Often, we approach these words from the Gospel as if all they are is settling the matter of paying taxes. Time and time again, in conversation and commentary, it seems that the weight of this statement is placed predominantly on Jesus’ command to “give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s.” But as I read this passage, in conversation with Jesus’ other words on money, stewardship, and discipleship, the real weight is on his command to “give God the things that are God’s.” The truth of the matter is that empires rise and empires fall. Nation-states come to power and in a single generation have fallen away. Taxes come and taxes go. But what is more universal, more binding for Christians, and quite frankly more terror-inducing and sacrifice-demanding is to give to God what is God’s. John Ruskin, the thinker I mentioned before, said in another place, “We need examples of people who, letting Heaven decide whether they are to rise in the world, decide for themselves that they will be happy in it, and have resolved to seek—not greater wealth but simpler pleasure; not higher fortune, but deeper felicity; making the first of possession, self-possession.”
If you could be certain that you would not be judged, or critiqued, or even looked down upon, how would you answer the question, “What do I really want out of life?” As we jump headlong into our stewardship season, perhaps that’s an appropriate question to ask ourselves. “What do I really want out of life?” Search your heart. At the deepest part of what makes you you, what do you desire and prize over all else? Taking your answer, taking my own answer, let’s set them next to Jesus’ command to “give God the things that are God’s.” I have literally taken oaths of obedience to the service of Christ and his Church, right in this very sanctuary, and even I can’t say that all of my desires fall in lock-step with Jesus’ command. But, the truth remains, that we who have “been sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own forever” have a different obligation than those outside of the Church. Our obligation is to set ourselves aside for the good of the Church and the World…to find ourselves presented as a sacrifice on the altar along with the bread and wine…to be a people who willingly give of all the riches we have, financial and otherwise, to be used for the reconciling of the world, the healing of the nations.
First and foremost, we are baptized Christians. But more particularly, those of us who have found a home at this church…We are St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound. This stewardship season, let us together think about what it means for us as a community, and as individuals, to collectively say “I am St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound.” Being church is not a spectator sport. All of us together make this great, grand experiment with a 90 year history what it is today. With Jesus’ words echoing in our ears to “give God the things that are God’s”, and a constant returning to the question, “What do I really want out of life?” let us together, under the guidance of the Spirit, usher in a new age of strength, compassion, transformation, and reconciliation at St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound. We've had a good run these last 90 years. Let's make the next 90 even better!