FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap!
The Sunday Recap is a brief fly-by of what we did during Sunday worship. Did anything land with you from worship on Sunday? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?
Food For Thought!
A few of you asked me about the letter I read during worship describing the lives of Christians in the 2nd Century. We don't know exactly who wrote it or to whom but it goes by the name of The Letter to Diognetus. So here it is in full...
Chapter 5. The manners of the Christians
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
Confession of Sin:
Prayer of Confession
God of mercy, we humbly confess our need of your pardoning grace. We shelter arrogance and pride in our hearts and believe that our efforts are good enough to secure what only you can give us. We are quick to judge and grumble when our plans, pleasures, and preferences are threatened. We are slow to offer mercy, both inwardly and outwardly, towards those people you have placed in our lives and called us to love. Forgive our self-righteousness and our self-absorption. Fix our eyes on our savior, Jesus Christ, that we may become enraptured with Him, for it’s in his name we pray. Amen.
Words of Grace
[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Confession of Faith: The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried:
he descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Sermon Text: Mark 12:13-17
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
1. The logic of Jesus' politics (12:13-17)
2. The call of Jesus' politics (12:17)
3. The power of Jesus' politics (12:16-17)
As much as any other passage, this passage teaches us Jesus' approach to politics. The issue surfaces as a result of the Pharisees and Herodians asking Jesus a question in order to trap him. They asked him, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" (v. 14) Who were these people and why did they ask him this question? The Pharisees were one of three main groups that made up the Sanhedrin, the most powerful Jewish religious and political body of the 1st Century. They were known for their legal rigor and adherence to the "traditions of the elders" especially with respect to "purity laws." (7:1-13) The Herodians were the influential aristocrats who supported Herod and thereby Roman rule over Judea. In other words, the Pharisees are like the "religious fundamentalists" and the Herodians are like the "progressive secularists." The irony is they had nothing in common and wouldn't agree about anything except one thing...destroying Jesus (3:6). So why did they join forces to ask Jesus this question in the hopes of trapping him? The tax in view was a head tax or poll tax, instituted in AD 6 after Judea had become a Roman province. It was a tax that represented Jewish submission to a pagan emperor and implied support of his regime. But why ask Jesus about it? Shortly after the head tax was instituted Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37) lead a revolt against Rome in an effort to liberate the Jews from Roman rule. However, Judas was killed and the revolt squashed. Fast forward 25 years or so. Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God, he arrived to Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd hailing him as the coming King, and he claimed authority over the Temple. The question in the minds of the Pharisees and the Herodians was, "is Jesus another revolutionary come to free God's people?" Therefore the question about the head tax was a deliberate trap to put Jesus on the horns of a dilemma. Answer, "yes" and lose the support of the people for being pro-Roman. Answer, "no" and invite the Roman authorities to squash another would be revolutionary.
So how does Jesus respond? What is the logic of Jesus' answer? He asks to see a Denarius (the amount of the head tax) and then asks whose image and inscription is on the coin. The Pharisees and Herodians reply, "Caesar's." To which he gives his reply that leaves everyone marveling: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (v. 17) What does this mean? Jesus is saying whatever bears Caesar's image and name you should give back to him. And in the same way, whatever bears God's image and name you should give back to him. That's the logic of his answer. Politics and faith are not mutually exclusive but they do have a proper order. Ever so subtly Jesus asserts God is the supreme authority despite Caesar's claims and yet he upholds Caesar's authority. Jesus' use of the image on the coin as the central ingredient of his reply brings into view our most basic identity and our most important relationship. Genesis 1:26 teaches that God made humans in his image to glorify and enjoy him. Therefore, to give back to God what is his, is to give back to him your very life which he gave to you in the first place. (Rom. 12:1-2)
But how does that apply to politics? In other words, what is the call of Jesus' politics? Here we need to look to Romans 13: 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good…. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. One of the most important keys to understanding what Jesus and Paul teach about politics is to remember the historical context. Both Jesus and Paul speak about politics under Roman rule and occupation. In other words, this teaching was given in the midst of Roman hostility to Christianity. So then what does it look like to cultivate a public faith in the midst of a polarized culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. I think a helpful place to go for getting a picture of what this looks like is The Letter to Diognetusthat I included under "Food For Thought" above.
It is truly amazing that Jesus gives this answer and shows such honor for the authorities knowing who would put him to death in a few short days. (10:33-34) Where then do we find the power to follow after Jesus even in a polarized and at times politically hostile environment? Remember we've seen two "images" in this passage. Caesar's image and God's image. But there is a third image we must not miss. The Lord Jesus himself. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col. 1:15,19-20) Therefore, politics, for the Christian begins not with giving back what belongs to Caesar or even to God but with what God has first given to us! At infinite cost to himself God gave...! The only way we can give back our lives to God and give back to those in authority over us regardless of their beliefs or practices is if we go back again and again to the Gospel and the humility and confidence we find there.
- What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from this passage?
- What questions does this passage raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- How would you describe your attitude toward politics?
- What does Jesus teach about the relationship between politics and faith?
- What are the three images in this passage and why do we need all three to cultivate public faith in line with Jesus' teaching?
I have a slightly different resource for you this week. I want to share with you a way to cultivate and deepen wisdom and prayer in your life: read through the Psalms and/or Proverbs once a month. How can you do that? First, the Psalms. Begin with Psalm 1 then add 30. Do that five times a day. Do that for 30 days and you will read through the whole Psalter in a month. So for example:
Day 1: Read Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91, 121
Day 2: Read Psalm 2, 32, 62, 92, 122
Day 3: Read Psalm 3, 33, 63, 93, 123...and so on for 30 days
Second, the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is 31 chapters, so if you read a chapter a day you'll read the whole book in a month. Obviously months with only 30 days will mean you need to read two chapters on the last day of the month.
Here is what I do. I read three Psalms and one chapter from Proverbs each morning. I read two Psalms at night before I go to bed. I try to look for something that stands out to me and then spend a few minutes meditating on it and using it to guide prayer throughout the day.
Try it for a couple months and see what God does!
Songs for this week:
For All The Saints
Jesus is Our Great Salvation
The Christian's Hope Can Never Fail
Sermon passage for this week: Colossians 1:1-8
Until next time,
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.