Musings from the Manse 25th October 2020

At the moment, the news is full of the Covid crisis. It is difficult to escape it. At times we probably all feel that we have had enough and need a change of subject! However, if there is anything else taking up news time at present, it tends to be the Presidential Elections, due soon in the USA. Perhaps not the topic which actually brings some lifting of the general gloom!  However, if you view it through a very jaundiced and sceptical position you might just be intrigued by all the ‘manoeuvring´ that is going on. Depending on who is speaking you get some very disparate reports about the state of the country. Watching people being interviewed is an education in itself. So many of the questions put to the interviewee are so ‘loaded’ that it is not difficult to work out which side the interviewer favours! So much for the neutrality of reporters! Some questions are so ‘loaded’ that it is impossible to answer without doing some damage to your cause.

However, it would be true to say that ‘loaded’ questions are not a phenomenon of this age alone. If we look again at last week’s bible story – (Deemed important enough to muse about twice!!) we encounter a loaded question being put to Jesus (see Matthew Ch 22 vs 15-22). His questioners—the Pharisees—thought that they were being very clever: ask Jesus a question that will get him in trouble, no matter how he answers it. There is no way of answering it that will keep everybody happy! If he says that taxes should be paid to the Emperor then he will lose favour with those who hate the idea of a foreign power controlling them and, thereby lose popularity!  If he says that you shouldn’t pay taxes to the Emperor then he will be accused of stirring up trouble by the authorities. Whatever he answers he will lose – a win / win situation for the Pharisees who want to get rid of him.

Jesus, of course, knows what their motive is and he outsmarts them. He asks to see the coin and tells them to give to the Emperor the things that are the Emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s. The Pharisees were definitely wrong-footed and had no answer to this. They knew they had lost their case. They went away, amazed, because they did not know how to respond.

On the face of it, it seems a simple answer but is it, really? Give God what is His and Caesar what is Caesar’s; how do you distinguish what is what? If we believe that God is the Maker of heaven and earth and everything in it, then it follows that everything belongs to God and, perhaps, we need to look at it in that light.

The problem with the Pharisees is that they were looking at this in the light, not of heavenly power, but of earthly power. They were afraid that Jesus was building up a position of earthly power for himself when, in fact, he was doing nothing of the kind. Rather he was trying to wean people away from the spirit of Power and trying to awaken in them the power of the Spirit. Sadly, the Pharisees – the supposed religious powerhouses – were much more interested in earthly power than they were in the things of the Spirit.

They wanted to have the power to influence people to accept their way of living, through the following of their rules and regulations. They felt that Jesus was interfering in that. Jesus was trying to get people to understand that the way to live a life of more love, more joy and more justice was through a restored and renewed relationship with God. Their agendas were as different as chalk and cheese!

We are not immune from the same temptations. We, too, can be seduced by power. Churches are not immune from being seduced by power! We sometimes think that, as a church, we can achieve a better life by following a ‘code’ or ‘set of rules’ that will make us better than other people. By doing these things we will, somehow, be superior. That is not so!

As a church we need to recognise what the real power that we need actually is. The only power a Church needs to concern itself with is the power of God to grant forgiveness and healing to a broken world through Jesus Christ its Saviour. Sometimes we forget that! We most definitely need to study the life and words of Jesus to guide us into a right way of living. We need to sign up as followers who will demonstrate such a life.

Give to God the things that are God’s. You are God’s. He created you and made you in his own image. He wants you to serve Him and serve others. That is the offering that He wants you to make. I think Scripture is quite clear in its message that God is not interested in earthly power. He is looking for us to be open to be guided by the power of the Spirit.

Everything we do, we should do it as if we were doing for God. Simply, because we are! We belong to Him and serve Him in all that we do or say! Let’s always do that joyfully and unashamedly as we celebrate a wonderful Creator!

Prayer

For centuries and for decades; for days and for hours;
For every minute and each second that comes from your hand
We thank you, Lord

For your love that gave us life; for your love in Jesus that gives us new life;
For your love that holds us and guards us each day;
For your love to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit

We thank you, Lord

And we pray for your world – your beautiful world that you have entrusted to our care
Remind us that the world does not belong to us, but to you and you are calling us to respect and care for it

We pray for the leaders of nations and for those in positions of authority
Particularly during this time of pandemic help them to make decisions which are for the good of the people rather than for securing power for themselves

We pray, too, for those who feel left out by our power hungry world
For those left empty-handed by others grabbing the riches to be had

We pray for those whose harvests have failed and are now left with little or no sustenance
Lord, remind us that we can do something to help by giving of the resources we have to help them feed their children

Lord, we are yours and want to serve you. Help us to walk in the power of your Spirit that we would always want to give of our best to build up your kingdom here on earth. 

We ask these things in Jesus’ Name

Amen

Rev Nik Wooller

25th October 2020

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