Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13); 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
Why do we worship the things that we worship? Why do we develop the attachments that we do?
This week, as I thought about today’s Gospel reading, I found myself wondering “why does Jesus invoke the name of God and the name of Caesar in the same breath?”
The Pharisees inquire: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
As we just heard, Jesus answers their question by asking for a coin. Now the coin that they handed Jesus was a denarius, a roman coin made of silver, about the size of a dime. The denarius was the most common coin of the Roman Empire’s currency. As Jesus indicates, the denarius has the face of Caesar Augustus on it, and is imprinted with words that declare Caesar’s divinity. The coin probably said, “Tiberius Caesar, the son of the divine Augustus, the Augustus.” Tiberius was the Caesar, the emperor at the time, and was the stepson of Octavian, the first to be called Augustus, a name that itself conferred divinity. On the back, the coin declares Caesar “pontifex maximus,” the greatest High Priest, the one who connects us to the Gods.
We hear this morning in the lessons from Genesis and Matthew that children hold a remarkable place in God’s vision for the world. Through one child, God will fulfill the promise of the covenant to Abraham, and yet that promise seems jeopardized. In the gospel we hear Jesus, once a child himself, telling his disciples that ministering to any little one is as important as both receiving a prophet and welcoming a righteous person. We may be asking ourselves, what is it about children that make them so important?
The Trinity by Andrei Rublev
The one thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other ideologies and religions is our profession of the Trinity. We believe in one God, but we also believe that that one God is three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Trinity is also the starting place of Christian action. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we read that Christ gives his disciples the Great Commission: go baptize and make disciples in the name of the Trinity. Much in the same way that an emissary of a king or queen comes in the name of their monarch, Christians are instructed to act in the name of the Triune God. We act in the name of the Trinity when we baptize, bless, consecrate, and pray in general.
It’s strange however that so many preachers dread giving sermons on Trinity Sunday. As I prepared this sermon, I noticed that the prevailing sentiment amongst priests and religious educators is to avoid making any kind of definitive statement about the Trinity. “It’s a mystery,” as it seems nearly everyone agrees.