me.
Wondrous God: you touch our lives with healing and with justice; new life is your gift. We praise you for the Good News which is ours through Jesus Christ. May this time of worship nourish us with you promise of meaning and purpose. May we be empowered to carry your goodness into the coming week. We pray in Jesus’ name, our Source and Saviour.
Scripture: Matthew 22: 15-22
Then the Pharisees went
and plotted to entrap him in what he said.
So they sent their disciples to him,
along with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are sincere,
and teach the way of God in accordance with truth,
and show deference to no one;
for you do not regard people with partiality.
Tell us, then, what you think.
Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said,
“Why are you putting me to the test,
Show me the coin used for the tax.”
And they brought him a denarius.
Then he said to them,
“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.
During my last year of studies at Emmanuel I did some volunteer work with the University’s Multi-faith centre. I worked on projects that brought people with different religious beliefs together to serve the community. One of the projects I volunteered on was an event which was about looking at the economy and the environment from a faith perspective. We held an event for high school students from different schools across Toronto to talk about the economy, the environment, and faith.
For one of the activities we ask the students to name a commitment they would make based on what they had learned. Some of the commitments were “I will recycle”, “I will use technology responsibly”, and “I will continue to learn about the environment”. Another student answered, “I will not be consumed.” I was curious what he meant by this. He explained that it upset him when he learned about how much pollution and waste is created each year. He said he felt that consumerism actually consumes us. As consumers we are told we need to buy more and more things, we are told that without certain products our life will be less complete, or that more things will make our lives easier and happier. I was amazed by this student and the others who spoke up after him. They had recognized a problem with all that was happening to the environment and they said they did not want to be part of the problem.
“I will not be consumed.” It is a bold statement. There are a lot of things in the world we might be consumed by. We might be consumed by fear, or greed, or jealousy, or debt, or despair, or rage, or any other force that overwhelms us. When we are consumed by something we are often unable to see our way out of the situation. It is hard to step back and take a different perspective when we are right in the thick of it.
Evil can be compared to an abyss that sucks everything into it. This can be a helpful metaphor to think about how evil operates in the world. A void that creates more and more needs. The more we try to fix the problems, or respond to it the further in we are sucked.
Because it doesn’t matter how much we try to do it never seems to be enough. There is always more need, always more pain. It starts to feel hopeless. And we wonder, “what can I do when there is so much?” The presence of evil in the world undermines us and convinces us that we can never do enough so we might as well give up.
In the passage today Jesus is confronted once again in the Temple. This time by the Herodians and the Pharisees. Two groups that were very opposed to one another. The Herodians were supporters of Herod and depended on the Roman army to prop them up to positions of power. The Pharisees were religious people who followed Jewish law and resisted foreign influences including the Romans. Despite these clear difference both were consumed by an overriding desire to get rid of Jesus. They tried to trap him with the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” If Jesus says that it is not lawful to pay taxes then he would be arrested by the Romans for insurrection.
If Jesus says it is lawful to pay taxes then many in the crowds would turn on him because they were zealously against the Romans. Either answer and they would have him.
Jesus turns the tables though. He asks to see the coin used for paying the taxes. Now a Roman coin would have the face of the Emperor and the inscription claiming he was divine. To have a coin like that inside the temple would be considered sacrilege. Yet even in the temple someone had a denarius on hand to show Jesus. Even in the temple the all consuming influence of the Roman Empire is on display. The Pharisees might want to resist Roman influence, but in their effort to undermine Jesus, he showed them how they were already succumbing to Rome’s power. It also showed how much the Herodians would be willing to sacrifice to gain power for themselves even if it meant profaning God’s temple. Jesus tells them to give to the emperor what the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.
Jesus didn’t get caught in their trap. He wasn’t consumed. His answer showed that he didn’t seek power for himself. He wasn’t motivated by thoughts of revenge against any who wronged him. He sought to bring people closer to each other and to God.
Returning to the metaphor of evil operating like a bottomless abyss. God’s action is to pour love into the world, even into the abyss. In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we see what happens when God’s infinite love poured into the bottomless abyss. The abyss is transformed, it begins to overflow. What was once the source of pain and despair becomes a source of hope and joy. The cross where Jesus was killed and the tomb where his body was placed were at first the sign that the last hope for the world had been extinguished, consumed by evil. But God’s action undoes this. In the resurrection the cross becomes the sign of God’s victory and out from the tomb Jesus returns into the world.
In the gospel story, Jesus tells us to consider what are things belong to Caesar and what belongs to God. Caesar had put his mark on the coin which everyone could see clearly.
But Caesar was also trying to pit his mark on the people by occupying their country and forcing them to serve him. Jesus reminds the people that they were God’s people. It is God’s image that is on the world and every person because it is God who created everything. Even when the Caesars of the world try to put their mark on something it is still part of God’s world. Each of us are made in the divine image. We belong to God and we will not be consumed. Thanks be to God. Amen.
We begin our prayer by lifting up those on our prayer list and all the people we are holding in our hearts:
Doris Lynn and Bob Homji, John and Diane Findlay, Todd Green, Susie Baird and family, Gilford Pfrimmer, Brenda Stowell-Smith, Nancy and Don Scarrow, Debbie McIntyre, Anne Chillingworth, Linda Brunton, John Black, Elizabeth Freeman
God of compassion and generous love, we give you thanks for the riches of Earth which you have created that sustain our lives and bring us joy. We thank you for Jesus, whose life, death, and resurrection renews our strength and revives our hope. We give you thanks for the Holy Spirit, who comes among us and invites us to be united with each other and with you.
We pray for the needs of the world. Guide our leaders and country on the right path toward justice and peace. Inspire us to proclaim the good news of the gospel not just in words, but with our daily living. Surround those who are hurting with your love and care. Make us into your instruments to bring healing into people’s lives.
We lift our prayers in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory. For ever and ever. Amen.
We bring our gifts to you, God. Here is the work of our hands, and here is the work of our hearts. Accept them and use them, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
As we go forth, O God,
we thank you for clean air that fills our lungs,
for water to drink and stream over the rocks,
for light that creates life and shines on our paths,
for soil that grows fruits and vegetables,
fashions hills and valleys,
and makes homes for creatures
in burrows and trees.
Let us see the Earth today with gratitude
and feast our senses on its beauty;
in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Opening Prayer and Offering Prayer from Celebrate God's Presence: A Book of Services for The United Church of Canada. (c) 2000 The United Church Publishing House. All Rights Reserved. All materials, except those otherwise marked, may be freely copied for use in public worship in The United Church of Canada.
Pastoral Prayer and Blessing from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion. "Reprinted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press from Feasting on the Word(C) Worship Companion. Copyright 2014