From the Desktop of the Pastor – Week of the 20th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Happy Thanksgiving! What a day today has been. Not just because it’s thanksgiving, but if you missed it we had our first livestreamed service since the pandemic started. And while it wasn’t perfect (sound issues and all that), there were a LOT of hours put behind the testing and setting up and retesting and hair pulling. And usually a lot of hours equals a lot of tiredness.

But it’s done now. And what a day.

However, I’m glad that we’ve welcomed new members today. I’m glad that I was able to see them in person. I’m glad that we have the means in this day and age to connect virtually in a way that makes our distance feel not so distant anymore.

Still, quite a day. A great day.

All tiredness and frustrations aside, what a wonderful day it is to celebrate Thanksgiving. All rainy and gloomy weather aside, it is a perfect day to remember all the good we’ve been given. All mistakes and mishaps in the livestream aside, it was great to worship together in that way.

Today is great because it was made to be great by your presence, your participation, and knowing the fact that God is with us, loving us, and appreciating our efforts no matter how technically challenged. Today is great because God is great.

And I’m sure tomorrow won’t be a slouch either.

Here are the readings for next week:
Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-13
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

Jesus is at it again (or is it still?) as he foils the plans of Pharisees and these obscure Herodians (who I think were mentioned one other time besides this) yet again. The trap they set for Jesus was a question about loyalty and a bit of patriotism. As you likely know, the nation of Israel was occupied by Rome, but the Romans pretty much let the Israelites do whatever they want as long as they paid their taxes. These taxes fueled the Roman empire to occupy more countries and peoples. So it was this weird irony, that they were forced to pay their oppressor to oppress them. This is why the tax collectors were so hated in Jesus’ time, because they were usually a local Israelite who “defected” so to speak to work for the Roman empire and collect what many considered to be extortion money (which I guess it basically was).

So the Pharisees and their frenemies the Herodians thought they can trap Jesus by asking if they should pay taxes or not. If he says yes, then he is showing his loyalty to the Romans – the real enemy and thus not the saviour of Israel. If he says no, then that means he is going against the state and they can arrest him for insurrection.

But of course, Jesus was onto their game. And he understood the underlying problem they had. They were concerned about image and money and how that determines your loyalty. They were concerned about that line drawn in the sand between them and whoever else so they can remain the big fish in their small pond. They were concerned about losing the respect and authority that they have grown accustomed to and identified with.

Jesus’ answer was simple, (and I paraphrase) “What’s wrong with you?”

Basically, Jesus was saying that our loyalty isn’t tied to money. Our worth isn’t tied to our nationality. Our image isn’t tied to the power that we perceive to have. Rather, our loyalty is determined by our heart. Our worth is found in what we give it to. Our image is given to us by God.

See just as the coin is just a coin that they put different stipulations on, so are our possessions only as worthy as we make them. So are our days as good as we decide that they are. So are we as worthy as we trust God to have made us worthy.

Pay your taxes? God loves you. Part of a political party? God loves you. Think you’re better than everyone else and they all should worship only you? God loves you (even when no one else does). All God asks in return is that you soften your heart, see the worth in you and in all people, and perhaps learn to love as well.

It isn’t a tall order by any means, but it also isn’t all that easy. But let’s not forget that we are designed, created, and made in the image of God, an image of grace, mercy, and peace. So it is in us to love.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Have a wonderful week!

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

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