Sermon preached at
Jeremy Paxman could not have put it better –
Answer “Yes” and you are branded a Quisling.
Answer “No” and you are an anarchist.
He looks at the coin with Caesar's head on it.
“Render unto Caesar that which is
and render unto God what is God’s”
It sounds like a politician’s cop out – but it’s a real answer.
RENDER UNTO CAESAR:
The coin has Caesar’s head on it –
and so the artefact belongs (in one, relative sense) to Caesar.
Like the Pharisees
– who significantly had the coin in their pocket –
Jesus says you have to live and work in the real world,
you have to get your hands dirty and make compromises,
work with the powers that be, pay taxes,
if you are do God’s work in the world.
Church Council on Wednesday
we will be making decisions about the Church Building –
but what I’ve found exciting about our discussions in the last few weeks
is how much time we’ve spent talking
about what it means to be the Church in the world and the city –
Whatever buildings we have,
they have to help us to talk, think and act love peace and justice
in Caesar’s world -
and that means involvement, compromise and paying taxes
But the coin is made from the metal of the earth –
God’s creation and gift –
so in another ultimate sense whole natural order
(including the coin) belongs to God.
we are called to
provisional, dependent, contingent loyalty to Caesar,
and Ultimate, over-riding absolute loyalty to God.
You only serve Caesar in as far as
that is compatible with your ultimate loyalty to God.
British coins contain the letters D G REG F D:
Deo Gratia Regina Fidei Defensor –
By the grace of God Queen Defender of the faith.
Caesar rules Deo Gratia – by the grace of God.
When we pay our taxes it is to a Caesar who recognizes
(at least according to the coins) a higher authority.
And our gift to Caesar must never compromise
our commitment to that greater rule.
We are citizens of 2 Kingdoms – earth and heaven.
eventually the Roman Empire started to crumble,
it was then that St Augustine wrote his classic work “The City of God”
about the coming Kingdom of Heaven.
As Augustine saw earthy empire collapse,
he was reminding the Church
that this was not where their ultimate loyalty lay
we have sung “Blessed City, Heavenly Salem”,
reminding us of our citizenship of heaven.
– courtesy of the Visigoths or the Taleban,
earth’s proud empires threaten to pass away,
we need St Augustine to remind us that our ultimate loyalty –
and our ultimate hope of Salvation –
is not with Caesar or George Bush or Tony Blair, or Ian Duncan Smith,
but with God.
unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, -
but in doing so almost make sure that you render to God what is God’s.
That works out in many ways – Let me take one simple example.
themes we are asked to think about during this year’s One World Week
is the subject of FUEL.
unto Caesar our taxes – our petrol duty –
but there are deeper loyalties-
also called to render unto God an account
for the whole planet and its environment –
render unto God what is God’s –
not merely our fuel tax but our fossil fuel deposits,
the ozone layer….
Saturday Stephen Lea was exhorting us
in the best sense of the phrase to get on our bikes –
and if that made your car driving minister feel a little threatened,
it is because it is just a simple example of the ease
with which we can remember to meet Caesar’s demands
and forget to meet God’s.
citizens of two kingdoms.
And we know which is the ultimate arbiter.
IX of France used to sign his documents
not “Louis IX King” but “Louis of Poissy”.
Someone asked him why.
He answered - “Poissy is the place where I was baptised.
I think more of the place where I was baptised
than of Rheims Cathedral where I was crowned.
It is a greater thing to be a child of God
than to be a ruler of a Kingdom:
this last I shall lose at death,
but the other will be my passport to everlasting glory.”
And today we baptize baby Codie, another child of God.
is a citizen of two kingdoms, of earth and heaven –
she is entitled to her British passport –
but more importantly she has her passport to the Kingdom of God.
looked at a coin and said –
what image do you see?
Then give that coin to the one whose image it bears.
look at a new born child and we say –
“What image does she bear?”
And the answer is found in the 1st chapter of Genesis –
“And God made humankind in his own image”.
Codie, like every newborn child – is made in the image of God.
And as we look at her we say, Render unto God that which is God’s.
how she will grow up?
I wonder how you, Sue and Malcolm and Godparents,
will direct and guide her life??
will be crowned a queen one day
(Maybe unlikely, but who knows?)
What I do know is this –
she will always carry with her the image of God her creator –
which is and will always be a blessing and a challenge.
end of the day it really doesn’t matter
whether she is rich or poor, famous or lowly, -
What matters is that she is a child of God.
And as for Codie, so for every one of us.
We bear the mark of the maker.
I by all
my suits and shirts in charity shops –
and I look along the row and just once in a while I hit the jackpot –
out a shirt made in Saville Row or Jermyn Street –
and I say it could do with a wash and an iron –
but look at the maker’s mark!
you and me – on the cast off rail maybe –
but still made in the image of God!
of Nyssa once said that we are each of us like a wall painting.
Over the years the painting has been covered over and defaced –
but the restorer knows that underneath,
waiting to be revealed is the original image
us have been through very dark and sinful parts of our lives –
others still feel that our canvas is very muddy and distorted - -
under all the mess and mud you are the child of God made in God’s image –
never forget it.
remember the old pre decimal pennies –
big clunky things, some shiny new Elizabeths,
some dirty and old Victorias,
and a few bun pennies of the young Victoria,
100+ years old and almost worn smooth.
But each worth a penny.
And it was GK Chesterton who commented
people are like those old pennies –
some clean and sharp and fresh, other dirty and worn and old.
But all are of equal value for each bears the image of the sovereign-
each person bears the image of the King of Kings.
today Codie has been baptised –
And I hope each of us reflects on our own baptism
thank God that we are made in his image
and that he will always love us
clean and scour our lives
till that image shines fresh and clear again.
let us hear our Lord say to us:
“I see imprinted in your heart the maker’s mark –
the image of your creator –
You are God’s creation – you are marked by God - his child –
Now take that life, and render unto God that which is God’s”