Sunday 18th October 2020
20th Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 33:12-23;Psalm 99;1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22 Isaiah 45:1-7 Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13) 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Matthew 22:15-22

(Alternatives: Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13) )

If there is a resonant theme throughout all of the readings this week, it is kings, rulers, emperors and other individuals in positions of power. Much of the language particularly focuses on relationships between nations, whether that is the tension of Jewish citizens paying taxes to a Roman Emperor, or the vision of the Psalmist that God's glory should be declared among all the nations. There are some natural opportunities to reflect and pray for people in positions of influence and power, those involved international relations, staff at the foreign office and those who work for international partnerships such as the European Union, United nations etc. At the heart of these readings is the overriding message that God is Sovereign, King of Kings and above all others. So we might pray that those who are in positions of authority, will seek God's purposes and justice. In all of this, we might recognise that God has a concern and interest in international relations, and the work of those involved in them.

Looking at today's Gospel reading, some may be tempted to interpret the words "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's" as an argument that the everyday world, and that which we call "sacred" should be kept apart. But this is to ignore the context, and indeed a great deal of teaching in the rest of Scripture -Jesus used some very wise words to avoid a deliberate trap - had he supported Roman taxes he would have been very unpopular with the crowd, had he spoken against them, he could have been reported for treason. We might in fact use this story to help a congregation recognise the tensions and difficulties we all face when seeking to live as followers of Jesus in the everyday world. Many will be faced with difficult decisions; some may be in roles where whatever they do will be seen as wrong by someone. This story might be used to help people recognise that God is no stranger to such dilemmas, and to seek His wisdom in dealing with them. We might also use this to reflect on how the world of industry and commerce, and particularly some sectors within it, can often be treated with disdain - the backdrop against which Jesus was asked this question was the widespread unpopularity of Roman taxes. A congregation might consider whether there are some employment sectors today, where they find it easier to go along with popular condemnation, rather than stopping to consider whether their attitude is fair.