Good Morning! Welcome to this mornings CTS service.
Worship today is led by Margaret Jackaman and our message is from Paula Dawson.
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Message - Paula Dawson
Put God First
Have you ever had one of those days when you needed to be in two places at one time?
Let me rephrase that: Have you ever had one of those days when you didn’t need to be in two places at one time? Say, you’ve got a big meeting to get ready for at work, you’ve got a sick child at home, and your best friend is on the phone saying she really needs to talk, and can you have lunch today?
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? More often than we care to admit.
We’re committed to a lot of different people and a lot of different things – family, friends, vocation, community, social activities and interests, the church … not to mention taking care of ourselves. It’s a juggling act. And when two or more demand our attention at one time, we’re torn.
That’s the essence of stress: Being pulled in two or more directions at the same time. Like a rubber band, being stretched to the limit. Anyone feel a but like that right now?
And that’s the topic of the sermon this morning – the way in which competing forces lay claim to our time, talent, money and energy. And what I hope you’ll get out of it is this: When we place God at the centre of our life and commit ourself, first and foremost, to doing God’s will, everything else will fall into place. It’s a matter of putting God first. Let’s begin with the text.
On the surface, the gospel lesson seems to address a legitimate question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17) But then, we all know it’s a ruse. Those who asked the question weren’t seeking Jesus’ counsel; they were trying to catch him off guard. Matthew writes:
“Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how they might entrap him in his talk. They sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians.” (Matthew 22:15-16)
Just so you know: The Herodians and the Pharisees were odd bedfellows at best. The Herodians were pro-Roman, the Pharisees were anti-Roman. No matter how Jesus answered the question, he was sure to offend one or the other. To side with the Herodians was to commit heresy in the eyes of the Pharisees, for to pay tribute to Caesar was, in effect, to bow down before other gods; but to side with the Pharisees was to commit treason in the eyes of the Herodians, for to refuse to pay tribute to Caesar was an act of sedition. And so, they flattered Jesus in an attempt to entrap him. They said,
“Teacher, we know that you are honest, and teach the way of God in truth, no matter whom you teach, for you aren’t partial to anyone. Tell us therefore, what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:16-17)
If they thought they were going to pull the wool over Jesus’ eyes, they had another think coming. He turned the question back on them and said, “Why are you putting me to the test? Show me the coin used for the tax.”
They handed him a denarius, the equivalent of a day’s wages. He looked at it and asked, “Whose is this image and inscription?” They said, “Caesar’s.” And he said, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
“Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” If only if it were that simple.
We are not called upon simply to give the emperor, or whoever is in charge, what belongs to the emperor. We are called upon as well to give to relatives, friends, strangers, co-workers, employees, and all other people whatever it is of us they can rightly claim. We are charged with the creative and challenging task of transforming our diverse and divided loyalties into a unified life governed and directed by our supreme and absolute loyalty, which is to God and God alone … Once we give ourselves absolutely to God, then remarkably we are free to give to others in ways that are gracious and life-giving, rather than distorted and destructive … No longer are these loyalties divided; instead we recognize how, deep down, they are in concord, for each is an invitation from God
Let’s try and apply that to everyday life.
We all know what happens in real time – you get busy and preoccupied paying the bills and doing a good job at work and raising a family and going out with friends and serving on committees and keeping up with this, that and the other until you’re lucky if you have any time left over for each other.
Well, guess what gets left out … our relationship with God. And it’s God’s grace and love – and the peace and presence of God’s Spirit in the home – that makes all the difference.
So, I think what Jesus is saying is - Put God first. Cultivate and nurture your relationship with God and your relationship with your spouse, your children, your friends, and all the others you’re committed to will fall into their proper place. You’ll find the time and energy to do what needs to be done.
Then there’s the question of money. You knew I’d get around to this, didn’t you? There never seems to be enough to go around. In addition to paying the bills, there are things we’d like to have, and places we’d like to go, and things we’d like to see and do. Although, I guess if you’re anything like me at the moment, there doesn’t somehow seem to be so much to spend the money on!! Maybe it’s doing us some good!!
The Old Testament speaks of offering God the first fruits of the harvest – giving to God the very best of the crop, a lamb or goat without blemish. The people of Israel found when they gave their first fruits to God they prospered all the more and, when they didn’t, they weren’t satisfied with what they had, even when they’d had a good year.
Here’s the bottom line: Whether it’s paying taxes to Caesar, or spending enough time with your loved ones, or doing a good job at work, or fulfilling all of your various commitments in and around the community, there are lots of competing claims on your life, and some days – if not most – you probably wonder whether there’ll enough of you to go around.
The secret is to put God first. Make our relationship to God the first and most important part of each day, and God will give us the capacity to do the rest.
Put God first and everything else will fall into place. This is what Jesus told his disciples so long ago:
“But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.