Sermon Notes for October 16, 2011

18th Sunday after Pentecost ( Year A, Proper 24)

Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22


  • The Exodus reading is one of my favorites for two reasons:
    1) The concept of knowing someone by name. Moses tells God, I have known you by name and God tells Moses I have known you by name.  It is a relationship.  God still wants this from God’s people.  A relationship where we know each other’s names.  God’s name is so precious that they still don’t read it in public in the Jewish synagogue. Moses’ name is precious and he is still known the “savior” of God’s people, Israel.
    2) The whole part  of God being seen in the cleft of the rock.  Many years ago while taking Hebrew we translated this section in class.  The best translation of “you will see my back” was more like “you will see my backside.”  There is humor in this passage, and gives us another way of thinking about God’s glory–as God’s backside.  Trust me, next time you sing a song in church that talks about God’s glory, you will have a slight smile on your face.
  •  I also like the sentence:  “In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”  A good translation of the word “distinct” is “peculiar.”  Frederick Buechner’s Peculiar Treasures is an example of this notion. There is also this notion in the book by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, Resident Aliens that has a line, “You shall know the truth and the truth will make you a peculiar people.”
  • The Psalm is complimentary and would be great read responsively.  I especially like this verse: Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome; he is the Holy One. there may be a way to use this as a refrain in the sermon if you want to try something more lyrical or poetic.
  • The Epistle is a great portion of a letter to the church at Thessalonica.  If I were to preach this text, I would find a way to incorporate a letter to God’s people in _______.  Think about the compliments that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy offer the church in the letter.  The encouragement they received.  What about your church is worthy or praise and inspires you?  What things are inspiring others?
  • The Gospel lesson is also a good one to preach.  The Pharisees try to entrap Jesus in an ethical lapse. Are you a radical trying to overthrow the Roman government?  Are you a tax evader? Like most kinds of traps, they start out with flattery, and then the leading question.  Jesus is clever and addresses the question with a couple of questions: “Why are you putting me to the test?” and “Whose face is on the coin?”  I once hear Jim Wallis preach on this passage, and though I can’t do it justice, the takeaway for me was: it’s only money.  Humans and governments ask lots of us, but they should never get our ultimate allegiance.  Give to them limited stuff, like money.  Give to God those things of ultimate value, your lives, your work and service.
  • Try this essay from Journey to Jesus on these lessons from 2008: Credo and the Credit Crisis
  • Render unto God by Brent Laytham is a quick read on the lessons from 2008.  Thinking about the OT and Gospel passages as discussions of God’s politics.

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