17 . 5 . 20
6th Sunday of Easter
Good morning folks,
Yet another weeks slips by, another week closer to being able to meet up with family and friends on a more personal level. Emails, messaging, texts, phone calls, facebook and tweets are all great ways to keep in touch but there’s nothing quite like a hug or an elbow bump (no substitution for a warm handshake!) and seeing others ‘eye to eye’ to bring warmth to your heart or a tear to your eye.
Of course we want to get ‘back to normal’ as soon as possible – but common sense tells us that it’s better to err on the side of caution for just a little bit longer.
We hope and pray that it will soon be safe to go out and enjoy life as we return to some semblance of ‘normality.’
May I remind you that no matter how difficult things are for is at this time, no matter how life has changed from all that we have known before – the great love that God has for each of you remains a strong and as sincere as ever it was.
Today I am going to ask you to think about your own life, the decisions and the choices you make.
But before that – let us Pray ~
Holy, Heavenly Father of all creation, we come to you in awe and wonder – for you are the God of the universe – so amazing, so awe-inspiring – so divine – so beyond anything our minds can comprehend. Yet you are the God who walks with us each moment of each day and you know us better than we know our very selves.
We bring you our praise and our thanks.
How blessed we are.
Our lives should be filled with gladness,
Our hearts brimming over with adoration,
Our lips overflowing with thanksgiving.
Forgive us that all too often we take your many gifts for granted, losing our sense of awe and wonder.
Forgive us for praising you with our lips
Without meaning it in our hearts,
For offering worship out of a sense of duty rather than privilege.
Help us rejoice in your love each moment, to bring our praise each day, and to offer our service always, being faithful to you, as you are faithful to us.
Help us to see that although we try and manage our lives on our own – we fail to reach our full potential without your help and support.
Forgive us that you are only too willing to offer that encouragement and assistance – but that we fail to turn to you unless we are in some kind of crisis – help us to turn to you every day and so become aware of our great need for you.
Loving, caring, compassionate, merciful Lord – we come asking for your forgiveness for all our foolish and disagreeable ways –
Ways which offend and hurt you – which hurt and offend others –
Forgive us, we pray – bless us with your mercy and your grace – for we ask it in Jesus name – our dear Lord and Saviour…….
Listening Lord – hear our prayer this morning – and hear us now as we pray the family prayer together – the Lord’s prayer ~
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 debts as we forgive our debtors.. Lead us not into temptation.. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.
We have one Reading this morning from Matthew’s Gospel.
We hear of Jesus being ‘ambushed’ by two leading religious groups ie the Pharisees (the heavy duty Religious leaders of the day) and the Herodians (who wanted to restore King Herod back to the throne). They were unlikely partners as they strongly disagreed with each other’s beliefs – yet they formed an alliance, for the moment at least, to try to catch Jesus out.
Let’s read it for ourselves ~
Matthew 22 : 15 – 22
Is It Right to Pay the Royal Tax to Caesar?
“ 15 The Pharisees went out. They made plans to trap Jesus with his own words. 16 They sent their followers to him. They sent the Herodians with them. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of honour. You teach the way of God truthfully. You don’t let others tell you what to do or say. You don’t care how important they are. 17 Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right to pay the royal tax to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus knew their evil plans. He said, “You pretenders! Why are you trying to trap me?
19 Show me the coin people use for paying the tax.” They brought him a silver coin. 20 He asked them, “Whose image is this on the coin? And whose words?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. And give back to God what belongs to God.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”
This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God
How are you at decision making ?
Is your motto – “never do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”
Are you a bit of a dither – going this way and that before coming to a decision ? Or are you decisive and resolute?
In the New Testament text that we have just read – we hear Jesus being asked to make up his mind – to choose – to take sides.
But of course – it was all a trick to get Him to incriminate Himself.
So, what was it all about ?
Let’s rewind the story so that we can better see what’s going on here ~
Well – we see the Pharisees and the Herodites – who were usually at each others throats – joining forces to trap Jesus by putting to Him what seemed like a perfectly innocent question.
“Teacher” they said “we know you’re so wonderful and clever and holy and everything – and of course wouldn’t be swayed by the likes of us – but can you help us by advising us what to do !?” And then they put their question – “is it right for us to pay our taxes to Caesar – or not !?” –
But of course it was a ‘loaded’ question – and they were hoping that it would explode in Jesus’ face.
If Jesus said that they shouldn’t pay their taxes – then they would have reported Him to the Roman authorities and He would have been arrested for treason.
And if He said that the tax should be paid – then He would have been discredited in the eyes of the people who objected to paying taxes to their Roman oppressors.
Either way – the Religious leaders thought – Jesus is going to drop himself in it. It was a “lose – lose” situation for Jesus – or so they thought !
And so they ‘lit the blue touch paper’ – stood back and watched what Jesus would do.
But Jesus wasn’t so easily fooled. He knew their scheme and wasn’t about to fall into their trap.
And so He asked for a coin – a Denarius – the equivalent of a days wages, and had the emperor Caesar’s head stamped on it – and so technically – it was the property of the emperor, whose image it bore.
That’s why it’s illegal to deface a ‘coin of the realm’ – even yet – as they have the Queen’s head stamped on them. And so – in theory at least – they are the property of the Queen.
And so when Jesus asked who’s image was on the coin – “the emperor Caesar’s” – then he could say in all honesty, without taking sides. “Then this coin belongs to Caesar – so give it back to him – give to Caesar what belongs to him – and give to God – what belongs to Him !”
A neat side-step, we might think – but you see – the Pharisees were bound by rules and regulations – but Jesus didn’t lay down rules which would date with passing trends and the passage of time – He laid down ‘eternal principles.’ That’s why His teachings are timeless.
And here – in this passage – He lays down a very important principle for us – for you and for me – for our lives, in this modern day world –
And it’s this ~
Everyone of us who calls ourselves ‘Christian’ – have a dual citizenship. We are citizens of the country in which we live – and we owe much to our country – to our governmental system – for the stability –the safety of the law – public services, health care and the like.
But as followers of Christ – as Christians – we are also citizens of Heaven – listen to what Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi ~
(Philippians 3: 17 – 22)
“Join with others in following my example, brothers and sisters, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.
Their mind is on earthly things.
But our citizenship is in Heaven.
And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”
Powerful words – and still relevant today – where so many – “live as enemies of the cross of Christ”. Whether through outright hostility – or mere indifference.
But we are urged to live a different, better way – the way of God.
Yes, we have to respect the world – the country – the communities in which we live – and we must pay our taxes and contribute to the general well being of society – these are all ‘worldly’ things that we must contribute – give to the world.
But we must also give to God – those things which are His – the spiritual things such as our hearts and minds and our souls.
“Our citizenship is in Heaven” – Paul says – “and we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This ‘dual citizenship’ calls us to be good citizens of the world – as well as being good citizens of God’s world – the Kingdom of Heaven.
But there may be times when something happens or we are confronted with something that we feel is not right – or is against God’s will – and at such times, our loyalty to God ought to over-ride our loyalty to the world.
There will be times when we have to stand up and speak out for what we believe in.
And there will be times when people around us – like those Pharisees and Herodians – who will try to catch us out – put us off – try and lead us into doing or saying things we are uncomfortable with – draw us away from our faith – from God – there will be situations – people – who call us to choose.
At such times – stand firm –
God has the final authority over all things – remain faithful to Him – whatever happens – and you can be sure that He will remain faithful to you.
When you’re asked to choose –
Jesus calls us to – choose life – choose God – it’s the only real option.
The things of this life will eventually fade away – but the things of God will remain forever.
Life here will, one day cease – but life hereafter is everlasting, eternal and timeless.
But I believe that we are not put on this earth to merely to exist in the world – but to use our faith – to make a difference in the world.
We are called not to keep our faith a secret – but to share it and so make a difference in a world which many, aye sadly, too many – don’t know the joy of knowing Jesus –
And that should make us sad – didn’t Paul say-
“As I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ”.
How sad it is that so many in the world – don’t believe in Jesus – don’t acknowledge what He did for them – for us – on the Cross.
How sad it is that too many ‘don’t have time’ for Jesus – too busy to come to know Him – and so miss out on the most fantastic, loving, genuine and deep relationship they will ever experience.
But the Church – Christians the world over – are called to go out into the community – the world – to take our faith and share it with others.
Making a difference by sharing our love of Jesus with them – by encouraging them to take out “dual citizenship” – as they follow our example – and we follow the example of Jesus Christ – God’s only Son – our only hope….. and the only hope for the world.
How wonderful it would be if those you love – your family and friends – the whole world – were gathered in and sheltered – kept safe – in the arms of our dear Jesus.
And they can be – so can each one of us – because that’s the promise He makes to everyone who chooses the way of Christ over the way of the world.
It’s a promise – made to the world – to each one of us –
It’s a promise that’s made and being fulfilled every minute of every day in someone’s life – it could be your life next – if you choose wisely –
You can be held – comforted – loved and promised life here (in this world) and life hereafter (in God’s kingdom)
How astounding – how amazing – how awesome is that !?
What a difference that would make if people all over the world gave their lives over to their God, living a life of love, respect, caring for those less fortunate than ourselves and taking time to give Him all the praise for His faithful and continued blessings.
What a difference that would make to your life, to the lives of those you love and to the world!
And all this is possible for you – if you make that choice,
and in the precious name of our dear, sweet Saviour – Jesus Christ.
Let us Pray ~
Precious Lord – as we worship you this day – we take a few moments to recall all the many good and wonderful things that you have blessed us with – our family – our friends – our home – a wonderful creation which surrounds us – good food – warm clothing – a church family, here in this place – but more than that – a family which extends from other local churches – to right around this world – all praising you – all worshipping you in the name of our dear Jesus.
Lord – hear our thoughts as we take a short time to remember these – and so many other things, with which we have been blessed ~
….Short time of silence as we think of our Blessings –
and give thanks for them……..….
Thank you Lord.
But we are all too aware that many in this world are struggling to make ends meet – have no home – few friends – and no means by which they can see and hope of things improving for them.
We think of those enduring wars and strife – those suffering the after effects of natural disasters – or the pain of bereavement as they remember a loved one lost. We bring them to mind – and we pray for them – asking for your special blessings upon them.
We pray for all who need a prayer – perhaps someone reading this service today – and we bring them to you and pray you will touch their lives and bring a warmth, a comfort and a peace of mind to them in their difficult time.
We continue to keep in mind those who put their lives at risk to keep us safe and well. Watch over them, keep them safe, so that they too can go home at the end of the day to see their families, safe and free from harm.
Bless them Father.
Lord – hear us once more as we bring our own prayers to you – for those we know are in need of prayer at this time – perhaps a friend – or family member – an acquaintance or maybe yourself – the Lord hears your prayer – so let us take a few moments to talk to Him – in the peace of your silence……..
……..take a few moments of silence as you say a short prayer of your own…………
Listening Lord – hear all our prayers – both spoken and silent – for we bring them to you in the name of our dear sweet Saviour – your only Son – our only Hope – Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thought for the Week
A small boy walked into a sweet shop store with his dad and was bedazzled by the array of treats on offer.
“What should I choose? What should I choose? What should I choose?” He asked himself.
“Come on son, we don’t have all day,” his dad said.
“These are my favourites. No wait, these are my favourites.”
He walked along the aisles, picking up bags and putting them back.
He just couldn’t make up his mind.
“Quick son, make up your mind, we have to go,” His impatient dad said.
Frantically, the boy ran around the store, his eyes moving from one shelf to another, but all of the options looked so good and he couldn’t make a decision.
Eventually, the dad had enough, grabbed his son by the hand and they walked out of the store empty-handed. The young boy had tears in his eyes. He wanted them all, but ended up with nothing because he couldn’t choose just one.
Much of life is about making choices – from getting up – what will I wear? To what to eat – the ‘healthy option’ or the cream-doughnut .. and many more.
Most decisions aren’t that important – but when it comes to the really important things in life – it can be a minefield of worry and anxiety. How do I know I am doing the right thing? What if I make the wrong choice? And so on…
God asks us to choose.
In matters of Faith, deciding to become a Christian is the best decision you will ever make.
To those who choose to follow Christ, He offers blessings, promises, unconditional love, hope for the future, peace of mind and contentment that you are in safe Hands in this life and in the next, where an eternity of peace and tranquillity is promised, free from all physical pain and stress free – and so much more.
Sounds good to me!
Maybe it does to you too?
Do you know the story of the life and times of Jesus Christ – and what He did for you?
Why not explore this whole Faith business for yourself?
Let me promise you – from personal experience – you won’t regret it.
Make that choice and your life will never be the same – in a good way – and that’s a promise.
And now – go in Love – Joy and Peace –
And may the love of Jesus go before you –
the Lord Almighty watch over you –
and the Holy Spirit go with you – guiding and protecting you in all you say and do.
And may the Blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may He be with your families and friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.
Take care and May God bless you and those you love.
Next Sunday we look at the Ascension of Jesus – when He returned to Heaven.
He had come full circle from His Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection. His ‘Mission Earth’ was complete and now He was going back home to be with His Father.
And the following week is the day of Pentecost, where God sends His Holy Spirit down to Earth – it was quite a day!!
Why not join us on this web page and
“read all about it”!