+ TWENTIETH SUNDAY after PENTECOST +
“Give God’s to God” Sunday
GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH—Ashland OR
A warm welcome to all who have gathered to worship this morning through our Zoom Service. Today, we gather again around God’s Word through which he equips, directs, and supports his people in the mission and ministry of his Kingdom. All that God has promised in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, comes together by the power of the Spirit as we worship.
AS WE GATHER “Actions Speak”
Sometimes the very act of engaging in conversation means more than the topic. In Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus’ opponents try to trap him in a question about taxes. The question is really meaningless, for God works through Empire and Temple. He even used Cyrus the Great, who is called “anointed” (the meaning of “messiah”) in Isaiah 45:1-7. He was chosen, and so are we, as Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. When God speaks his Word, it is an action. Have you received it, as the Thessalonians did,” with power” (v. 5)?
PRAYER BEFORE WORSHIP
Lord God, your gifts are unique in each one of us. You bless us with many varied ways that we might glorify you. Teach us to use your gifts wisely so that your Church might be built up through us. Gift us with your Spirit who will direct our eyes to see the opportunities which you lay before us. We ask this in your Son’s Name. Amen.
+ TWENTIETH SUNDAY after PENTECOST +
“Give God’s to God” Sunday
THEME of The Day
In today’s first reading God uses the Gentile ruler Cyrus to accomplish divine purposes. When the Pharisees try to trap Jesus, he tells them to give the emperor what belongs to him and to God what belongs to God. To gather for worship reminds us that our ultimate allegiance is to God rather than earthly authority. Created in the image of God, we offer our entire selves in the service of God and for the sake of the world. We are blessed to be a blessing.
May God bless your worship this morning.
ORDER of CONFESSION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
From the Word which God has sown, a harvest will be gathered in.
We have been called to work in God’s vineyard, to share in God’s harvest, to give God what belongs to God.
“My Word shall not return to me empty,” says the Lord. “It shall accomplish the thing for which I sent it.”
But we are reluctant to obey, to do the Father’s will.
Let us confess our sins to God our Father, that we may be forgiven and restored.
+ A Brief Silence for Reflection +
Lord of the living harvest, we confess that we have sinned. In our thinking, speaking, doing—proper fruit has not been borne. Your final harvest fills our hearts with fear. For the sake of Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive our disobedience and hypocrisy, that we may serve you faithfully. Amen.
As the One who trod the winepress alone, Jesus Christ poured out his life for you. In him there is forgiveness, life, and resurrection from the dead. By him we are redeemed and set at liberty in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our God has turned to us and we shall live.
Thanks be to God!
AN ACT of ADORATION
Let us adore our heavenly Father, who created us, who sustains us, who loves us with an everlasting love, and gives us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
We praise you, O God, we acknowledge you to be the Lord
Let us glory in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes, became
poor; who became obedient unto death, even death
on a cross; who died and is alive forevermore; who
opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, who
is seated at the right hand of God in the glory of the
Father; who will come again, as Judge and King.
You are the King of glory, O Christ.
Let us rejoice in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, by whom we are born into the family of God, and made members of the body of Christ,whose witness confirms us, whose wisdom teaches us, whose power enables us to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.
All praise to you, O Holy Spirit.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Lord God, heavenly Father, make your throne in our hearts. Created by you, let us live in your image; created for you, let us act for your glory; redeemed by you, let us give what is yours, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Isaiah 45:1-7
[The prophet announces that Cyrus the Persian emperor is the one the LORD anointed to end Israel’s exile. The LORD makes this choice so that the whole world will recognize this LORD as the only God. Persia had a god of light and a god of darkness; the LORD claims sovereignty over both light and darkness.]
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him—and the gates shall not be closed: I will go before you and level the mountains, I will bring in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God
of Israel, who call you by name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make weal and create woe; I the LORD do all these things.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
SECOND LESSON 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
[Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is probably the earliest of any of his writings. He opens with a prayer of thanks and gives pastoral encouragement and reassurances to new Christians living in an antagonistic environment. Their commitment of faith, love, and hope makes them a model for other new Christian communities.]
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace.
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remem-bering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness 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 believers in Macedonia and 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 these regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the death—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
HOLY GOSPEL Matthew 20:1-16
[After Jesus comes to Jerusalem and begins teaching in the temple, religious leaders try to trap him with trick questions. The first of these questions tries to force him to make an arbitrary choice between devotion to religion or politics.]
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 do 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.
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
HOMILY Whose Image?
Text: The Gospel Lesson Pr. Jim
“Give God’s to God” Sunday
Isaiah 45:1-7; I Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
You've probably noticed that life is full of tricky questions. It was one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations in today’s Gospel … a trick question asked by the Pharisees— “in order to trap [Jesus] in what He said.” That’s the trouble with trick questions … they’re tricky. And often the trick is based on a false premise.
During the fall of 1858, a very tricky question was posed in one of the seven debates between young Abraham Lincoln and his opponent Stephen Douglas. In one of those debates … so the story goes … Douglas asked a very pointed question, and Lincoln offered a very long-winded, evasive answer. Finally, Douglas got angry and said that he didn’t want the long answer, just a simple “Yes” or “No” would do. Lincoln replied that some questions couldn’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No”. To which Douglas challenged Lincoln: “Then ask me a question that I can’t answer with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’” Lincoln replied: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”
The problem with the question … as Lincoln well knew … was its basic underlying assumption built on a false premise—that Douglas was (or had been) beating his wife. And, although it isn’t quite as obvious, the real problem with the question posed to Jesus … “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” was based on a false premise as well.
Part of the trick in that trick question lay in the people who asked it … “Pharisees and Herodians.” Then … as now … “politics makes strange bedfellows.” The Pharisees were fiercely loyal nationalists. They were convinced that the Messiah would be sent by God to overthrow the rule of Rome and restore Israel to the power and glory of the Solomonic Empire. For Jesus to recognize Rome and pay taxes to Caesar would have been considered an act of religious disobedience—a way of being unfaithful to God and His promises.
On the other hand, the Herodians had come to terms with the Roman occupation. They were convinced that Rome was the government appointed by God Himself. For Jesus to say that you didn’t have to pay taxes to Caesar would have been regarded as a revolutionary act—something the Herodians would feel compelled to report to the authorities.
So, Jesus was caught. “Are you a collaborator with the Romans or, are you a revolutionary?” Either answer would be wrong. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
The problem, however, wasn’t so much in the answer as in the question. And the real problem is the basic assumption underlying the question … that life can be compartmentalized with everything fitting neatly into its own pigeonhole … including God.
The point Jesus makes … the one His questioners overlooked … is that God belongs in the answer. “Whose head is this, and whose title is written on this coin?” Jesus asks. “The emperor’s,” they reply. “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,” Jesus tells them.
Any Jewish scholar in the first century knew what that meant: the coin might have Caesar's face on it, but the emperor, the nation, and the world itself belonged to God (Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1; Job 41:11). No matter how tight Rome's grip was on the Jews, they were God's chosen people, set aside from long ago. "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2). Obedience to God is demonstrated by being obedient citizens.
Jesus knew that the Father’s will for Him meant taking our place … bearing our sin to the Cross … suffering and dying in our stead. Yet Jesus willingly obeyed. In love for us, He gave His life for us. He went to the Cross, died, and rose again for you and me.
And His way is also our way. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-38).
That means … first and foremost … our hearts are given over to Him. It means standing in front of the mirror and daily asking ourselves: “Whose likeness and inscription is on this image I’m seeing in the mirror?” And the answer, we know, goes all the way back to creation: “Let us make humans is our own likeness—in our own image.” And it goes all the way back to the baptismal font as well, doesn’t it? “Receive the mark (the inscription … the trademark) of the holy Cross upon your forehead and upon your heart in token that you have been redeemed by Christ the Crucified.” Then come the words: “Child of God, you have been marked with the Cross of Christ forever.”
Marked by God Himself with water and the Word—marked as servant people who worship Him and Him alone … marked as people who serve Him with our whole heart and mind and strength. Nothing … absolutely nothing … is to claim that ultimate and deepest loyalty. All that we are and all that we have belong to God so that we might serve Him.
On this 20th Sunday after Pentecost that’s where the stewardship of life and resources begin … knowing whose likeness and inscription we bear. If the answer is “God’s” … then the result follows without question or reservation: “Give to God what belongs to God.”
Created in God’s image and marked with the sign of The Cross, we are blessed to be a blessing.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life + everlasting. Amen.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
With confidence in God’s grace and mercy, let us pray for The Church, the world, and all those in need.
A Brief Pause
Gracious God, you call us by name and invite us to share your good news. Send your Holy Spirit among bishops, pastors, missionaries, and evangelists. We thank you for the witness of your servant Luke, the evangelist, whom The Church
commemorates today. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Gracious God, the heavens and all creation declare your salvation. From the rising of the sun to its setting, may the whole universe show forth your goodness. Raise up devoted stewards of all that you have made. Provide needed rains and weather conditions to bring all wildfires under control. Protect all firefighters and first responders as they seek to gain control and manage further devastation caused by all of the current wildfires. Bring strength, comfort, and relief to those affected and displaced by Hurricane Delta and the Almeda Fire, especially: Pat & Penny, Lyle & Sandra, Richard & Doris, Norm & Marilyn, Pam, Sharon, and Linda (Vernia’s caregiver), together with those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Gracious God, may your word of justice sound forth in every place. Restore divided nations and communities with reconciling truth. Grant that world leaders seek your wisdom and guidance for the good and welfare of all people. Give us delight in living with honor and love toward our neighbor during these days of protests, rioting, and civil unrest. Calm our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Bring peace and justice to Tatsiana’s homeland of Belarus as its citizens seek a more democratic representation and government. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Gracious God, shelter all who are vulnerable in body, mind, or spirit especially your servants: Kristel (who is under doctor’s care for an aneurysm), Steve Luce (lymphoma); Marguerite (MaryAnn’s mother) and Shari, together with those we name in our hearts … brief pause … raise the spirits of those who are homebound in our parish, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and acts of service and love. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Gracious God, when we are quick to judge outward appearance, remind us how you clothe all in your mercy. We pray for ministries and services that provide needed clothing, personal care assistance in this community … Ashland Food Bank, Almeda Fire relief centers, Red Cross, together with community and church sponsored financial grants and assistance to those affected by the Almeda Fire. Continue to make us signs of your mercy and compassion for our neighbors and the communities in which we live. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Gracious God, we give thanks for all the saints that have gone before us with the sign of faith and are gathered in your arms. Encouraged by their examples of faith and witness, teach us to boldly confess Jesus Christ until we join them at your feast that knows no end. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers, merciful God, and dwell in us richly, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take and eat; this is my + body which is given
for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
And gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my + blood
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness
of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.
Our Father who art in heaven;
hallowed be Thy Name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is 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
forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER of THANKSGIVING
Blessed are you, God of heaven and earth. You satisfy us with good things as an eagle feeds her young. Renew our strength, that we may go with eagerness and joy into the places where you send us to work in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.