Here are the notes The Revd Arnold Bush used to deliver his homily at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany October 16, 2011. He based it on three of the readings in that day’s lectionary:
Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13) Page 725, BCP
Sing to the LORD a new song; *
sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.
Sing to the LORD and bless his Name; *
proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations *
and his wonders among all peoples.
For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; *
he is more to be feared than all gods.
As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *
but it is the LORD who made the heavens.
Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *
Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!
Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples; *
ascribe to the LORD honor and power.
Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name; *
bring offerings and come into his courts.
Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations: “The LORD is King! *
he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.
Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the LORD when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness *
and the peoples with his truth.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead– Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus 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, you hypocrites? 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.
Theme: Offering to the Lord is one theme in 3 of the 4 readings.
“Do you have a $5 dollar bill to place in the offering envelope?”
“Do you have a few “ones” to tip our waiter?”
“ I have written the check for the weekly offering.” All these statements are expressing appreciation or thanks for what God had done for us or a waiter has done for in a restaurant. For some it is a natural as saying “thanks for the meal”, ‘thanks for the inviting us”, or “thanks for being so attentive to during our wonderful meal”
There are three verses in the readings having to do with offering to God.
II Three verses related to the Offertory and
the personal offering of our lives to God.
1. Psalm 96:7 & 8 (Note the translations) KJV: “Give unto the Lord, o Ye Kindreds of the people…Give unto the Lord the glory due his name”
NEB: “ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name, bring a gift and come into his courts.” JB: “Pay tribute to Yahweh…tribute to Yahweh of his name’s due glory. Bring out the offering, bear it before him. “
BoCP: “Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; bring offerings and come into his courts.” These verses from Psalm 96 are in the imperative. He is admonishing the reader to bring offerings into the Temple for worship. As we come into the courts of worship, let us bring some offerings.
2. I Thess. 1:2; “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father you work of faith and labor love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. “ Paul is offering prayers of thanksgiving for the effective work done by the church in Thessalonica. Certainly we can adopt a habit of offering thanks to God for what others have done for spreading the Kingdom of God in Central AL.
3. Matthew 22:20,21 JB: “ Jesus said, Whose head is this? Whose name? 21 “Caesar’s” they replied. “Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar—and to God what belongs to God.” NRSV: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that hare the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
In our worship we have a few gestures for saying thanks or acting out our thanks and appreciation.
III Gestures and Actions in Eucharistic Worship
In Eucharistic worship there are four great ACTIONS, or GESTURES:
(1)He took, (2) He Blessed or gave thanks, (3)He Broke and (4) He Gave. I want us to look at the first action as noted in the rubrics in the BoCP.
Open to page 361, there are three paragraphs describing what is to be acted out.
First, hold the page 361 and turn to the right to page 276. The celebrant is to read with one or more offertory sentences. Thus the reading of one of these sentences begins the Offertory…. He Took.
Psalm 50:14:”Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and make good you vows to the most High.”
Psalm 96:8 “Ascribe (give credit) to the Lord the honor due his Name; bring offering and come into his courts.”
Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present (TO OFFER, nev) yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Present: placed at the deposal of God. Same word as presenting the Levitical victims and offerings in the Temple)
Then the last sentence in the middle of page 377: “Let us with gladness present the offerings and oblations of our life and labor to the Lord.”
(oblation: act of offering something to God)
Now back to page 361,
The second paragraph, During the Offertory, a hymn, psalm or anthem may be sung.
The third, paragraph: Representatives of the congregations (not just men in suits) bring the people’s offerings of bread and wine, and MONEY AND OTHER GIFTS, to the deacon or celebrant. The people STAND WHILE the offerings are presented and placed on the Altar.
What is going on here in our worship? Why this offertory procession? Why the standing? Our checks, money, plates are symbols of our life. We are placing our needs and the world’s needs into Christ. We are saying take these tasks, responsibilities, into your hands to influence and control. The celebrant stands at the Altar on behalf of the body of Christ offering these oblations is to our Lord.
EG. An analogy of a child on the beach picking up sand dollars, hermit crabs, sharks tooth, etc and bringing them to the parent to admire, affirm, and bless. That parent is commenting on every object placed into the child’s bucket. The parent is paying attention to the child. This morning the Father God is paying attention to what we are offering, or giving back to God. God is TAKING AND BLESSING what we offer to him.
IV Context,background and application of this
Incident of attempted entrapment by the Pharisees.
A. Enlightening the context: This “Render to Caesar” and “Render to God” in the KJV over the centuries has been used to support many political theories, reforms for taxes and freedom from religion in the USA. Remember resistance to Jesus’ teaching is building up while Jesus is on the temple courtyards in Jerusalem. In Chapter 21 and 22, these parables are being heard by the chief priests and Pharisees. In chapters 21 and 22 of Matthew, Jesus is coming under pressure as he enters the Temple area. He drives out the money changers. The chief priests challenge his authority. Pharisees and Sadducees were looking for a way to arrest him as he spoke in parables against their practices on the Temple Grounds. They are attempting to entrap Jesus with a question: “Is it right to pay taxes to the Caesar (a word for the Emperor)? They want a Yes or No answer. A No, means that he is willing to join with a rebel political group and throw out the Romans. Romans may arrest him if he says No. If he says Yes, this means Jesus would be prepared to abandon God’s priorities to accommodate the Romans. The coin they produce is a land-tax coin used to go one of the Roman governors.
B. THE IMAGE ON THE COIN? We are also stamped with God’s Image. We belong to God who made US. We are created in the image of God. The presence of sin may have defaced us, but as we use our gifts and abilities, we are living into our image of the One who made us. The Christian Religion will advance when all of us know we are created in the image of God. I recall hearing about an Episcopal Congregation on All Saints Sunday (Nov. 1) of a procession of several children’s Sunday school classes forming a procession marching into adult classes and then outside in the courtyard, and eventually down the main aisle in the nave. In this procession the children had banners and hats with the words “make in the image of God”… “make way for the image of God”. I want all of you see whose image is on the coins in your purse or pocket. George Washington, Lincoln ? etc. let this be a reminder you are made in the image of God. You Belong to God. Every time you are involved in a crowed place, Mall, store, stadium, school…. Everyone is made in the image of G0D
C. “RENDER TO GOD THE THINGS THAT ARE GOD’S”: “give back to God that which belongs to God” Mt.22:21. As we start each day, God has given us the gift of a new day. If our day starts as 6:00 am, 7:00 am, he has given EACH A NEW DAY. One way we give it back to God is to go through the minutes and hours of the day offering service to others. Each day is a gift from God. ONE GESTURE, One WAY, I remind myself each day or moment is a gift from God by being quiet for a few moments. Breath deep six times right now. Become aware of your breathing. Breath in long deep breaths, thanking Him for the oxygen. Then breathe out thanking him for the previous breath. Let us use every breath to serve God. A SECOND GESTURE is to use the palm of your hands is to offer thanks for a particular object, experience, person, and place. Form the image in your mind and repeat it with hands raised. Be specific. EG: Thursday, Habitat lunch for 5 college students for Villanova Univ., framing; Whataburger, kicking the soccer ball with grandchildren, tennis game Friday.
D. GIVE BACK TO GOD…. Making a prayer of oblation or offering: As you are about to engage in a very simple task, work project, chore around the house…. Offer the task to God, “Lord I offer this need, ingenuity needed. I need wisdom to accomplish this task. Lord you know how all these functions work on the computer, show me how… Lord as I interact with my child or grandchild, help me be the best parent or grandparent with them.”
E. OFFERING TO WORK OF CHRIST: Now to your offering to the work of Christ through His Church. I am assuming 99% percent of the members of Epiphany are paid, enumerated, awarded financial dollars for the skills, abilities, sweat hours, energy, brain trust you have used in your work. Most of us receive a check or a deposit to our checking account. We are paid for the work we complete. Dollars per hour or minutes. EG, $20.00 or check from your employer (school, business, government, commission, fee, etc. ) For the purposes of this metaphor we will call the money in the offering CONGEALED SWEAT or congealed mental effort. The check you give is a piece of your life’s blood, sweat and tears. God asked us to give a tithe, 10% back to his work. He gives us all of what we have. We belong to God, He created us… but He just asks us to give a percent back to him on a regular and systematic way. When I place a check in the Offering Plate and it is elevated at the Altar, this is my congealed sweat… part of me being offer up to God. Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present (TO OFFER, nev) yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” In presenting this to Him thus, I am saying “I am at your disposal Lord. I am presenting myself to you this Sunday… then use me… I am at your disposal. “ I am presenting myself to serve the Beans and Rice at Epiphany. Lord I am at your disposal…. Use me, let me listen to those who are coming, may I greet this with a welcome from Christ. EG or if you need someone to teach the children, I am presenting myself to be a God’s Disposal.
F. WHAT WE OWE THE STATE AND WHAT WE OWE GOD? Making a wide distinction between owing the government and owing back to God can be confusing. The verse “Render to Caesar…or render to God” has been used over the centuries for tax reform and political theory. Paul states we are to honor the government. In the 13th chapter of Romans, Paul discuses the issue of honoring and respecting governmental authorities. Romans 13:1,6 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. … This is why we pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time for governing.” There is a sticky question here, if we make too large a distinction between “Owing or giving to the Government and Giving to God”. I do believe in the “establishment clause” in the US Bill of Rights. There are times we are integrating the secular and sacred responsibilities. If I am an employee of the government, then my faith in Christ expects me to be a competent, responsible teacher, law enforcement officer, extension person, administrator, secretary, officer in the military. If I am employed outside the government, God may be calling me to serve as adult chaperone in the public school, as coach a city recreation soccer team, distribute food to the poor from USDA sources. These roles are crossing the secular and a sacred. We can serve God in both the sacred and secular part of our lives.
G. Summary and Prayer.