Proper 24, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 19, 2014

Reading 1: Reading 2: Reading 3: Reading 4: 
Exodus 33:12-23Psalm 991 Thessalonians 1:1-10Matthew 22:15-22

By Ignacio Castuera

The self-exclusion of idolatry continues to be contrasted with the true worship of the One who loves all in the texts for our Sunday. In addition a kind of “explanation” for the tendencies toward idolatry is given in the Exodus passage. Even a prophet like Moses has doubts and wants to “see.” Not content with hearing the voice of God now he wants to see the face of God. God’s politeness does not permit him to say: you can kiss my … but the text essentially states that Moses, and all of us, need to be contented with living behind God’s back, singing Rock of Ages Cleft for Me ( I wish we could change the lyrics some and intone instead “Rock of Ages Cleft for ALL!”) So, idolatry is understandable but we should not yield to it.

The texts from the Old Testament continue to reiterate the centrality of the One who is truly God and who cannot be contained, or superseded, by other rulers.

The Gospel text is perhaps the one who has been most misunderstood because it has been interpreted by a Christianity captive to Rome via Constantine and then to the Holy Roman Empire via Charlemagne. Preacher after preacher, commentary after commentary state that yes, it is fine to pay taxes to the Emperor what else could we expect from those rewarded, in one way or the other, by the Empire and the Emperor. But all of the texts today proclaim loudly that there are no “two kingdoms” (sorry Luther and Lutherans!) But only ONE GOD who claims all of our allegiance.

In addition to poor interpretations and sermons we have very poor translations. Ah, the Italians had it right, the one who translates betrays, traduttore, traditore. But I am getting ahead of myself.

First: Jesus unmasks the true character of those who aske the hypocritical question by asking them to produce a Roman denarius, the money used to pay the taxes. Those of us who have lived under occupied conditions know very well we would not be caught dead with the invader’s coins in our pocket. I remember a Scottish woman in one of the congregations I served telling me that this was true even in Scotland. The Romans were cruel but smart. They permitted observant Jews to live according to their convictions and permitted them to mint their own coins. Only the non-observant and the unpatriotic Jew would have carried Roman coins in their purse. When the Sadducees produced a denarius, they stand naked before Jesus and the patriots and religious observant Jews. Just in case they have not caught the trick yet, Jesus asks whose IMAGE (Here is the issue of the bad translation!!) and inscription is on the coin? EIKON is a clear reference to the Exodus 20 text we had a couple of weeks back. You shall not make any EIKON…

I would love to make at least a short skit of this text using some of the fantastic humor of Monte Python. I could see the followers of Jesus rolling on the floor after watching their masterful leader defeat his opponents in such elegant fashion. Jesus now can flip back the denarius to the defeated and exposed “religious leaders” of Israel with a sting. Render unto Caesar… As we have heard in all the texts today, what is God’s? Everything, what is Caesar’s NOTHING.

Today we must apply this text to the banking practices of our country and advocate for a banking system that honors God and neighbor. Ellen Brown’s book, The Public Banking Option must be read and recommended for study to meet the requirements of the deep meaning of the texts today.