85: P24A (Oct. 19) “It’s a trap”


For Sunday October 19, Proper 24A/Ordinary 29A/19 Sundays after Pentecost. 

Click read more for show notes!
SHOW NOTES -  10/19/2014

Episode 85: P24A (Oct. 19) “It’s a trap”
For Sunday, October 19, 2014
Welcome the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, where two local pastors discuss the  lectionary reading for the week. This is episode 85 for Sunday October 19, Proper 24A/Ordinary 29A/19 Sundays after Pentecost.

Today's podcast is brought to you by audible.com - get a FREE audiobook download and 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/pulpitfiction. Over 150,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player. Books that we recommend are:

Introduction and Check-in

Featured Musician - Amy Cox.  “The Table,” from her album
Coming Home to You.  Amy and Robb met at the last two Lion and Lamb Festivals, and is currently on the road from Virginia to California.  She is speaking at a Peace Conference in San Diego, and from there she is heading to Arizona to help with the crisis on the border.  You can follow her on twitter @amyEcox, and at Facebook.com/AmyCoxMusic.  Her website is AmyCoxMusic.com.  

Primary Scripture - Matthew 22:15-22 Jesus on taxes
Initial Thoughts

  • Favorite passage for those wanting to extrapolate Jesus as either a political figure or as one who capitulates to ruling authorities.  Both sides of the fight seem to appeal to this, and both sides miss the point of the passage.
  • The concept of the separation of church and state was not invented in this exchange.  That concept would be completely foreign to the writers and readers of this gospel.  

Bible Study

  • Literary Context - Part of the growing conflict between religious leaders and Jesus.
    • Jesus had just answered the pointed question “By whose authority do you do these things” with three parables that condemned the religious hypocrisy of the rulers.  In the midst of this dispute, the chief priests and elders decided that they needed to arrest him.
    • This exchange opens with “Then the Pharisees and Herodians went and plotted to entrap him.”  This question is not an honest question.  It is a part of the rising conflict.
    • Herodians and Pharisees would not have usually been allies.  They were generally in opposition to each other, but were joined in their opposition to Jesus.
    • In the next chapter, Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees comes to a boiling point.  Over the course of the next day, he condemns the leaders, predicts the destruction of the Temple, reveals signs of the end of the age, tells parables about the coming judgment (if you fed me, you’re good), and predicts his own death and resurrection.  In just a few days, Jesus is arrested and crucified.  In other words, things are starting to heat up.
  • Question is not an honest debate.  “Is it permissible” has religious undertones.
    • Paying taxes to Caesar acknowledging that he is the rightful owner of the Land, even though the Law says that only God is the rightful owner.  (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 253)
    • Paying taxes is wildly unpopular to the people.  It is not only an economic hardship, but it is symbolic of the oppression of the Roman rule.
    • Not paying taxes is illegal, and inciting others to not pay is grounds for arrest.
    • So - either Jesus will give them the legal means to arrest him, or he will alienate himself from the people and advocate breaking the law.
    • Which law will he follow?  Caesar's Law or Moses’ Law?
  • Jesus’ answer is no answer.  Instead, it further points out the hypocrisy of those that are coming to trap him.
    • When he asks for a Roman coin, the leaders readily produce it.  It would, presumably, have the Emperor’s face on it as well as an inscription that reads “Son of the Divine Augustus.”  Having such a coin within the Temple is itself against the law.  Simply by producing the coin, the leaders have fallen into their own trap.
    • Render unto Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s is neither a condemnation of taxes nor capitulation to the authorities of Caesar.  It is a reminder that the coins they produce have no value in the Kingdom of Heaven.  
    • Jesus’ answer reminds the crowds that in fact, all things first belong to God.  “Jesus is not saying, ‘There is a secular realm and there is a religious realm, and equal respect must be paid to each.’  The second half practically annuls the first by preempting it.  In Jewish religious thought, foreign kings had power over Israel only by permission from God.  Tax may be paid to Caesar because it is by god’s will that Caesar rules.  When God chooses to liberate his people, Caesar’s power will avail him to nothing.” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 254)
  • Jesus’ answer is open-ended.  (David Lose, from Working Peacher)
    • Is Jesus saying that we owe nothing to a false God like Caesar and should reserve all things for God?
    • Is he inviting us to recognize that we while we may, in fact, owe the emperors of this world some things -- like taxes -- we owe God other things -- like our whole selves?
    • Is Jesus instead inviting us to avoid giving our allegiance to the material and temporal things of this world that our coins can buy (and that seem to delight emperors) and demanding our ultimate devotion go to God?
    • Is Jesus saying that we should capitulate to governmental leaders, because it is only God who ordains their power?
    • All of these answers are plausible.

Preaching Thoughts

  • What is God’s?  If the answer seems easy - “all things,” the implication is anything but easy.  What does it mean to render all things to God?  
  • The coins we carry are not all that different than the coins that the Romans carried.  They have pictures of our Caesars, and the inscription “In God We Trust.”  Yet are those words an empty promise? In what do we truly trust?  “We write ‘in God we trust’ upon the god we truly trust” (Chris Rock and Brian McLaren).   

Subscribe! Get Pulpit Fiction Podcast delivered automatically to your iPhone, iPod, android or listening device by searching for Pulpit Fiction Podcast in iTunes or Stitcher radio, simply go to our website and hit the subscribe buttons!You can also subscribe to the Pulpit Fiction show notes which are delivered each week to your email. Sign up at pulpitfiction.us.

Secondary scripture - 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Greetings
Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Thessalonians
    • Letters are written with understood context and issues- think of your church newsletter - the underlying issues must be reconstructed from what we know of the context and what is implied in the letters
    • Thessalonica was on Paul’s journey from Galatia (modern Turkey) and Asia (Also in modern Turkey) through Macedonia (Philippi) down to Corinth
    • Thesselonica
      • founded in 316 BCE, named for Alexander the Great’s sister, Thessalonikki.
      • Cultic and commercial center (not on a scale of Athens or Alexandria, but still important) - was on the major highway across Macedonia linking Rome with Eastern provinces
      • Benefited from the “Pax Romana”- erected a statue to Augustus and welcomed in an “Augustan Era”
      • Tension between the pax Romana and Augustus as the supreme benefactor and Jesus as the true way, peace and savior
    • Apocalyptic
      • Theme within many of Paul’s letters
      • Culminating “now, but not yet” eschatology - now: what God has done in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; not yet: parousia and the coming Kingdom of God
      • Apocalyptic theology is a challenge to the existing order and status quo
  • 1 Thessalonians
    • Paul formed the Church in Thessalonica shortly after Philippi where is was “shamefully treated”
    • Gentile congregation - While Acts 17 says Paul stopped at the synagogue-there is no archeological or historical evidence that there was a synagogue on Thessalonians (Abraham Smith, NIB, p.682)
      • Opposition to the countercultural apocalypticism and glorification of Christ
      • Stability of congregation - not built on an established faith community

  • Two sections
    • vv.1-5 - greeting
    • vv. 6-10 - beginning of apocalyptic treatise
  • vv.1-5 - Greeting
    • Thanksgiving for work in faith, effort in love and perseverance in hope
    • What do we give thanks for?
      • money in the coffers and butts in the pews?
      • Pax Americana or an abiding peace?
    • When was the last time you gave thanks for the ministry of another church in your area?
    • Works of Faith, Labor of Love and steadfast in hope- what do these mean and how do they guide our ministry? (cf. 1 Cor 13:13)
  • vv.6-10
    • Accepted a message from the Holy Spirit in spite of great suffering: following Jesus does not preclude or exempt us from suffering but often calls us into suffering
  • Turning Serving and Waiting (Nathan Eddy)
    • Turning (repenting) from false idols or things that distract us
    • Serving one another and God- doing justice loving kindness and walking humbly with God
    • Waiting actively for the Kingdom of God.

Preaching Thoughts

  • What do we give thanks for?
    • money in the coffers and butts in the pews?
    • Pax Americana or an abiding peace?
  • When was the last time you gave thanks for the ministry of another church in your area?
  • When was the last time your church suffered for the sake of the Holy Spirit? Do you mourn that or celebrate it? (not suffering for suffering’s sake, but doing the work of the Spirit, even when it requires great cost)

Tasty Wafers of the Week!


TY listeners

Shout outs:

  • Tim Reeder @TimR_Stl “Jennifer Knapp, just listened to you on Pulpit Fiction, and 140 characters are not nearly enough to say how much I loved it.”


  • I noticed that the Exodus reading was rendered: this is the God who you brought out of Egypt rather than who brought you out of Egypt. Although I am pretty sure that was unintentional, it does give us something to think about.  Perhaps that golden calf was the one they brought out since it was made from their jewelry and all.  But I am thinking that all of us get the God who brings us out of slavery and the god we bring out of slavery confused.  I think that provides a link to the wedding banquet and the question of whose invitation have we accepted and who makes the rules we follow once we  get to the banquet. Anyhow it was a great show.  Marianne
  • Greetings,  Thank you for the podcasts. They have become a regular part of my Tuesday mornings (and occasionally part of my Saturday evenings). I often listen while posting the hymn numbers and otherwise making adjustments in the pulpit/chancel area or switching out wall banners. (I serve very small churches and have a variety of smaller tasks not specified in the contract--most of which I do with joy.) The podcasts help me start thinking about the passages in a more homiletic (is that the adjectival form?) way.  For World Communion Sunday we are having a variety of breads, although I was disappointed not to be able to find Matzoh. (I'll have to plan earlier next time around and get more at Passover time.) For my newsletter article I wrote a little about the day and then included Matthew's version of the Words of Institution in several languages. My hope is to get the folks in the pews to see themselves as part of something larger than themselves. Tiny congregations can feel very lonely even though we are a connectional system (PCUSA) and are part of several annual ecumenical events in town. Not as many languages fit as I had hoped (I'm not the final editor), but having the Hawai'i Pidgin version next to the Greek and near the Cherokee made for a good word picture.   Enough rambling. Blessings on your day, Jane R. Martinez, Pastor East End & Westminster Presbyterian Churches Ottumwa, Iowa

Our Featured Musician-

Featured Musician - Amy Cox.  “The Table,” from her album Coming Home to You.  Follow her on twitter @amyEcox, and at Facebook.com/AmyCoxMusic.  Her website is AmyCoxMusic.com.  

Thanks to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Second of May” from their album Live at Goose Creek) and special closing music this week is Richard Bruxvoort Colligan’s song “I Am for Peace”.