Readings 20 Oct 2002
29th Sunday of "Ordinary Time"
Exodus 33: 12 - 23
The story of the ancient people of God led by Moses continues on! Having crafted a golden calf, Israel now want a tangible sign; smoke, fire - something assuring God's presence. Here Moses prays for a display of God's favour. Isn't his a common cry of faith:"Lord, let me know you are for me"? Sometimes we need it to be made clear. God's first sign back to Moses is to declare God's goodness, "passing before us". Its there, but we need to have faith to see it! Then God gives away himself in the name, "The Lord". And yet, God remains ultimately hidden; God's face cannot be seen. The response to Moses leaves the relationship 'open'; to know God is not simply to participate in a grand, irrefutable display of power, but depends upon what we give and bring to the relationship.
This psalm brings its adoration of God around the image of God as King. It is only a picture to grapple with what God is like; too often the descriptive language of the Bible is treating too literally as if it this were the one image for God. God is like a King, a lover of justice, exalted by the people. God has heard the cries of their great leaders (Moses, Aaron, Samuel) - and answered them. Their forgiveness from God reminds the people of God's holiness.
1 Thessalonians 1: 1 - 10
Paul's letter to the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia is one of the earliest written of all the New Testament material. At its opening paul appears intent on deflecting credit away from himself for beginning the community there, even away from the Christian gathering he addresses. The message came "in the Holy Spirit" and was "received with joy". Their example is now known throughout the region - serving a true and living God. This, the letter begins, is made possible by God himself in God's activity amongst them!
Matthew 22: 15 - 22
This is a trick question! If Jesus tells the Herodians to defy the Roman taxes, then the civil authorities can 'have' him! Yet if he shows a higher loyalty than to the Law Jesus can be accused of a religious breach! But Jesus deftly turns the question back on them, asking his accusers to examine the coin and saying, "Give due regard to the Emperor" ... and, we can almost hear a pregnant pause as Jesus adds, "And give to God what is due to God!" What do we 'owe' God? Everything? Life itself? In all of the demands and loyalties that clamour for our response, are we making appropriate response to God?
Comment: [Early Sermon thoughts]
There appears a link in the readings between the image of God - what God is like - and how we reflect or show that in our living and behaviour. Weighing up decisions and commitments between all the demands and loyalties we seek to serve is a complex process. How do we give God the opportunity for God to be expressed in that?