Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
I Thessalonians 1:1-5
Matthew 22: 15-21
Show a picture of me and the grandkids on screens. Scarlett, the middle child, said something while I was visiting that stuck with me. The week before I arrived, Meggin was getting the kids ready to go for a walk when a truck went down their street relatively fast, and Meggin said, “Dude! Slow down!” Later that day, Scarlett, who is learning to talk and put words together in a sentence, said, “Dude, Slow down!” When I arrived she said it one time and then she laughed. As I was packing the car to leave, and the girls were helping me pack, Scarlett, said, “Dude, Slow down!” I took it as, “Grandpa, slow down, and let’s take in this moment and know who you are to me, and me to you!” Our readings have a bit to do about slowing down and knowing who we are.
In our second reading from St. Paul to the Thessalonians, we have the earliest New Testament writing piece. Paul writes this letter in the year 50 or 51. It is written before the Gospels, and it would have been read at a gathering of believers at a worship service. As it is read, the hearers of this letter may have said, “Dude! Slow down, I what to take this all in!” The first words recorded in the New Testament are remarkable as Paul says, “Grace and peace to you as we give you thanks for knowing who you belong to.”
In our Gospel, there is a lot of “Dude! Slow down!” The first slowdown is the Pharisees and Herodians are two groups who opposed each other, but they come together, thinking they can trip Jesus up with a question. They ask him, “Is it lawful to pay the tax to Caesar or not?” It is a tricky question because if Jesus answers “yes,” he will be seen as a traitor to the Jewish people. If he answers “no,” then he will be a rebel against Rome. Jesus doesn’t answer the question; he asks, “Show me the coin that pays the census tax? Whose image is on this coin?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” “Then pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what belongs to God.”
The second slow down comes that these Jewish leaders had a Roman coin in their possession. At this time, the Romans had their coins, and on each coin, there was an image of the emperor, and it read, “Caesar Augustus the divine one.” What the coin was saying is, “Caesar is god.” Because the Jews knew there was only one God, the Romans produced other coins that the Jewish people would use without the image of Caesar Augustus on it to pay the tax. So, when Jesus asks for a coin to pay the tax, and these priestly men produce the Roman coin, you can almost hear Jesus saying, “Dudes! Slow down! Do you realize how you just conflicted yourselves by having this coin in your possession?”
We gather to answer, “Dude! Slow down” Do you know who you belong to? What areas in our lives are we conflicted with and have not given that part to God? We are being called into a special relationship with Christ. We need to choose who we belong to. We are called to this table where we are one. May we live in Christ this week? Let us slow down and give our lives to Christ!