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Oct 20, 2002

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Money and Worship (I need a better title)

Matt. 22:15-22

Jesus says, "Show me the money ... used for the tax!" (RSV) The Gospel is not about the separation of church and state. Such a thing never would have occurred to anyone in first century Israel. What it is, is very funny! The religious and political authorities tried to set a trap for Jesus and ended up being hoist upon their own petard!

Jesus, rather than answering their question directly asks them a question, thus turning their trap inside out and upside down. By simply producing a coin with the emperor's image on it, they have exposed their own hypocrisy. It amounted to an idol, a graven image claiming to be divine. Then, never missing the teachable moment, Jesus declares, "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's!"

Now what does it mean to "give God the things that are God's"?

Psalm 96 is a song of Praise and worship to God in his Splendor and holiness. He ist worthy! proclaims the Psalm.

Our "Hingabe" to God encompasses all of life including our finances.

In 1 Thess.1:1-10 Paul encourages to the church to be immitators of Christ - who gave himself fully to God as an act of worship. He also sets himself as a worthy example to follow. Is this a challenge that we as followers of Christ need to meet?

Isaiah 45
1 "This is what the LORD says to his anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor,
to open doors before him
so that gates will not be shut:
2 I will go before you
and will level the mountains [1] ;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD ,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
4 For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me.
5 I am the LORD , and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
6 so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
men may know there is none besides me.
I am the LORD , and there is no other.
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD , do all these things.

Psalm 96
1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD , all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD , praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the LORD , O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his [1] holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns."
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
13 they will sing before the LORD , for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.

1 Thessalonians 1

1Paul, Silas[1] and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.[2]

Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians' Faith

2We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Matthew 22:15-22

Paying Taxes to Caesar
15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
18But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
21"Caesar's," they replied.
Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
22When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

WORSHIP THAT WORKS
Selected Sermons

TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A - Proper 24
Sermon for that Day

Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96 or 96:1-9; I Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

by the Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek

 

Bring Offerings and Come Into God's Courts

Who first said, "Show me the money?" No, not Cuba Gooding, Jr, but in today's Gospel, it is Jesus who says, "Show me the money ... used for the tax!" (RSV) The Gospel is not about the separation of church and state. Such a thing never would have occurred to anyone in first century Israel. What it is, is very funny! The religious and political authorities tried to set a trap for Jesus and ended up being hoist upon their own petard!

Jesus, rather than answering their question directly asks them a question, thus turning their trap inside out and upside down. By simply producing a coin with the emperor's image on it, they have exposed their own hypocrisy. It amounted to an idol, a graven image claiming to be divine. Then, never missing the teachable moment, Jesus declares, "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's!"

"Oops! I guess we are no match for this guy," they say to themselves, and slink away.

For after all, what is there that is not God's? What is there that is not from God? Seen and unseen, we say, God has made it all, and continues to make new and marvelous things for all of us. Which is why we sing in our Psalm this morning, "Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord all the whole earth ...declare his glory among the nations, and his wonders among the peoples... As for all the gods of the nations they are but idols..."

Idols are what the Pharisees and Herodians were carrying in their pockets -- gold and silver, money cast as religion.

The Bible gets really worked up over this business of idols. And it has to do with where one places one's security base: with the God of the Exodus and Resurrection, or with the gods of money, commerce, property, accumulation, acquisition, and consumption?

Much of the Bible reflects on this question. And Jesus talks about this more than any other single topic after the Kingdom of God. And the question really revolves around life's hard places. In the Bible the "hard places" would be wilderness, exile, and crucifixion. Places of experienced abandonment, scarce resources, enslavement to a place or a system, and so on. So who or what is going to save you in the end, is the primary question of faith.

Since Jesus makes a joke out of the situation, we might reflect on one of the funnier places in the Bible to work on this, Psalm 115, which paraphrased goes something like this:

Our God is in heaven
And our God gets to do whatever he wants to
You don't get to vote on it, you don't get to challenge it,
What A God!

Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of human hands
They have mouths and they cannot speak,
They have eyes but they cannot see,
They have ears but they cannot hear,
They have noses but they cannot smell,
They have hands but they cannot feel,
Feet but they cannot walk,
And they cannot make a sound with their throat!

Which is the punch line, because in Hebrew the word for "to make a sound with their throat" means, literally, to clear your throat: unh unh unh!

And the argument of course is that any god that cannot go "unh unh unh" is never going to get you out of Egypt, out of the wilderness, out of exile, or out of the tomb.

So the idea is to commit yourself to the God who has done these marvelous things.

One way we make that commitment is by the gifts we bring to the altar. And we are to sing about it, and we are to proclaim it to all people, and we are to honor his name, and we are to bring offerings when we come into God's courts.

In ancient times people brought sacks of flour, goats, sheep, loaves of bread. We still use bread in some form in the Eucharist. We still recall the life of the ancient church as we place bread on the altar to be taken, blessed, broken and given; bread that recalls the manna in the wilderness, and the "bread of life" who comes down from heaven.

Today we bring our offerings of money and place them on the altar as a reminder that our cash offerings signify our commitment to the ministries of the Gospel, the activities of the Risen Lord. Then with the Bread and the Wine we bless these gifts that they might be sufficient to do the work God in Christ calls us to do in this place and in the world outside these doors.

These gifts are to represent the first fruits of our labors. God asks for the first and the best. We are all tempted at times to keep the first and best of all we have for ourselves. But our God to whom we ascribe honor and worship and praise can take the first and best of all we have and transform it all from what we want to what we need.

An example of how this works is the story First Tomato by Rosemary Wells (Dial Books: New York, 1992). It's about a little bunny named Claire for whom everything is going wrong: she spills her breakfast on the floor, her boots fill with snow, math class goes on for two hours, she cannot do a cartwheel at recess, and the bus is late! It is the wilderness journey and exile all over again in one morning! She needs a trip to the Bunny Planet where the Bunny Queen is Janet, who says:

Here is the day that should have been: I hear my mother calling when the summer wind blows, "Go out in the garden in your old, old clothes. Pick me some runner beans and sugar snap peas. Find a ripe tomato and bring it to me please." A ruby red tomato is hanging on the vine. If my mother didn't want it, the tomato would be mine. It smells of rain and steamy earth and hot June sun. In the whole tomato garden it's the only ripe one. I close my eyes and breathe in its fat, red smell. I wish that I could eat it now and never, never tell. But, I save it for my mother without another look. I wash the beans and shell the peas and watch my mother cook. I hear my mother calling when the summer winds blow, "I've made you First Tomato Soup because I love you so!"

When we offer God the first fruits, the very money and things we want to hold onto, God like the mother in the story transforms those first fruits into what we need most: Soup and Love, whatever that soup represents. Each gift counts. Every pledge enables and empowers ministry. Every pledge, every dollar, touches a human life and brings it closer to God. Every pledge, every dollar given is transformed into Love and First Tomato Soup for someone else and for ourselves.

The smallest gift like the widow's mite can take on the power and proportion of all the gifts together. And we would do well to note that in that story, Jesus sits and watches to see how much each of us puts in the plate!

So this day we are invited to sing to the Lord! We are invited to sing a new song!
That new song might be an increased pledge to the work of Jesus Christ in this place that makes it possible for more people to have their lives touched and changed by the God of Jesus Christ. That new song might be a new pledge made for the first time to make it possible for us to continue to support our new youth groups for our middle and high school age young people.

Our prayer might be that the new song we sing will be that every household in this parish makes a pledge no matter how big or how small to insure that we can do all that is in our power to support one another in our life in Christ, whatever that takes, whenever it is needed. Whatever we do, may we remember to offer to God that which is God's.

And may we always sing new songs with the Psalmist, who prays,

Ascribe to the Lord the Honor due God's name,
Bring offerings and come into God's courts!

Amen! Alleluia!

The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter's Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also travels throughout the church leading stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions.


1 Thessalonians 1

1Paul, Silas[1] and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.[2]

Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians' Faith

2We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Commentary

On the surface the text looks rather boring and conventional. As usual, Paul begins his letter to the Thessalonians with a greeting and a thanksgiving. With a little flattery thrown in on the side (my, how the other churches are talking up your faithfulness!), Paul also manages to highlight themes that will show up all through the letter. But at the end, Paul does something seemingly odd. Following all of Paul's gushing and hugs and kisses at the letter's introduction comes this apocalyptic tag line in v. 10, "and to wait expectantly from heaven (God's) son, whom (God) raised from the dead, Jesus, the one who delivers us from the coming wrath."

Perhaps to some people, the appearance of this little apocalyptic motif does not seem odd. Most of us, however, do not sprinkle the backsides of our postcards with apocalyptic scenarios:

Dear Darrell:
Having a great time. Sure glad Jesus delivers us
from the wrath to come! Wish you were here.
Earl

For us, then, the problem revolves around understanding this apocalyptic motif within the broader context of Paul's theology and his letter writing. If we're going to understand this odd apocalyptic letter introduction, we need to look at not only the ten verses of the pericope, but the Pauline theology that undergirds it.

The first verse helps to frame the pericope. Paul offers a typical letter opening of naming the writers, the recipients, and their shared relationship in God through Jesus Christ.

In vv. 2-6a Paul continues with his typical thanksgiving after the opening greeting. What is unique, however, is what Paul gives thanks for. The Thessalonians have been faithful from the kerygmatic get-go, just as Paul and his associates had. In fact, Paul now calls them "imitators" of us and the Lord.

At this point, however, we tend to bristle. In our age, who needs rank imitation? New Testament Scholar Elizabeth Castelli makes a good point (Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power. Louisville: WJKP, 1991). Perhaps this language of imitation is just a strategy of control.

Yet Paul's language of imitation needs to be qualified by what follows in vv 6b-8. What is being imitated is not an "action" (as in, you Thessalonians should do what I do) but an event that happened to them: "in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit." Commentator Daniel Patte notes the importance of this in v. 7 (Paul's Faith and the Power of the Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983, p. 134). The word translated "example" might be better interpreted as "type" (typos in Greek). The object of our imitation is not an example of "what we ought to do," but rather a typology of "what happens to us."

From the standpoint of preaching and hearing the Gospel, the distinction is important. As "imitators," it is not our "job" to do the right thing. Instead, we discover in our suffering that we can nonetheless have joy and faith. While few of us experience the level of persecution that Paul or the Thessalonians may have faced, we are well aware of the strange ways in which our lives, too, are "types" or imitations of what happened to them and to the Lord.

Pastors know this instinctively. Have you ever shepherded a family through grief by asking them to share memories of the dearly departed? Many will share poignant memories, yet so many times those same memories as told in the family evoke laughter. To experience grief is not just to feel pain, but to feel the bittersweet reality of smiling through the tears at memories of a loved-one recalled. Corporately we often do this by joining together a funeral with a dinner afterward. At the grave side we look squarely into the breach caused by death. "Ashes to ashes," we say, "dust to dust." Yet then we so often return to the church to do what? Why, to share a meal of scalloped potatoes and ham, triangle-shaped sandwiches, and coffee. In the moment, the pain is still real: a friend, a loved-one, an acquaintance is now gone. Yet, we are also aware of the tender mercies that sustain us still. In the midst of all this, Paul says, "you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit." This is how we are imitators and examples (types): not in what we do, but in what happens to us and how our joy in Christ is manifest and through our cruciform reality.

So why then does Paul turn to talk of an apocalyptic visitation in v. 10? The material here actually follows quite naturally. In turning to God (and away from idols) we put our trust in the one resurrected from the dead. The old age of idols is done, a new age has begun with resurrection. This is how Jesus "delivers" us from the coming wrath. Please notice: the text does not say: Jesus will deliver us from the coming wrath, but delivers us in the present tense. In other words, the "coming wrath" is not some purely future event, it is coming already, even now. The function of this curious apocalyptic language is thus to reiterate what we described above. If the Holy Spirit is the "pledge" of the presence of God in and through suffering (v. 6b), Christ stands as its two-fold guarantor. At the beginning of this dawning new age, Christ is its prototype: though God's "Son from heaven" was crucified, he was raised. Like some cosmic bookend, however, this same crucified one is also the one we "await." As such, our experience of Holy Spirit inspired joy in the midst of suffering is not just some spiritual quirk, it is rooted precisely in the mystery disclosed in Christ-the mystery of what God has done, is doing, and will do through the crucified and resurrected Christ.

So where does that leave us preachers? Perhaps inviting our hearers to view reality through a cruciform vision. In one of the churches I served the back of the sanctuary faces toward the street. Instead of being a solid wall, however, it is actually made of stained glass. The part you can see through, however, looks different. The clear part of the wall sized-window is shaped in the form of the cross. As such, the cruciform window works in two ways. Certainly the window helps us to see the cross-shaped suffering in our world. Through the window we can see the truth. God knows there's already more than enough wrath to go around. Yet the window also reveals something more. Through the cross, we see the world God loves so much, a world for whom Christ died and was raised. For though the cross opens up the suffering of our world, it does one more thing: because the cross is empty, it proclaims the one who "delivers" even now-the living and true God revealed through Jesus Christ.

Apocalyptic Discourse in I Thessalonians

by

James D. Hester
Crawford Professor of Religion Emeritus
University of Redlands
Redlands, CA 92373

Introduction

Assuming for the moment that the 1 Thessalonians is among the earliest written evidence we have of discussions of primitive Christian theology, it seems clear that issues of eschatology and apocalypticism were a part of the dialogue being carried on among believers. It is also clear that Paul did not write apocalypses, if one limits the understanding of apocalypse to issues of genre. Having recognized that, however, leaves us with the task of identifying apocalyptic elements in his argumentation. Robert Hall [1996], Louis Martyn [1997], and Duane Watson [1999] have argued that Paul is capable of formulating a rhetoric of apocalyptic that makes use of, or focuses, the topics typically found in apocalypses, and in the process of doing so changes the function of apocalypticism to fit the needs of his audiences. Genre issues are moot! The topics of apocalypse are reconfigured for use in apocalyptic discourse.

I am indebted to Greg Carey for the conceptualization of "apocalyptic discourse." [Carey 1999: 2-10] After describing various modern attempts to understand the dimensions of the concepts of apocalypse, apocalyptic eschatology and apocalypticism, he goes on to define apocalyptic discourse in this manner:

Apocalyptic discourse refers to the constellation of apocalyptic topics as they function in larger early Jewish and Christian literary and social contexts. Thus apocalyptic discourse should be treated as a flexible set of resources that early Jews and Christians could employ for a variety of persuasive tasks. [10]

The importance of this definition for me lies in the insight that apocalyptic topics can function persuasively outside of the context of an apocalypse. Said differently, and now being increasingly widely acknowledged, apocalyptic discourse exists in early Christian literature outside of the context of an apocalypse and without necessary recourse to the full conceptual matrix of an apocalypse!

The concept I want to elaborate in the definition is "discourse." Carey highlights the concept of the rhetorical function of discourse, but he tends to focus on the social dimensions of functionality [Carey 1999: 12-14]. I want to expand the notion a bit.

In the context of modern literary criticism and rhetorical theory, it seems as though it is better to talk about what discourse "does" rather than what discourse "is." It is possible to think of discourse as the communication of ideas concerning things that are of interest to all members of a community. [Barilli 1989: vii] Discourses arise in a variety of social settings, institutions, and disciplines, each of which have coding systems understood by members of those entities, and for which the use of a coding system can both generate and elaborate knowledge. New sets of knowledge are created through communicative exchange. The truths of these discourses are relative to their disciplinary and institutional contexts. That in turn means that those truths can have some claim to authority only within those contexts. [Bové 1990: 54-56]

Discourses sustain not only the knowledge created by institutions and disciplines, but also make it possible for them to distribute knowledge by entering into discourse about that knowledge. In doing so such discourses become authoritative for the group and exercise some power over the members of the group and those who choose to join in the discursive exchanges.*

The analytical method I want to use to analyze apocalyptic discourse is Fantasy Theme Analysis (FTA), the major topics of which are described in the Glossary below. The argument I want to make is that in 1 Thessalonians apocalyptic discourse encompasses Paul's dramatizing messages and apocalyptic argumentation, thus functioning without recourse to the typical markers of the apocalyptic genre. It is placed within the framework of epistolary discourse and functions to give a specific content to the fantasy type, eschatological hope. It also functions to sustain the rhetorical vision of eschatological hope that Paul had preached among them and the group consciousness of the Thessalonians based on that hope. The expression of that vision through apocalyptic discourse sustains their identity as "insiders," the righteous of God who, through their holiness and purity, will escape the wrath to come and will be caught up into heaven at the Parousia. It also provides a moral imperative that grows out of the shared values that had developed as the vision was chained out while Paul was in Thessalonica. FTA allows us to analyze how Paul's rhetoric functions to sustain group consciousness and set the stage for further consciousness raising.

Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT)

In an earlier essay I have described in fuller detail the concept and claims of Fantasy Theme Analysis (FTA) and SCT. [Hester, 2000] In what follows I will, therefore, give only a basic overview of the theory.

SCT is a general theory of communication that provides an account of the formation of group consciousness through the use by the group of imaginative language that creates for it a shared sense of reality. It assumes that the rhetoric of an individual, a "dramatic message," can be shared and "chained out" in a process of communication within a group that produces a "convergence" or overlapping of private symbolic worlds so that a common consciousness or "rhetorical vision," emerges. A group of individuals finds ways of talking about attitudes or emotions they have shared in response to some person or event in a world that they may find chaotic, threatening or hostile. They produce "fantasies" that are imaginative interpretations of events that have occurred in a particular time and place. These fantasies use metaphorical or other forms of "insider" language that, "... interprets events in the past, envisions events in the future, or depicts current events that are removed in time and/or space from the actual activities of the group." [Foss 1989: 290] Thus a rhetorical community, made up of those who share a common rhetorical vision, is formed. SCT posits that the social reality constructed by the group allows for discursive argument within the group and is a source of motivation for action. [Bormann 1982: 289, 304]

The "dramatizing message" is the rhetorical foundation of fantasy sharing. It is set somewhere other than the here and now and makes use of metaphors, analogies, puns, allegories, anecdotes, narratives and other imaginative language to talk about some past conflict or envision some future conflict and interpret them so that they make sense to the group. [Bormann, Cragan, and Shields 1994: 280] It is the dramatizing message that is incorporated into member's fantasies. It causes the group to share individual fantasies and to internalize the style, tone and implications of the original message. This results in the expansion of the content of the original message to include shared group fantasies. A illustration of this process can be seen in the Road to Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35), which not only chains out the dramatizing message of the Resurrection but also incorporates the group sharing of post-resurrection appearances, which is then further chained out by Jesus appearance to the disciples in Luke 24: 36-43.

Dramatizing messages can make use of fantasy themes. These themes are orderly, shared interpretations of an experience that allow members to talk with one another about a shared experience. They use insider references, or "symbolic cues," that can cause emotional response to that experience. These cues help the hearer understand what the theme means and to feel again the response they had when they first heard the dramatizing message. The language of fantasy themes characterize the event or experience, giving it a "spin" that allows members of the group to account for differing perceptions of what happened. [Bormann 1990: 107] The important distinction to be made here is that dramatizing messages trigger shared fantasies, which is a result of such sharing on the group consciousness. Chaining of fantasies can then occur as a result of an group member taking a fantasy theme and making use of it in a "new" dramatic message, which can then trigger further fantasy sharing that can impact group consciousness.

Fantasy themes can be organized under fantasy types, which are general scenarios, reference to which can help explain or interpret new experiences. Stock scenarios and generalized persona are synthesized from various themes shared by the group. Types undergird the group culture. In conventional terms, it is within fantasy types that commonplaces are found.

And, finally, fantasy themes and types can be organized into a larger rhetorical vision, a coherent vision of social reality that can be conjured by the use of key words or slogans. [Bormann, Cragan, and Shields 1994: 281] A group's rhetorical vision provides a "...common set of assumptions about the nature and reality of proof..." that is necessary for discursive argument. Evidence need not be tied to empirical experience, or even dialectic, but can be based on such things as "revelation." [Bormann, 1985]

Fantasy Theme Analysis of the rhetoric, or public discourse, of a group may allow the critic to anticipate the behavior of a group. [Bormann 1982: 304; Cragan & Shields 1981: 10] For example, an analysis of a groups rhetorical vision could suggest at what stage the social reality of group finds itself -- consciousness creating, consciousness raising or consciousness sustaining -- and therefore predict the viability of the vision for maintaining the groups definition of reality and anticipate actions by the group to make changes in the vision in order to cope with new experiences or events.

Consciousness creating occurs when fantasy sharing generates "new symbolic ground" for people, which in turns creates a group consciousness. New rhetorical visions that explain new experiences help the group to cope with and even re-create social realities. [Bormann, Cragan and Shields 1996: 2-3]

Consciousness raising communication is pre-dominantly fantasy sharing that is aimed at newcomers. It is "proselytizing" communication that seeks to enlarge the world of social reality created by the new rhetorical vision of the group. [Bormann, Cragan & Shields 1996: 10-12] To some degree both consciousness creating and consciousness sustaining communication occur throughout the life cycle of a given rhetorical vision.

The final stage of the life cycle, consciousness sustaining, deals with keeping those who have been converted to a rhetorical vision committed to that vision. The communications challenge is to keep converts from falling away from the rhetorical vision that has sustained the group. If the rhetorical vision is flexible enough, symbolic fantasies can be re-constructed using new characters, plot lines, and scenes. [Bormann, Cragan and Shields 1996: 13] If not, little or no accommodation is made to change features of the rhetorical vision in order to deal with changes in the world around a group, and the predominate rhetorical strategy is preservation. However, preservation may not work as a strategy and failure to adapt the vision may lead to its inability to maintain group consciousness.

An FTA of Apocalyptic Discourse in 1 Thessalonians

To offset those problems, Paul has to elaborate certain fantasy themes in order that the group raise its consciousness beyond the here and now and see the full power of his vision. In effect he has to remind his audience of earlier dramatizing messages and build new ones that will help them chain out new fantasies concerning their ultimate fate and the what is expected of them in the meantime. By doing so he would expect to extend the power of his rhetorical vision by making it theirs.

There appear to be three major fantasy themes in the letter: imitation of persons crucial to the life of the community (1:5-6; 2:4; 2:14), persecution that resulted from that behavior (1:6; 2:2; 2:14-16; 2:18; 3:3; 3:7), and vindication in the form of glorification that will come if the Thessalonians remain faithful and persist in that behavior (1:10; 3:13; 4:6; 4:13; 5:1-9; 5:23). These themes share aspects of the elements of apocalyptic argumentation outlined by Robert Hall: a claim to inspiration, revelation of divine judgement against unrighteousness, exhortation to join the realm of the righteous and reject unrighteousness, and expectation of righteous activity. [Hall 1996: 436]

It is important to distinguish between the two levels of dramatizing messages in this letter: earlier messages that have been accepted by the group and incorporated into their consciousness; new messages intended to trigger new chaining important to sustaining the rhetorical vision of the group free of novel distortions. There are at least two major insider cues pointing to earlier messages: the repeated reference to things the Thessalonians "know" and the reference to some form of "persecution."

The topic or insider cue of "knowing" is scattered through out the letter. It functions as a reminder of a dramatizing message in 3:3 4, 4:2 and 5:2. Each of those messages apparently had apocalyptic themes in them: persecution of the faithful, description of righteous behavior necessary to avoid wrath, and eschatological expectation. Furthermore, the knowledge they have had is an "insiders" knowledge; this is made clear by reference to various "outsiders" who have rejected it, oppose it, or act unrighteously (2:14,18; 4:5, 12, 13; 5:6, 15).

The new dramatizing message includes the assurance that Paul had been deeply concerned for them during his enforced separation from them because he recognized that there was more they needed to know in order to be ready for the return of the Lord Jesus (2:18-3:10). This new knowledge includes apocalyptic teaching, based on divine inspiration "a word of the Lord" concerning the Parousia and the Resurrection of the believers who have died. (4:13-18) The reference to grief over the implied death of at least one member of the congregation suggests that the original message and its underlying rhetorical vision had failed to sustain them in the face of death. An insider cue to the old message of Resurrection is used in 4:14, but the larger drama of the Resurrection is elaborated by the apocalyptic images described in 4:16-17. Those who have died in Christ will be resurrected at the same time as the Parousia and accompany the remaining members of the group to meet the Lord in the air. That Paul expects this message to be chained out into the group consciousness is indicated by his exhortation to them to "encourage one another" (parakalei'te ajllhvlou" 4:18) with this new knowledge. Furthermore, the pragmatic result of this new knowledge is a state of readiness for the return of the Lord, an old message that is chained out in 5:2-10.

The narrative of Paul's work among them, which was carried out in the midst of persecution(1:6), presumably of Paul, and the reference to persecution of the Thessalonians themselves (2:14), is meant to remind the Thessalonians of the fantasy theme of imitation of the faithful, both Paul and believers in Judea. The fact that an earlier message had produced this theme can be found in Paul's report that the Thessalonians turned from idols and became a model for believers in Macedonia and Achaia. John Barclay has reviewed the role that persecution played in creating what he calls "apocalyptic excitement" in Thessalonica and points out that the symbolic world created by this excitement is "markedly dualistic," including the "social dualism of 'insiders' and 'outsiders' "[Barclay 1993: 517] Barclay goes on to argue that this excitement enhanced a sense of social alienation from the larger community and thus reinforced an "us versus them" view of their social world. This social dislocation contributed to a dualistic, apocalyptic world view in which "insiders" stood against "outsiders" waiting for future vindication and destruction of the unrighteous. [Barclay 1993: 518]

The new dramatizing message elaborates Paul's insider persona. There is an implied reference to his apostolic persona, his more public persona, in 2:4 and 7, but he is careful to remind the Thessalonians that his "public" face, which could invite comparison with others (2:5-6), is different from their experience of his work while he was with them. It is the private, insider Paul, the loving father (2:11), they should remember and imitate. The nature of that imitation is elaborated upon in 4:9-12. Although he does not say so explicitly in this letter, it is clear from other letters that Paul thought of himself as God-taught (e.g. Gal 1:1-2, 11-12; Rom 1:1-6). He now identifies them as taught by God to love one another (4:9). They have done so (4:10) and can continue to do so by imitating the insider persona of Paul. But he also implies that they have to modify, or at least be more attentive to their public persona. They need to live quietly, minding their own business, and avoiding confrontation with outsiders (4:11-12). Again, the pragmatic result of this new message is sanctification, a state of purity, that will make them able to participate in the Resurrection (5:23).

Now to look more directly at the apocalyptic discourse in the letter, for it is by the use of that type of argumentation that Paul seeks to sustain the consciousness of the group.

I see the following as the major sections of apocalyptic discourse.

1Ths. 1:4-10 [knowing], brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

1Ths. 2:17-20 As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you in person, not in heart we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!

1Ths. 3:12-13 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1Ths. 4:13-17 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangels call and with the sound of Gods trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

1Thes 5:1-10 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!
But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.

1Ths. 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Although claims of inspiration are not as explicit here as they are, e.g. , in the Galatian letter, references to the gospel coming to the Thessalonians "in power and in the Holy Spirit" (1:5) and to the fact that the Thessalonians have been "God taught" (4:9) imply some form of inspiration having been experienced by members of the community. Paul himself claims inspiration indirectly by his reminding the Thessalonians that he seeks to please God, not man; and that he speaks the word of the Lord (4:15). He also claims warrant for his authority from God (4:8).

Whether or not one could argue that there is evidence of a "divine revelation" against unrighteousness manifest in the argument in the letter, clearly such teaching occurs. Reference to "the coming wrath"(1:10) and the function of the Lord as an "avenger" (4:6) imply an earlier dramatizing message against unrighteousness. These references are complemented by the message to reject unrighteous behavior, including the need for "holiness" and to remain "blameless" before God at the coming of the Lord (3:13, 5:23), the need to be protected in the struggle against "darkness" (5:8), and the need to abstain from evil (5:22).

Pragmatic discourse (4:3-6a; 4:9-12; 5:11-22) is interleaved with apocalyptic discourse in those sections outlining an expectation of righteous activity. The whole argumentative unit, 4:2 5:23 has been called the Probatio by some rhetorical critics [Wanamaker 1990: 146-204; Watson 1999: 72-78]. It is typical to identify it as the paranetic section of the letter (e.g., Bruce 1982: 77]. However one identifies the unit as a whole, discursively it functions in part to detail the content of righteous behavior and point towards the consequences of failure to behave righteously. It is within this unit that Paul seems to make his most direct argument for the consequences of ignoring his rhetorical vision: rejection of God (4:8), exposure to the wrath of God (4:6, 5:9), and collapse of insider ethics (4:10b-12; 5:12-22).

Now to look at some important details of the argumentation.

The argument beginning in 1:4 is the second element in "case-result" form of argumentation. It is the case that Paul gives thanks for Thessalonians, with the result that he (a) remembers them (mnhmoneuvonte" uJmw'n) before God and (b) knows (ei[dote") that they are the elect of God. This knowledge is confirmed by their behavior in receiving the Spirit and becoming imitators of Paul, with the result that their faith is known throughout Macedonia and Achaia. Among the things reported about them is their hospitality, their conversion from paganism, and their expectation of the Parousia. These three things are cited as expressions of their faith, and all three will be the topic of elaboration in chapters four and five. The presence of these topics in 1:2 10, as has been pointed out frequently before, is characteristic of the function of the thanksgiving period of the letter, and the whole section is epistolary discourse.

However, 1:9-10 introduce topics associated with apocalyptic discourse and is part of the topography of the argument laid out first in 1:3. Donfried has argued that the reference in 1:9, to "turning from idols" may refer to abandoning such cults as those of Dionysius and Cabrius, as well as the imperial cult of Caesar. [Donfried 1985: 338-347] A direct reference to idol worship is part of the cultural intertexture of the argument, but it also has elements of an historical intertexture and might have reminded some hearers of the Maccabean period. In any case, as Barclay makes clear, such action would have caused considerable problems for believers, including the possible charge of treason and anti-social behavior. [Barclay 1993: 514-518] Such a radical turning away from the world and its political and religious institutions would be characteristic of a group who thought themselves to be already living in the end time. That perspective is enforced by the reference to the expectation of the Parousia and attendant events in 1:10.

There are two apocalyptic insider cues in this verse: the Son from heaven (to;n uiJo;n aujtou' ejk tw'n oujranw'n) and the coming wrath (ojrgh'" th;" ejrcomevnh"). Although Paul uses the phrase, "his son," eight other times (Rom. 1:3,9; 5:10; 8:29; 1Cor 1:9; Gal. 1:16; 4:4, 6), this is the only occurrence in an eschatological context. Wanamaker suggests that the phrase, "from heaven," is added both to indicate the place of the Lord's present rule and to remind the Thessalonians of Paul's earlier mission proclamation that promised, " the return of Jesus from heaven to complete the eschatological beliefs begun with the resurrection." [Wanamaker 1990: 87] From my point of view the insider cue of "his Son" is recontextualized with the addition of "from heaven" to elaborate an earlier dramatizing message of the resurrection -- thus reason for the insertion of the stylistically clumsy "whom he raised from the dead" (1:10b) -- and adds to the texture of Paul's rhetorical vision.

It appears that Paul has reconfigured Jewish traditions concerning the "wrath of God." Sjöberg and Stählin argue that in late Judaism historical examples of the operation of God's wrath are used as precursors for eschatological wrath [Sjöberg/Stählin 1954: 416]. However, that claim can't be made from this verse alone. The configuration of 2:16 and 5:9 with this teaching suggests that the wrath that has come "fully" or "at last" on the persecutors of Paul and the Christian churches of Judea and Thessalonica is an example of the wrath from which righteous believers will be spared at the return of the Lord. The problem is, of course, that we dont know the nature of the wrath Paul mentions in 2:16! Perhaps it is nothing more that the state of unbelief that will result in having to suffer the coming wrath. God will turn the tables on the persecutors who will experience God's just and righteous wrath just as the unrighteous have always suffered the wrath of God.

The noun orgh' is used in the undisputed Pauline literature only in 1 Thessalonians and Romans. From the point of view of SCT, it is possible to argue that 1:10 was is fact chained out by Paul in Romans 2 and 3. There we find a much more elaborate description of the same kind of teaching found in 1 Thessalonians 1 and 5. Therefore, we might be able to reason that Paul had, from a very early time in his preaching, been consistent in teaching that unrighteous behavior led to exposure to the wrath of God while righteousness, both as a product of belief and a way of life, protected the believer from that wrath of God. But the addition of the qualifying phrase, th;" ejrcomevnh", distinguishes between "wrath" as the operation of God's judgment against the unrighteous within history and makes it clear that Paul is referring to the final judgment that will occur at the time of the Parousia. The distinction can be seen by Paul's reference to "wrath" in 2:16.

The discourses in 2:17-20, 3:12-13, and 5:23, refer to the status of believers at the coming of the Lord Jesus (Christ). In 2:19-20, the "believer" is Paul who seems to see the righteous behavior of the Thessalonians as evidence for the success of his mission and therefore as eschatologically significant for him. This view of converts as apologia pro sua vita can be seen in other places in his letters (Romans 1:13; 1 Cor 9:2; Phil 4:1) and here, as in Galatians 2:2, he expresses concern that something or someone, in the case of the Thessalonians, the Tempter (oj peiravzwn), had caused his work to be "in vain"(eij" kevnon) (3:5). [Bruce 1982: 56] However, the apocalyptic nature of the argument suggests that Paul reconfigured the figure of Satan or the Tempter, whose typical work of hindering the operation of the will of God in the course of history now has cosmic consequences. The implication (3:12-13 and 5:23) for cooperating with the work of Satan is that believers who do so will not be holy and blameless at the time of the Parousia.

The teaching in 4:13-17 is the only new information conveyed in the entire letter. Old dramatizing messages have been elaborated or reconfigured, but this material is not only identified as new (4:13) but seems to fit the category of teaching mentioned in 3:10, providing something they lacking in their faith. Alan Segal makes the claim that in this passage Paul "forever alters" the quality of apocalyptic prophecies of the resurrection. [Segal 1998: 401] Resurrection is not only the fate of Jesus, but of also of those who have died in Christ. Their resurrection will occur shortly after the Parousia(4:16), which is described here as an, " explicit second coming bodily to earth from heaven on clouds of glory." [Mearns 1981:144]

The analogies for basic elements of the passage can be found in older apocalyptic texts like Daniel 12:1-3. There the "wise" who are "asleep" shall "awake" and receive "everlasting life." But the teaching about Resurrection is reconfigured here by the word of the Lord (ejn lovgw/ kurivou 4:15). The fantasy theme of Resurrection, which he undoubtedly preached while he was in Thessalonica [Gillman 1985: 270-271], is chained out by a new dramatizing message that describes the fate of all believers at the time of the Parousia. Paul moves beyond Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic teaching about the living being assumed into heaven and consoles the Thessalonians with a new message that those who have died in Christ will also be part of the assumption that occurs at the Parousia. [Wanamaker 1990: 165-166] Paul needs to extend the trajectory of Resurrection from Jesus, to those who have died in Christ, to those who are alive at his coming. In light of this new understanding of the function of resurrection -- not judgement but vindication and transition into glory -- it is possible to argue that Paul's resurrection theology is grounded in apocalypticism. [Segal 1998:402-405; compare Longenecker 1985: 89]

Although the assertion in 5:1 and 2 makes appear that the Thessalonians know about the Day of the Lord, an insider cue that must have been part of an earlier dramatizing message, it also appears that the Thessalonians have not understood Paul's earlier teaching and may have chained out the fantasy to teach that that Day had already come. Perhaps the Thessalonians had understood Paul to say that Jesus's appearance as Lord to him and the other apostles constituted the substance of the Day of the Lord and that the Parousia would be the time of vindication of the righteous. Paul has to reconstruct the temporal relations between these two events while maintaining their distinctiveness, and to argue for balance and perspective in interpreting experiences influencing the Thessalonians social and political world. It may well be that at the time Paul wrote this letter, he expected that the Parousia would occur in his lifetime (4:17) [Wanamaker 1990: 172-173], but he had also to make clear that the Day of the Lord had not occurred and in fact may be imminent (5:6). Again, this apocalyptic teaching gives imperative to morality. The future defines the pragmatic present.

Argumentatively 5:1-10 serves to dramatize the responsibility of those who are "awake" and waiting for the return of the Lord. The metaphors Paul uses to do so shift during the course of the argument. The initial metaphor is one containing the elements of surprise or even stealth, the activity of a "thief in the night." That image is elaborated to include loss of peace and security. At 5:4 the metaphor has to do with the location or condition of the believer. They are not in darkness but are children of the light. This state of being is characterized as one of sobriety, wakefulness, and preparedness.

The use of the hortatory subjunctive in 5:6 and 8 follows on the declaration in 5:5b that the righteous are "not of the night or of darkness." The switch in the pronominal in 5:5b is significant. Paul's use of the insider cue of "children of light" in 5:5a is elaborated by inclusion of himself with the Thessalonians, "we are not " This reinforces the theme of imitation and implies that the Thessalonians somehow share Paul's insider persona. It reinforces the idea that Paul is in solidarity with them despite his absence from them. He is part of their social world, sharing their dislocation and the consequent persecution, and sharing their need to be vigilant!

The use of the insider cue word "wrath" in 5:9, recontextualizes the metaphors of "light", "night", "day" and "darkness." The original context was righteous behavior in daily life. That seems clear from the paranetic instruction in 4:3-12. The new context is the Day of the Lord. Children of the light are ready for the Day. Righteousness is an eschatological condition. As such it is now possible to understand that death doesn't affect the status of being children of light. Even when believers are "asleep", they live with the Lord (5:10).

Conclusion
An empirical analysis of the narrative discourse in the letter has led some commentators to portray the situation in Thessalonica as deeply troubled. They had experienced some form of persecution; their founder was unable to visit them and was worried about their response to persecution; one or more of their members had died before the return of the Lord Jesus; their community was having trouble fully enacting moral principles they had been taught. A fantasy theme analysis of the apocalyptic discourse of the letter has shown that the Thessalonians had shared in a rhetorical vision that promised them a glorious future and helped them participate in the larger people of God by giving a value system to share and models to imitate. The drama of the Resurrection and the Parousia changed their understanding of their destiny and provided motivation for holy and blameless living. It also created a new social reality and with it a new understanding of how they were to live in a chosen community and to interact with the non- elect outsider. Paul redefines the preferred location of believers and the believing community in the prevailing social order. He affirms their social reality as that of "insiders" but argues that that does not relieve them of responsible behavior when dealing with the outside world as well. Insider persona entails maintenance of group boundary conditions, observance of group value systems, and an discrete behavior in the outside community. God is the judge of the outsiders, whose wrath is manifest temporally and eschatologically. The morality and destiny of the insider is defined by the future and enacted in the present as they wait for the Day of the Lord. Eschatology becomes the hermeneutic that allows believers to understand history and be confident of their destiny.

Apocalyptic discourse is also used to sustain Paul's rhetorical vision and provide enhanced fantasy themes to help the Thessalonians share in it. His original vision included instruction on the consequences of becoming part of the eschatological people of God. However, the exigence of the death of one or more church members required him to elaborate that vision so that the future could empower morality and not undermine it. That this was important to Paul personally can be seen in 2:18 3:13. Dunn says that 4:13 18 is, " the single clearest statement of [Paul's] parousia belief."[Dunn 1998: 299] To that observation it should be added that this passage and his teaching on the Day of the Lord (5:1-10) are bracketed by paranetic material. Apocalyptic teaching is at the heart of ethics; righteousness is the pragmatic expression of apocalypticism. This is the substance of eschatological hope!
Thus despite the troubling aspects of their situation, the Thessalonians had reason for hope and could be motivated to engage in further discourse among themselves about the implications of their shared rhetorical vision. Furthermore, as 5:10-22 demonstrate, hope was the foundation for sustaining not only the inner symbolic of members of the community but also the pragmatic operations of daily communal life.

Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT) and Fantasy Theme Analysis (FTA)

A Glossary

Symbolic Convergence Theory: a general theory of communication that attempts to offer an explanation the presence of a common consciousness on the part of members of a group. It posits that the sharing of group fantasies and the chaining out of those fantasies is responsible for that consciousness and group cohesiveness. As fantasies are "dramatized," a convergence of symbols on which participants agree occurs, and fantasy themes and fantasy types help the group understand unexpected, confusing, or even chaotic events or experiences. The process of convergence creates social reality for the group until new exigences cause new fantasies and moments of sharing, which in turn produce new group realities. These realities provide the underlying assumptions used by the group in discursive argumentation.

Fantasy Theme Analysis: a method of rhetorical criticism designed to analyze and describe the rhetorical artifacts produced by symbolic convergence, not just in small group communication but also in social movements, political campaigns, etc. Analysis focuses on the content of message and the relationship among message elements.

Dramatizing Message (DM): a story that contains a pun, double entendre, personification, figure of speech, analogy, anecdote, allegory, fable or narrative. The story often deals with past conflict or the potential of future conflict and is thus set in time references of somewhere/sometime rather than the here-and-now. It is based on some original facts. A DM is the basis for group fantasy sharing. If it is accepted by the group and is chained out in a process of elaboration and other responses, then it becomes a group fantasy. Acceptance may be due to the rhetorical skill of the one conveying the message.

Fantasy: "The creative and imaginative shared interpretation of events that fulfills a group's psychological and rhetorical need to make sense out of its experience and anticipate its future." [Bormann 1990: 104] Fantasies are dramatic re-constructions of past events and experiences that create a social reality for a group and its participants.

Fantasy "chains" are created when a group member tells about an experience, or event, and others who shared in that experience add their view of it until it becomes the experience of the group.

Fantasy sharing is a means whereby groups establish identity and set boundary conditions for identifying insiders from outsiders. It is also a way in which group history and traditions are developed, thus enabling the group to think of itself as unique. [Bormann 1990: 115]

Fantasy Theme (FT): Themes become part of the group consciousness; are artistic and organized; and are slanted, ordered, and interpretive. As a result, they provide a way for two or more groups of people to explain an event in different ways. An illustration of an FT is, "Illegal immigrants consume more in social services than they contribute in taxes."

Fantasy Type (fT): a general scenario that covers several concrete fantasy themes. This scenario may be repeated with similar characters and may take the same form. It can be generalized so that characters become persona who act in predictable fashion. Rhetors simply make use of a familiar type and the audience fills in the particulars. "Fantasy types allow a group to fit new events or experiences into familiar patterns." [Foss 1989: 292] An example of a fantasy type is, "The American Dream," or "Family Values."

Rhetorical Vision (RV): a unified construction of themes and types that gives those sharing fantasy types and themes a broader view of things. A rhetorical vision may be indexed by a symbolic cue or key word. A number of rhetorical visions can be integrated by means of a master analogy. [Foss 1989: 293] Seven principles apply to all rhetorical visions: novelty, explanatory power, imitation, critical mass, dedication, rededication, and reiteration. [Bormann, Cragan and Shields 1996: 25] It is a rhetorical vision that can attract and help integrate larger groups of people into a common symbolic reality. [Cragan and Shields 1981: 6]

Sanctioning agent: "The source which justifies the acceptance and promulgation of a rhetorical drama." [Cragan and Shields 1981: 7] Agent can refer to an external source of authority like God or to a dominant feature of a culture or a moment in history, like a war or the Crucifixion.

FTA Elements in 1 Thessalonians

A Preliminary Taxonomy

Fantasy Type: Eschatological Hope

Fantasy Themes:

(1) Imitation of faithful and reliable persons or groups: 1:5-6; 2:3-13

(2) Persecution experienced by heroes of the faith and by believers who imitate those heroes: 2:1-2; 2:14-16; 3:1-7

(3) Vindication of the pure and holy in the form of "escape" from coming wrath, which takes place in the form of resurrection of the dead and ascension of all believers to "heaven": 4:2 -5:10

Rhetorical Vision

Present Persecution: both Paul and church have suffered it to some degree and Paul's message is and has been that persecution is the lot of the believer.

Praxis: fantasy has practical side that has to be expressed if vindication is to be experienced and the wrath of God avoided. ("You know..." what has to be done.)

Future Glory: it is the past that guarantees future outcomes; present events and experiences do not. (All you need is more description of the future so that you can make sense of the present.)

Master Analog for Rhetorical Vision: Resurrection of the Dead/Ascension of Believers

Goal of Rhetorical Vision: maintenance of fantasy chain, thereby sustaining group consciousness: 5:11 22

Some Major Insider Cue Words: Faith, Love, Hope, Knowing, Holiness, Affliction, Resurrection

 

Paying Taxes to Caesar
Matthew 22:15-22
15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
18But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
21"Caesar's," they replied.
Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
22When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

 

First Thoughts on Passages from Matthew in the Lectionary

Pentecost 22

William Loader

Pentecost 22: 20 October Matthew 22:15-22

The is one of the most famous of all anecdotes told about Jesus and one that is frequently misunderstood. It lends itself to being used to justify a separation of the affairs of religion and the affairs of commerce and government. This is why the church ought not to be involved in anything that has to do with politics, they say. Religion is for the private sphere. In the same way 'My kingdom is not of this world' (John 18:36) serves to bolster the view that the church is about getting to heaven, not about how things are run here. By appealing to such interpretations, some politicians resort to telling the church to get back into its box when it asks difficult questions.

I am sure Matthew would be astonished at such interpretation. He has just been giving a theological commentary on social and political events which had rocked his community, the sacking of Jerusalem. It was almost impossible to separate politics and religion in Israel, because the Old Testament sanctioned national interest and national institutions, not least the temple system. This was why the question made sense, mischievous as it was. It was a big issue. What do you do about Rome, the pagan power, which now controlled the promised land and in the eyes of many polluted it? Do you pay taxes to such a regime? Does that not sanction the power? Withholding taxes was one of the ploys advocated by devout rebels of the day. What is a person to do? What were Christians in Nazi Germany to do?

The Pharisees were generally experts in knowing how to apply the Scriptures to everyday life so they knew this was a highly controversial issue which was likely to expose the naivete of uneducated preachers. The link with the Herodians is interesting because it suggests collusion between at least some Pharisees and the supporters of the family and descendants of Herod who were puppet governors of Jewish territories: Herod Antipas in Galilee in the north and Perea across the Jordan from Jerusalem and Judea; and Philip further north in and beyond Galilee. They were encumbered with the task of quelling riots and dampening down resentment against Rome. A dangerous alliance was confronting Jesus. Mark says the same alliance plotted quite early against Jesus (3:6), but Matthew changed that, omitting mention of the Herodians. But they are here now and hearers of Matthew might have in mind the ugly story of Herod the Great and his murderous intent, played out in the story of the magi in chapter 2. Perhaps Matthew's community is still being administered by one of Herod's line (Agrippa II?).

Jesus' answer is clever, like many of his single responses. Often they take the form of two liners or two parts contrasted or setting each other off. Give the emperor what is the emperor's and to God what is God's. The assumption is that the coin bore an imperial inscription. Jesus' response does not advocate withholding taxes. He is prepared to pay taxes and that his followers do so. This does not mean that such a response is always appropriate. It is impossible to generalise like that from a single anecdote. There will also be times when it is appropriate to throw tables over and drive out money changers.

The quick witted reply of Jesus bristles with ambiguity in its second part: and to God what is God's. It is like some of the parables which evoke penny-dropped experiences or pass over people's heads. One reading does indeed see Jesus dividing reality up; in one area we have one loyalty; in another area we have another. But it all depends on what we mean by 'what is God's'. Surely all things are God's! - almost by definition, if God is God and God is one. Then Jesus' reply is profoundly subversive. If everything is God's, then in all things I will seek God's will and that will entail measuring all things, including governments, by the vision Jesus has given us of God's rule or kingdom. God's compassion knows no bounds, so it will always be an irritant to regimes which stifle it and it will stand in conflict with oppressors, whoever and wherever they are.

This is why Christians of the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany challenged the Nazi ideology and its practices. Others justified keeping their vows to the state by using such texts to divide up reality into compartments. But there would not have been any Christian to tell the tale if the Confessing Christians had not exercised discretion in the way they resisted the government. Jesus was not stupid either, when confronted with the invitation to suicide for his cause, as here. Hence the deliberate ambiguity of his reply. Strategies for change in society require common sense. Jesus was not joining those who had reached such a point of religious despair that they saw the call to open conflict as the only option. Their ascendancy brought Israel down and devastated its heartland.

With this passage we must expose the fallacy of dividing reality into God's area and other areas. It invites us to reflect on this primarily in relation to big issues of the day. It also relates closely to individual spirituality: 'Seven whole days not one in seven...' Let the transforming love of God also affect my relationships, my budget, my planning; our family, our congregation, our community, our nation, our world! The words of the testers spoken in patronising sarcasm (22:16) were in fact correct; he teaches the way of God in truth!

Matthew 22:15-22
Proper 24 A - Year A

Other texts:Exodus 33:12-23 with Psalm 99 or Isaiah 45:1-7 with Psalm 96:1-9,1-13; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Upcoming dates: 17 Oct 1999; 20 Oct 2002; 16 Oct 2005

The last three weeks we have looked at parables about doing (or not doing) what God (father/landowner/king) wanted: sons working in the vineyard, tenants giving the owner the fruit, and invitees accepting the king's invitation to his son's wedding feast.

With our text, we move out of the parable world into real life: death and taxes! Our text is about taxes. It is followed with a question from the Sadducees about death (and resurrection) (22:23-33).

The parables talk about God's authority. Our text is almost like a case study in applying God's authority to the real life situation of paying taxes.

TAXES

There are four different words used in the NT for taxes.

The most general is "telos" (used of "taxes" in Mt 17:25; Ro 13:7)
The word in our text "kensos" is borrowed from Latin ("census") which was a tax paid by each adult to the government (Mt 17:25; 22:17, 19; Mk 12:14).
The word used in Luke's parallel "phoros" is the payment made by the people of one nation to another, with the implication that this is a symbol of submission and dependence. (Lu 20:22; 23:2; Ro 13:6, 7).
The final word, "didrachmon," refers to the annual temple tax of two drachmos required from each male Jew (Mt 17:5).

My impression is that the "kensos" in our text is nothing quite like any of our taxes -- neither income, property, nor sales tax. The "Oxford Companion" admits that we know few details about this tax, but says: "... it consisted of a flat-rate personal tax on all men from age fourteen and women from age twelve to age sixty-five and was levied at least at the rate of one denarius (about a day's wage) per year. Later (we do not know when) it was combined with a percentage tax on property."

We need to keep in mind that Jews living in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus was nothing like living in America in the 20th century. Their God-given home-land was under foreign occupation. According to Boring (New Interpreters Bible), the "census tax," which was instituted in 6 CE when Judea became a Roman province, "triggered the nationalism that finally became the Zealot movement, which fomented the disastrous war of 66-70." There are some similarities to our historic "Boston Tea Party" -- except that the "American Zealots" won -- but later the Native American Zealots usually lost.

We also need to keep in mind that Christians living in the Roman Empire near the end of the first century (the time of Matthew's gospel) was nothing like living in America in the 20th century. Christianity was an illegal religion, which occasionally resulted in persecution and death to the believers. While I don't believe there was severe persecution at the time of Matthew, there had been a few years earlier when Nero was emperor. That would make questions about paying taxes to the government even more crucial.

In both settings, the annual payment of this tax to Rome was a painful reminder of being in lands occupied by foreign powers who worshiped false gods. The tax could only be paid with Roman coins which were not just legal tender but also pieces of propaganda. Most of the coins contained an image of the Caesar with inscriptions proclaiming him to be divine or the son of a god. One common phrase during the time of Jesus was: "Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest." "Graven images" and polytheism were blasphemous to both Jews and Christians. Thus paying taxes raised both political and religious issues.

IRONIC WORDS?

There is great irony in the complements given to Jesus. They say that he is "true" ("sincere" in NRSV, also meaning "truthful, honest, real, genuine"). A related word is used in: "You teach the way of God in *truth*." The next two lines are idiomatic. Literally: "It is not a concern to you about anyone; for you are not looking at the face of people." Paraphrastically, Jesus does not let other people determine his teaching or actions.

While we hear the Herodians (uncertain who they are) and disciples of the Pharisees say these things about Jesus, we also know that they are being untruthful. They address him as teacher and praise his genuine teaching, but they aren't seeking instruction or dialogue with Jesus. They are part of the Pharisees' plot to trap him with his words. Later (v. 18) Jesus describes them as "malicious" or "evil" ("poneria"), "testing" or "tempting" ("peirazo") him, and "hypocrites".

Their comments are also ironical because Jesus is concerned about other people, specifically in our text, the evil intentions of those who ask the question. That certainly colors the way he answers them. When the question of the temple tax came up earlier, Jesus gives quite a different answer to Peter (17:24-27).

Some have also suggested that Jesus' response is ironic -- he doesn't literally mean what he says. I could, perhaps, imagine a sarcastic: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar," but a serious, "Give to God what belongs to God." However, I will approach these verses as meaning what they say, rather than an ironic retort.

WHAT ARE WE TO GIVE BACK?

The word "give" in Jesus' answer, can mean "give back" ("apodidomi"). The word was used in the sense of "paying back" a debt in the parable of the unforgiving servant (18:25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 34). While not literally a "pay back," the word was used of the new tenants who will "give" the owner the fruit at the proper time (21:41). The word carries the sense of giving that which already belongs to the other person.

That thought is also conveyed with the phrases, "The things of Caesar" and "The things of God." The genitive case can denote possession -- the things that belong to Caesar or God. How do we know what things belong to Caesar? They have his image ("Head" in NRSV) on them! How do we know what things belong to God? They have God's image on them!

The word for "image" ("eikon") is used in the LXX in Gen 1:26-27:

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our *image*, according to our likeness; . . . . So God created humankind in his *image*, in the *image* of God he created them; male and female he created them.
And in Gen 5:1: "This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind, he made them in the *likeness* of God."
And in Gen 9:6: ". . . for in his own *image* God made humankind."

What are we to give to God? The things stamped with God's image -- us! We are to give God ourselves -- our whole selves -- not just some part.

Some may give God their minds, but have hearts far from God. Some may give God their hearts, but are unwilling to learn from God in the Word Some may give God their muscles, but are unwilling to bring their bodies to worship or education classes. Many give God 1 or 2 hours a week, but God wants all 168 hours a week. Many give God 2% of their income, perhaps think about 10% but God wants 100%.

We cannot say that "this part belongs to God, so I will give it to God." Everything we are and everything we have belongs to God. Everything we are and everything we have we are to give (back) to God. We are but mere managers or stewards of these gifts God has given to us.

Properly managing the money God has given us means some of it is to go to the government. Jesus does say to give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. Our First Lesson (Isaiah 45:1-7) gives the example of Cyrus, a governmental leader (of Persia), who was not a believer in Yahweh, yet who was God's anointed ("messiah"!), who would free the Israelites from their bondage in Babylonia. Governmental officials, even unbelieving ones, can be agents to bring about God's will on earth.

At the same time, I think that we as Christians and congregations need to struggle with our relationship with the State. What gods does our state worship and promote? I am very uncomfortable when they talk about a law against desecrating the flag. If it can be "desecrated," that implies that it is something "sacred". Should congregations voluntarily pay some taxes if they expect services from the police or fire departments?

About 20 years ago I attended a workshop on stewardship. The presenter made a comment that has stuck with me. He stated that he always makes it a point to give more to his church through his offerings than he gives to the government through his taxes. That was a way he could indicate the place of his greater allegiance. I'm not suggesting this as a new law, but I think that we all need to struggle with how we apply God's authority over us -- doing what God would have us do -- in our everyday lives, which include death and taxes.

Brian Stoffregen, Rock Springs, WY
e-mail: stffrgn@sweetwater.net
ICQ #18545384

In a famous passage about taxes, Jesus said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:13-17; the same passage appears, slightly modified, in Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26).

Over the centuries, many Christians have based their attitudes toward government on this passage. Some have thought that Jesus' statement establishes two separate realms, Caesar's and God's, and that people should render to each what they ask for in their respective realms. This interpretation strikes many Americans as obviously correct, given our separation of church and state.

Yet in their historical context, these words of Jesus had little to do with taxation or political authority in general. Jews in the first century paid several taxes: tithes to the Temple (averaging about 21% a year), customs taxes, and taxes on land. The people identified as Jesus' opponents were not questioning taxes in general. Their question was more specific: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?"

Caesar, the emperor of Rome, was the head of an imperial domination system. Rome took control of the Jewish homeland in 63 B.C.E. and ruled it through client kings (such as Herod and his sons) and Roman governors.

This domination system benefited the elites who created it. Wealth in the ancient world came primarily from farms. Through a combination of taxation and ownership of farm land, the Roman and native elites of the first century (and most centuries) extracted about two-thirds of agricultural production. The farmers who produced it (90% of the population) got the remaining one-third, leaving them with a subsistence (or worse) level of existence.

The tax in question was the annual tribute tax to Rome. Jews were divided about this tax. The Temple authorities and their retainers (including Temple scribes) collaborated with Roman rule and endorsed the tax. But Jews sympathetic to the resistance to Roman authority rejected it. Such refusal was the equivalent of sedition.

The question put to Jesus was a trap. Either a yes or no answer would have gotten Jesus in trouble. "Yes" would have discredited him with those who found the imperial domination system reprehensible and unacceptable. "No" would have made him subject to arrest for sedition.

Jesus avoided the trap with two moves. First, he asked his opponents for a coin. When they produced one, Jesus looked at it and asked, "Whose image and inscription is this?"

It was, of course, an image of Caesar (presumably of Tiberius, the current Caesar). Moreover, its inscription heralded Tiberius as "son of the divine Augustus" (that is, son of a divine being) and would have been offensive to many Jews.

Not all coins in the Jewish homeland had images of Caesar, or any other kind of graven image. Out of respect for Jewish law, coins minted by Herod the Great and his son Herod Antipas did not. Many devout Jews avoided using coins with images. Thus, by eliciting from his opponents a coin with a graven image, Jesus discredited them with at least some in the crowd.

The coin bearing Caesar's image set up Jesus' second move, the famous saying itself: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

In context, the saying is thoroughly ambiguous. The word "render" means "give back." The first half of the saying could thus mean, "It's Caesar's coin--go ahead and give it back to him." We can imagine Jesus saying this with a dismissive shrug. Rather than a pronouncement about the legitimacy of Roman imperial rule or political authority in general, his words might very well have been a brilliant way of evading the trap.

When its second half is added, the phrase remains equally ambiguous. What belongs to Caesar, and what belongs to God? The possible answers range from "Pay your tribute tax to Caesar, and your temple tax to God" to "Everything belongs to God." If the latter, what is owed to Caesar? Nothing. But the text itself provides no clue as to what was meant.

Jesus responded in a deliberately enigmatic way in order to avoid the trap set by his opponents. His response was never meant to be figured out. Rather, in this passage as in several others, we see his deft debating skill.

Thus this text offers little or no guidance for tax season. It neither claims taxation is legitimate nor gives aid to anti-tax activists. It neither counsels universal acceptance of political authority nor its reverse.

But it does raise the provocative and still relevant question: What belongs to God, and what belongs to Caesar? And what if Caesar is Hitler, or apartheid, or communism, or global capitalism? What is to be the attitude of Christians toward domination systems, whether ancient or modern?

WORSHIP THAT WORKS
Selected Sermons

TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A - Proper 24
Sermon for that Day

Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96 or 96:1-9; I Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

by the Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek



Bring Offerings and Come Into God's Courts

Who first said, "Show me the money?" No, not Cuba Gooding, Jr, but in today's Gospel, it is Jesus who says, "Show me the money ... used for the tax!" (RSV) The Gospel is not about the separation of church and state. Such a thing never would have occurred to anyone in first century Israel. What it is, is very funny! The religious and political authorities tried to set a trap for Jesus and ended up being hoist upon their own petard!

Jesus, rather than answering their question directly asks them a question, thus turning their trap inside out and upside down. By simply producing a coin with the emperor's image on it, they have exposed their own hypocrisy. It amounted to an idol, a graven image claiming to be divine. Then, never missing the teachable moment, Jesus declares, "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's!"

"Oops! I guess we are no match for this guy," they say to themselves, and slink away.

For after all, what is there that is not God's? What is there that is not from God? Seen and unseen, we say, God has made it all, and continues to make new and marvelous things for all of us. Which is why we sing in our Psalm this morning, "Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord all the whole earth ...declare his glory among the nations, and his wonders among the peoples... As for all the gods of the nations they are but idols..."

Idols are what the Pharisees and Herodians were carrying in their pockets -- gold and silver, money cast as religion.

The Bible gets really worked up over this business of idols. And it has to do with where one places one's security base: with the God of the Exodus and Resurrection, or with the gods of money, commerce, property, accumulation, acquisition, and consumption?

Much of the Bible reflects on this question. And Jesus talks about this more than any other single topic after the Kingdom of God. And the question really revolves around life's hard places. In the Bible the "hard places" would be wilderness, exile, and crucifixion. Places of experienced abandonment, scarce resources, enslavement to a place or a system, and so on. So who or what is going to save you in the end, is the primary question of faith.

Since Jesus makes a joke out of the situation, we might reflect on one of the funnier places in the Bible to work on this, Psalm 115, which paraphrased goes something like this:

Our God is in heaven
And our God gets to do whatever he wants to
You don't get to vote on it, you don't get to challenge it,
What A God!

Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of human hands
They have mouths and they cannot speak,
They have eyes but they cannot see,
They have ears but they cannot hear,
They have noses but they cannot smell,
They have hands but they cannot feel,
Feet but they cannot walk,
And they cannot make a sound with their throat!

Which is the punch line, because in Hebrew the word for "to make a sound with their throat" means, literally, to clear your throat: unh unh unh!

And the argument of course is that any god that cannot go "unh unh unh" is never going to get you out of Egypt, out of the wilderness, out of exile, or out of the tomb.

So the idea is to commit yourself to the God who has done these marvelous things.

One way we make that commitment is by the gifts we bring to the altar. And we are to sing about it, and we are to proclaim it to all people, and we are to honor his name, and we are to bring offerings when we come into God's courts.

In ancient times people brought sacks of flour, goats, sheep, loaves of bread. We still use bread in some form in the Eucharist. We still recall the life of the ancient church as we place bread on the altar to be taken, blessed, broken and given; bread that recalls the manna in the wilderness, and the "bread of life" who comes down from heaven.

Today we bring our offerings of money and place them on the altar as a reminder that our cash offerings signify our commitment to the ministries of the Gospel, the activities of the Risen Lord. Then with the Bread and the Wine we bless these gifts that they might be sufficient to do the work God in Christ calls us to do in this place and in the world outside these doors.

These gifts are to represent the first fruits of our labors. God asks for the first and the best. We are all tempted at times to keep the first and best of all we have for ourselves. But our God to whom we ascribe honor and worship and praise can take the first and best of all we have and transform it all from what we want to what we need.

An example of how this works is the story First Tomato by Rosemary Wells (Dial Books: New York, 1992). It's about a little bunny named Claire for whom everything is going wrong: she spills her breakfast on the floor, her boots fill with snow, math class goes on for two hours, she cannot do a cartwheel at recess, and the bus is late! It is the wilderness journey and exile all over again in one morning! She needs a trip to the Bunny Planet where the Bunny Queen is Janet, who says:

Here is the day that should have been: I hear my mother calling when the summer wind blows, "Go out in the garden in your old, old clothes. Pick me some runner beans and sugar snap peas. Find a ripe tomato and bring it to me please." A ruby red tomato is hanging on the vine. If my mother didn't want it, the tomato would be mine. It smells of rain and steamy earth and hot June sun. In the whole tomato garden it's the only ripe one. I close my eyes and breathe in its fat, red smell. I wish that I could eat it now and never, never tell. But, I save it for my mother without another look. I wash the beans and shell the peas and watch my mother cook. I hear my mother calling when the summer winds blow, "I've made you First Tomato Soup because I love you so!"

When we offer God the first fruits, the very money and things we want to hold onto, God like the mother in the story transforms those first fruits into what we need most: Soup and Love, whatever that soup represents. Each gift counts. Every pledge enables and empowers ministry. Every pledge, every dollar, touches a human life and brings it closer to God. Every pledge, every dollar given is transformed into Love and First Tomato Soup for someone else and for ourselves.

The smallest gift like the widow's mite can take on the power and proportion of all the gifts together. And we would do well to note that in that story, Jesus sits and watches to see how much each of us puts in the plate!

So this day we are invited to sing to the Lord! We are invited to sing a new song!

That new song might be an increased pledge to the work of Jesus Christ in this place that makes it possible for more people to have their lives touched and changed by the God of Jesus Christ. That new song might be a new pledge made for the first time to make it possible for us to continue to support our new youth groups for our middle and high school age young people.

Our prayer might be that the new song we sing will be that every household in this parish makes a pledge no matter how big or how small to insure that we can do all that is in our power to support one another in our life in Christ, whatever that takes, whenever it is needed. Whatever we do, may we remember to offer to God that which is God's.

And may we always sing new songs with the Psalmist, who prays,

Ascribe to the Lord the Honor due God's name,
Bring offerings and come into God's courts!

Amen! Alleluia!

The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter's Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also travels throughout the church leading stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions.

October 20, 2002
Ordinary Time — Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost — Green

·                     Exodus 33:12-23: Moses prays for the assurance of God's presence as he leads the people. God responds with the promise of ever-abiding presence. Then Moses asks to see God's glory. God responds by allowing Moses to see a partial vision of God.

·                     Psalm 99 (UMH 819)

·                     1 Thessalonians 1:1-10: In Paul's greetings and introductory remarks to the Thessalonians, we learn that they were an example to many of godliness in the face of persecution. They were well spoken of by the people of Macedonia and Achaia because of their faith, joy, and witness.

·                     Matthew 22:15-22: Jesus foils the Pharisees plot to ensnare him with a question about paying taxes. Jesus reminded them and us that God's people live in two worlds.

2. Worship Notes

·                     Calendar: In many churches, this Sunday is set aside for Laity Sunday observances. The General Board of Discipleship's Ministry of the Laity staff prepared additional worship and hymn suggestions for this year's theme, "Welcoming the Stranger."

·                     Compass point: As we approach the end of the Lectionary cycle and look ahead to Advent, we often miss the special graces present in ordinary time. In what ways can you help your congregation experience the presence of God when the church is neither feasting nor fasting?

·                     Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship (UMBOW) with links and other suggestions:

Hymn Suggestions: For music suggestions, see Lectionary Hymns for October 20, 2002. Also see The Faith We Sing Worship Planner edition and the indexes in The United Methodist Hymnal.

Greeting:

§          451 (Psalm)

Opening Prayer:

§          459 (Exodus)

§          462 (Exodus)

§          104, United Methodist Hymnal, "Praising God of Many Names" (Exodus)

Acts of response to the Word:

§          432, Laity Sunday Litany

Confession:

§          480, Prayer of Confession (Exodus)

Concerns and Prayers:

§          518, Prayer for Others (1 Thessalonians)

§          524, Prayer for Strength (Exodus, Psalm)

§          525, Prayer for Wisdom (Matthew)

§          539, Prayer for Disciples in the Marketplace (Matthew)

§          544, Prayer for Leaders (Exodus, Matthew)

Offertory Prayers:

§          For weekly offertory prayers go to: http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?act=reader&item_id=5528&loc_id=9,612

The Great Thanksgiving:

§          70-71, "The Great Thanksgiving for the Season After Pentecost"

Dismissals/Blessings/Benedictions:

§          Dismissal: 559

§          Musical Benediction for Pentecost: 218

3. Online Worship Resources
Note: Listing these sites does not constitute an endorsement on the part of the Center for Worship Resourcing of the General Board of Discipleship. We recognize that they are a few of the many options available on the Internet.

·                                             See "Preaching Helps" for October 20, 2002, on this website for Lectionary-based preaching helps.

·                                             Go to The Text This Week; click on October 20, 2002, and scroll down to "OnLine Worship and Liturgy Resources." There are many resources you can sample and draw upon.

·                                             Contemporary worship settings and digital alternatives. Lumicon creates digital worship resources — imagery based on biblical themes — for congregations with contemporary worship settings. Visit the Lumicon web site to learn about the latest products.

·                                             One good source of clip art online is www.cruzblanca.org/hermanoleon/index.htm. You will find a number of good black and white pieces of clip art at http://www.hermanoleon.org/byn/rc/sim4.htm and a number of good color images at http://www.shalom3d.org/color/hl/si.htm. Please remember to credit the site if you use the art there.

·                                             For guidance in selecting music for worship using United Methodist resources, see Lectionary Hymns for October 20, 2002, on this website.

4. Helpful Print Resources for Planning Worship

·                                             And Also With You (Year A) contains prayers, litanies, artwork, Psalm responses based on familiar hymn tunes. Available from OSL Publications or Cokesbury.

·                                             The United Methodist Music & Worship Planner 2001-2002 by David Bone and Mary Scifres is a very helpful resource for worship planners.

·                                             Abingdon Preaching Annual 2002 contains preaching helps, calls to worship, and prayer helps. For more information, see sample pages, index, and table of contents on Amazon.com's website.

·                                             Revised Common Lectionary Prayers Proposed by the Consultation on Common Texts (Augsburg Fortress, 2002)

*This listing of readings comes from The United Methodist Book of Worship and is adapted from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.

The image above is found at the Cruzblanca website, http://www.shalom3d.org/color/hl/si1cr05.jpg

Worship Planning Helps. Copyright © 2002 The General Board of Discipleship. Any local church or United Methodist agency may reprint any or all of this page as long as the following copyright notice appears:
Copyright © 2002 The General Board of Discipleship. Used with permission.

This page was developed by the staff of the Center for Worship Resourcing of The General Board of Discipleship. If you would like to suggest ways to make "Planning Helps" more useful, please send a comment to Safiya Fosua at sfosua@gbod.org, Dean McIntyre at dmcintyre@gbod.org, or Dan Benedict at dbenedict@gbod.org.

22:15 Entangle means “to snare,” like a trapper catching his prey.

22:16 Nothing is known of the Herodians outside of the Gospels. Judging from their name, they were supporters of the Herodian dynasty in its collaboration with the Roman government. This would put them at the opposite end of the political spectrum from the Pharisees. Yet their common hatred of Christ was great enough that the Pharisees and Herodians joined forces against Him. we know that You . . . teach the way of God in truth: In a way, the Herodians and Pharisees were saying, “You truly teach God’s word, no matter what people think of you.”

22:17 The dilemma is obvious: to side with the Pharisees and risk being accused of insurrection against the Roman government, or to side with the Herodians and lose the favor of the masses. Taxes included an annual tax paid by every Jewish adult to the Roman government. The Jews despised paying this tax to their hated oppressors.

22:18 Test here means “to solicit to evil.” The Lord called the Herodians and Pharisees hypocrites because they falsely pretended to have good intentions.

22:19, 20 The tax money was a denarius, a silver coin with an image of the emperor and the inscription calling him “divine.” The image and inscription were repugnant to the Jews because they hated their Roman overlords and worshiped only the God of Israel.

22:21 In responding to His opponents, the Lord changed the verb they used from “pay” (v. 17) to render, which literally means “to pay back.” Christ’s followers have an obligation to earthly governments and to God. Believers today are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and strangers and sojourners on the earth (see 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11). It is the believers’ responsibility to obey the law of the land until it becomes sinful to do so (see Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17). When the two realms are in conflict, Christians are to follow God (see Acts 4:18–20; 5:29).

     The Sadducees

B ecause their writings have not survived through the ages, little is known about the Sadducees today except what rival groups said about them. What is known is that they were an aristocratic society in Israel that dominated the higher echelons of the priesthood. As landowners, they achieved their power and status from their class and their position as priests, while the Pharisees derived their status mostly from their learning.

Why would the Sadducees deny the resurrection of the body? The Sadducees based their beliefs solely on the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. They did not accept the authority or the canonical status of any other Old Testament books, including the Prophets, the Psalms, and the historical books. These writings were considered Scripture by most Jews at that time. Moreover, the Sadducees rejected the oral traditions that had grown up around the interpretation of the Law. This belief put the Sadducees in direct conflict with the Pharisees, who believed that such tradition was authoritative. Using a literal and strict interpretation of Scripture, the Sadducees rejected many of the beliefs of their contemporaries. For example, they did not find a basis in the Pentateuch for a belief in angels, demons, or an afterlife (see Acts 23:8).

Many of their beliefs and actions may have been derived from their concern over their power, status, and wealth. With no afterlife and no resurrection, there was no need to worry about rewards or punishment in the life to come. In fact, nearly all of Jesus’ teachings would have been viewed as a threat to the Sadducees’ power: from proclaiming His rule in a coming Kingdom to the challenges for radical changes in attitudes toward money and status. These teachings would not have been blasphemous to the ears of the Sadducees, but they were clear rebukes of their opulent lifestyle.

Apparently the Sadducees often argued with the leaders of other sects and ridiculed their beliefs. Thus it was no surprise that they approached Jesus with a question designed to make Jesus’ teaching about the afterlife look preposterous (see 22:23–33; Mark 12:18–27; Luke 20:27–40). Jesus answered His attackers with a few wise words that glaringly revealed the source of their errors. The Sadducees had not studied the Scriptures enough nor contemplated the power of God (see Mark 12:24). Instead of building the intricacies of their theological system, the Sadducees should have humbled themselves before the Almighty and sought the truth in the Scriptures. If they had only cast off their pride and asked God for wisdom, He would have revealed the truth to them in the very Law that they considered authoritative: There is an afterlife, for God is the God of the living (see Ex. 3:6).[1]

Verses 15-22

It was not the least grievous of the sufferings of Christ, that he endured the contradiction of sinners against himself, and had snares laid for him by those that sought how to take him off with some pretence. In these verses, we have him attacked by the Pharisees and Herodians with a question about paying tribute to Caesar. Observe,

I. What the design was, which they proposed to themselves; They took counsel to entangle him in his talk. Hitherto, his encounters had been mostly with the chief priests and the elders, men in authority, who trusted more to their power than to their policy, and examined him concerning his commission (ch. 21:23); but now he is set upon from another quarter; the Pharisees will try whether they can deal with him by their learning in the law, and in casuistical divinity, and they have a tentamen novum—a new trial for him. Note, It is in vain for the best and wisest of men to think that, by their ingenuity, or interest, or industry, or even by their innocence and integrity, they can escape the hatred and ill will of bad men, or screen themselves from the strife of tongues. See how unwearied the enemies of Christ and his kingdom are in their opposition!

1. They took counsel. It was foretold concerning him, that the rulers would take counsel against him (Ps. 2:2); and so persecuted they the prophets. Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah. See Jer. 18:18; 20:10. Note, The more there is of contrivance and consultation about sin, the worse it is. There is a particular woe to them that devise iniquity, Mic. 2:1. The more there is of the wicked wit in the contrivance of a sin, the more there is of the wicked will in the commission of it.

2. That which they aimed at was to entangle him in his talk. They saw him free and bold in speaking his mind, and hoped by that, if they could bring him to some nice and tender point, to get an advantage against him. It has been the old practice of Satan’s agents and emissaries, to make a man an offender for a word, a word misplaced, or mistaken, or misunderstood; a word, though innocently designed, yet perverted by strained inuendos: thus they lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate (Isa. 29:21), and represent the greatest teachers as the greatest troublers of Israel: thus the wicked plotteth against the just, Ps. 37:12, 13.

There are two ways by which the enemies of Christ might be revenged on him, and be rid of him; either by law or by force. By law they could not do it, unless they could make him obnoxious to the civil government; for it was not lawful for them to put any man to death (Jn. 18:31); and the Roman powers were not apt to concern themselves about questions of words, and names, and their law, Acts 18:15. By force they could not do it, unless they could make him obnoxious to the people, who were always the hands, whoever were the heads, in such acts of violence, which they call the beating of the rebels; but the people took Christ for a Prophet, and therefore his enemies could not raise the mob against him. Now (as the old serpent was from the beginning more subtle than any beast of the field), the design was, to bring him into such a dilemma, that he must make himself liable to the displeasure either of the Jewish multitude, or of the Roman magistrates; let him take which side of the question he will, he shall run himself into a premunire; and so they will gain their point, and make his own tongue to fall upon him.

II. The question which they put to him pursuant to this design, v. 16, 17. Having devised this iniquity in secret, in a close cabal, behind the curtain, when they went abroad without loss of time they practised it. Observe,

1. The persons they employed; they did not go themselves, lest the design should be suspected and Christ should stand the more upon his guard; but they sent their disciples, who would look less like tempters, and more like learners. Note, Wicked men will never want wicked instruments to be employed in carrying on their wicked counsels. Pharisees have their disciples at their beck, who will go any errand for them, and say as they say; and they have this in their eyes, when they are so industrious to make proselytes.

With them they sent the Herodians, a party among the Jews, who were for a cheerful and entire subjection to the Roman emperor, and to Herod his deputy; and who made it their business to reconcile people to that government, and pressed all to pay their tribute. Some think that they were the collectors of the land tax, as the publicans were of the customs, and that they went with the Pharisees to Christ, with this blind upon their plot, that while the Herodians demanded the tax, and the Pharisees denied it, they were both willing to refer it to Christ, as a proper Judge to decide the quarrel. Herod being obliged, by the charter of the sovereignty, to take care of the tribute, these Herodians, by assisting him in that, helped to endear him to his great friends at Rome. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were zealous for the liberty of the Jews, and did what they could to make them impatient of the Roman yoke. Now, if he should countenance the paying of tribute, the Pharisees would incense the people against him; if he should discountenance or disallow it, the Herodians would incense the government against him. Note, It is common for those that oppose one another, to continue in an opposition to Christ and his kingdom. Samson’s foxes looked several ways, but met in one firebrand. See Ps. 83:3, 5, 7, 8. If they are unanimous in opposing, should not we be so in maintaining, the interests of the gospel?

2. The preface, with which they were plausibly to introduce the question; it was highly complimentary to our Saviour (v. 16); Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth. Note, It is a common thing for the most spiteful projects to be covered with the most specious pretences. Had they come to Christ with the most serious enquiry, and the most sincere intention, they could not have expressed themselves better. Here is hatred covered with deceit, and a wicked heart with burning lips (Prov. 26:23); as Judas, who kissed, and betrayed, as Joab, who kissed, and killed.

Now, (1.) What they said of Christ was right, and whether they knew it or no, blessed be God, we know it.

[1.] That Jesus Christ was a faithful Teacher; Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth. For himself, he is true, the Amen, the faithful Witness; he is the Truth itself. As for his doctrine, the matter of his teaching was the way of God, the way that God requires us to walk in, the way of duty, that leads to happiness; that is the way of God. The manner of it was in truth; he showed people the right way, the way in which they should go. He was a skilful Teacher, and knew the way of God; and a faithful Teacher, that would be sure to let us know it. See Prov. 8:6-9. This is the character of a good teacher, to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and not to suppress, pervert, or stretch, any truth, for favour or affection, hatred or good will, either out of a desire to please, or a fear to offend, any man.

[2.] That he was a bold Reprover. In preaching, he cared not for any; he valued no man’s frowns or smiles, he did not court, he did not dread, either the great or the many, for he regarded not the person of man. In his evangelical judgment, he did not know faces; that Lion of the tribe of Judah, turned not away for any (Prov. 30:30), turned not a step from the truth, nor from his work, for fear of the most formidable. He reproved with equity (Isa. 11:4), and never with partiality.

(2.) Though what they said was true for the matter of it, yet there was nothing but flattery and treachery in the intention of it. They called him Master, when they were contriving to treat him as the worst of malefactors; they pretended respect for him, when they intended mischief against him; and they affronted his wisdom as Man, much more his omniscience as God, of which he had so often given undeniable proofs, when they imagined that they could impose upon him with these pretences, and that he could not see through them. It is the grossest atheism, that is the greatest folly in the world, to think to put a cheat upon Christ, who searches the heart, Rev. 2:23. Those that mock God do but deceive themselves. Gal. 6:7.

3. The proposal of the case; What thinkest thou? As if they had said, "Many men are of many minds in this matter; it is a case which relates to practice, and occurs daily; let us have thy thought freely in the matter, Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?’’ This implies a further question; Has Caesar a right to demand it? The nation of the Jews was lately, about a hundred years before this, conquered by the Roman sword, and so, as other nations, made subject to the Roman yoke, and became a province of the empire; accordingly, toll, tribute, and custom, were demanded from them, and sometimes poll-money. By this it appeared that the sceptre was departed from Judah (Gen. 49:10); and therefore, if they had understood the signs of the times, they must have concluded that Shiloh was come, and either that this was he, or they must find out another more likely to be so.

Now the question was, Whether it was lawful to pay these taxes voluntarily, or, Whether they should not insist upon the ancient liberty of their nation, and rather suffer themselves to be distrained upon? The ground of the doubt was, that they were Abraham’s seed, and should not by consent be in bondage to any man, Jn. 8:33. God had given them a law, that they should not set a stranger over them. Did not that imply, that they were not to yield any willing subjection to any prince, state, or potentate, that was not of their own nation and religion? This was an old mistake, arising from that pride and thathaughty spirit which bring destruction and a fall. Jeremiah, in his time, though he spoke in God’s name, could not possibly beat them off it, nor persuade them to submit to the king of Babylon; and their obstinacy in that matter was then their ruin (Jer. 27:12, 13): and now again they stumbled at the same stone; and it was the very thing which, in a few years after, brought final destruction upon them by the Romans. They quite mistook the sense both of the precept and of the privilege, and, under colour of God’s word, contended with his providence, when they should have kissed the rod, and accepted the punishment of their iniquity.

However, by this question they hoped to entangle Christ, and, which way soever he resolved it, to expose him to the fury either of the jealous Jews, or of the jealous Romans; they were ready to triumph, as Pharaoh did over Israel, that the wilderness had shut him in, and his doctrine would be concluded either injurious to the rights of the church, or hurtful to kings and provinces.

III. The breaking of this snare by the wisdom of the Lord Jesus.

1. He discovered it (v. 18); He perceived their wickedness; for, surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird, Prov. 1:17. A temptation perceived is half conquered, for our greatest danger lies from snakes under the green grass; and he said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Note, Whatever vizard the hypocrite puts on, our Lord Jesus sees through it; he perceives all the wickedness that is in the hearts of pretenders, and can easily convict them of it, and set it in order before them. He cannot be imposed upon, as we often are, by flatteries and fair pretences. He that searches the heart can call hypocrites by their own name, as Ahijah did the wife of Jeroboam (1 Ki. 14:6), Why feignest thou thyself to be another? Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Note, Hypocrites tempt Jesus Christ; they try his knowledge, whether he can discover them through their disguises; they try his holiness and truth, whether he will allow of them in this church; but if they that of old tempted Christ, when he was but darkly revealed, were destroyed of serpents, of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy who tempt him now in the midst of gospel light and love! Those that presume to tempt Christ will certainly find him too hard for them, and that he is of more piercing eyes than not to see, and more pure eyes than not to hate, the disguised wickedness of hypocrites, that dig deep to hide their counsel from him.

2. He evaded it; his convicting them of hypocrisy might have served for an answer (such captious malicious questions deserve a reproof, not a reply): but our Lord Jesus gave a full answer to their question, and introduced it by an argument sufficient to support it, so as to lay down a rule for his church in this matter, and yet to avoid giving offence, and to break the snare.

(1.) He forced them, ere they were aware, to confess Caesar’s authority over them, v. 19, 20. In dealing with those that are captious, it is good to give our reasons, and, if possible, reasons of confessed cogency, before we give our resolutions. Thus the evidence of truth may silence gainsayers by surprise, while they only stood upon their guard against the truth itself, not against the reason of it; Show me the tribute-money. He had none of his own to convince them by; it should seem, he had not so much as one piece of money about him, for for our sakes he emptied himself, and became poor; he despised the wealth of this world, and thereby taught us not to over-value it; silver and gold he had none; why then should we covet to load ourselves with the thick clay? The Romans demanded their tribute in their own money, which was current among the Jews at that time: that therefore is called the tribute-money; he does not name what piece but the tribute money, to show that he did not mind things of that nature, nor concern himself about them; his heart was upon better things, the kingdom of God and the riches and righteousness thereof, and ours should be so too. They presently brought him a penny, a Roman penny in silver, in value about sevenpence half-penny of our money, the most common piece then in use: it was stamped with the emperor’s image and superscription, which was the warrant of the public faith for the value of the pieces so stamped; a method agreed on by most nations, for the more easy circulation of money with satisfaction. The coining of money has always been looked upon as a branch of the prerogative, a flower of the crown, a royalty belonging to the sovereign powers; and the admitting of that as the good and lawful money of a country is an implicit submission to those powers, and an owning of them in money matters. How happy is our constitution, and how happy we, who live in a nation where, though the image and superscription be the sovereign’s, the property is the subject’s, under the protection of the laws, and what we have we can call our own!

Christ asked them, Whose image is this? They owned it to be Caesar’s, and thereby convicted those of falsehood who said, We were never in bondage to any; and confirmed what afterward they said, We have no king but Caesar. It is a rule in the Jewish Talmud, that "he is the king of the country whose coin is current in the country.’’ Some think that the superscription upon this coin was a memorandum of the conquest of Judea by the Romans, anno post captam Judaeam—the year after that event; and that they admitted that too.

(2.) From thence he inferred the lawfulness of paying tribute to Caesar (v. 21); Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; not, "Give it him’’ (as they expressed it, v. 17), but, "Render it; Return,’’ or "Restore it; if Caesar fill the purses, let Caesar command them. It is too late now to dispute paying tribute to Caesar; for you are become a province of the empire, and, when once a relation is admitted, the duty of it must be performed. Render to all their due, and particularly tribute to whom tribute is due.’’ Now by this answer,

[1.] No offence was given. It was much to the honour of Christ and his doctrine, that he did not interpose as a Judge or a Divider in matters of this nature, but left them as he found them, for his kingdom is not of this world; and in this he hath given an example to his ministers, who deal in sacred things, not to meddle with disputes about things secular, not to wade far into controversies relating to them, but to leave that to those whose proper business it is. Ministers that would mind their business, and please their master, must not entangle themselves in the affairs of this life: they forfeit the guidance of God’s Spirit, and the convoy of his providence when they thus to out of their way. Christ discusses not the emperor’s title, but enjoins a peaceable subjection to the powers that be. The government therefore had no reason to take offence at his determination, but to thank him, for it would strengthen Caesar’s interest with the people, who held him for a Prophet; and yet such was the impudence of his prosecutors, that, though he had expressly charged them to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, they laid the direct contrary in his indictment, that he forbade to give tribute to Caesar, Lu. 23:2. As to the people, the Pharisees could not accuse him to them, because they themselves had, before they were aware, yielded the premises, and then it was too late to evade the conclusion. Note, Though truth seeks not a fraudulent concealment, yet it sometimes needs a prudent management, to prevent the offence which may be taken at it.

[2.] His adversaries were reproved. First, Some of them would have had him make it unlawful to give tribute to Caesar, that they might have a pretence to save their money. Thus many excuse themselves from that which they must do, by arguing whether they may do it or no. Secondly, They all withheld from God his dues, and are reproved for that: while they were vainly contending about their civil liberties, they had lost the life and power of religion, and needed to be put in mind of their duty to God, with that to Caesar.

[3.] His disciples were instructed, and standing rules left to the church.

First, That the Christian religion is no enemy to civil government, but a friend to it. Christ’s kingdom doth not clash or interfere with the kingdoms of the earth, in any thing that pertains to their jurisdiction. By Christ kings reign.

Secondly, It is the duty of subjects to render to magistrates that which, according to the laws of their country, is their due. The higher powers, being entrusted with the public welfare, the protection of the subject, and the conservation of the peace, are entitled, in consideration thereof, to a just proportion of the public wealth, and the revenue of the nation. For this cause pay we tribute, because they attend continually to this very thing (Rom. 13:6); and it is doubtless a greater sin to cheat the government than to cheat a private person. Though it is the constitution that determines what is Caesar’s, yet, when that is determined, Christ bids us render it to him; my coat is my coat, by the law of man; but he is a thief, by the law of God, that takes it from me.

Thirdly, When we render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, we must remember withal to render to God the things that are God’s. If our purses be Caesar’s, our consciences are God’s; he hath said, My son, give me thy heart: he must have the innermost and uppermost place there; we must render to God that which is his due, out of our time and out of our estates; from them he must have his share as well as Caesar his; and if Caesar’s commands interfere with God’s we must obey God rather than men.

Lastly, Observe how they were nonplussed by this answer; they marvelled, and left him, and went their way, v. 22. They admired his sagacity in discovering and evading a snare which they thought so craftily laid. Christ is, and will be, the Wonder, not only of his beloved friends, but of his baffled enemies. One would think they should have marvelled and followed him, marvelled and submitted to him; no, they marvelled and left him. Note, There are many in whose eyes Christ is marvellous, and yet not precious. They admire his wisdom, but will not be guided by it, his power, but will not submit to it. They went their way, as persons ashamed, and made an inglorious retreat. The stratagem being defeated, they quitted the field. Note, There is nothing got by contending with Christ. [2]


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[1]Nelson Study Bible. 1997 (electronic ed.) (Mt 22:15-23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2]Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Mt 22:15-23). Peabody: Hendrickson.

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