Give to Caesar . . . — A Commentary for the Greenfield Vedette

The beauty of fall is moving through the Ozarks, turning our trees and shrubs to the colors of red and gold.  It’s a beautiful time of year, even though the chilly nights have caused many of us to head to the basement to get our furnaces ready to run again.

 

On Sunday the 12th, a group of us from Ebenezer were honored to share in Main Street Baptist’s dedication of their new facility.  It was a joy to see what God accomplished through the congregation’s faithful work and Pastor McMasters’ leadership.  The building is amazing, and hearing how everything fit together was a tremendous testimony to what can be done when we put God’s purposes first.  Congratulations, friends!  Well done!

 

WHAT IS REFORMATION DAY?

 

Did you know that the last Sunday in October (this year the 26th) is when we celebrate the Reformation?  The religious holiday is traditionally October 31, the date in 1517 when Martin Luther published his 95 theses on the church door.  Luther’s intent was to post his reform ideas, not in defiance of the Roman Catholic Church, but for discussion.  Nevertheless, Luther’s actions snowballed and other leaders, such as John Calvin, joined the cause.  The Reformation, as the movement came to be known, led to the founding of the Lutheran Church, and later the Reformed and Anabaptist movements.  The Presbyterian Church, in all its forms, is part of the Reformed tradition and traces its roots to John Calvin.

 

Should you celebrate Reformation Day?  If you are part of a Protestant denomination, Martin Luther and the other reformers’ actions paved the way for your group, as well.  This is just one more reminder that we are all part of the Body of Christ and that our actions and ideas affect many more people than we will ever know.

 

GIVE TO CAESAR . . .

 

Sunday’s gospel reading was from Matthew 22, where the Jewish leaders challenged Jesus, asking, “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (v. 17).  This challenge wasn’t about money, but about catching Jesus in a political snare.  We know about political snares, as candidates at every level of government use their opponents’ words against them.  In this emotionally charged atmosphere, some of us are tempted to check out of the whole process and maybe not even vote.

 

Jesus answered them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” In other words, the things of this world that call for our attention are necessary, and we need to pay attention to them, but in the final assessment, we must give our lives and all we are to God.

 

In our nation we pay taxes, often more than we would like.  We pay to “Caesar,” but we also have opportunities that the people in Jesus’ day lacked.  We have the opportunity to participate in our government, to speak freely and to vote for our representatives and leaders.  The Apostle Paul said, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God,

and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1).

 

Paul’s words inciting us to be subject to government mean something very different in the United States today.  Being subject to governing authorities in our country means obeying laws, yes, but also participating in government, using our government-granted freedoms, and making a difference in that government with our words and actions.  I pray that you are registered to vote, wherever you place your allegiance, and that you will go to the polls on Election Day to place your vote.  If God’s people don’t participate in society, we leave it to its own devices and lose tremendous opportunities to speak for God in a world gone crazy.

 

This quote from the Presbyterian Church USA website explains further.

 

“While discerning each of our roles in this year’s political process, it is important to keep in mind a statement from our 1983 General Assembly entitled, ‘The Reformed View of Politics and of Church and State:’

 

“‘… We observe in our neighbors and ourselves a political apathy that cuts the nerve of social reform. We still believe we are a socially reforming church committed to the transformation of society. Our apathy stems from the nature of a bureaucratic society, from recent disappointments over political scandals, from distraction with self-satisfaction, from a trivialization of political scandals, from discourse, and from our reluctance to handle issues of political responsibility in the local church.’

 

“However, we are still called to overcome our apathy and be involved in the political process. The above General Assembly citation is preceded by the following from the same statement:

 

“’The Gospel and the Scriptures have meaning for the whole of human life. The ministry of the church, while beginning with “the equipping of the saints,” must concern all those ties that link humans together in a society. God sends the church on a mission, to be light and salt to all society … Church and government are both called to “serve the Lord.” … The individual Christian serves God in both the church and the rest of society. Discipleship consists in the awareness that “during one’s whole life one has to do with God” (Calvin). But such discipleship is not only a personal, individual calling. The sovereign Lord works not only in the depths of individual souls but also in the organizations, the institutions, and the movements of human history … (Minutes, 1983, Part I, pp. 776-778)’”  (http://www.pcusa.org/washington/christiancitizen.htm)

 

AND A FINAL WORD . . .

 

In our busy society, church often takes a back seat to the more “urgent” issues of our lives.  Work and sports schedules keep us running, snatching family meals when we can.  But, friends, let us remember that all of our activities, however important, cannot fulfill our hearts and minds as can our relationship with Christ.  As we hurtle toward the Christmas season, with its added responsibilities, let’s remember to give to God what is God’s. 

 

See you in Sunday school and in worship!  It’s our Christian service!

 

Blessings,

 

Pastor Mary Kay

 

If you have questions, feel free to contact Pastor Mary Kay at revmkg@sbcglobal.net, or on the blog at revmkg.wordpress.com.

 

 

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