Render unto Caesar

Render unto Caesar

Darkness will not prevail in Hayes, we will defeat it and we will defeat it in prayer.

Matthew 22:15-21

[Automatically Transcribed]

In The name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Please sit. Oh, gosh, you can hear you can hear the smarminess dripping from the Pharasees lips, can’t you, as they speak to Jesus, master, We know that you are an honest man and you teach the way of God in an honest way. They’re setting Jesus up to trick him. But he knows what’s going on. He knows what’s coming. And how many times have we found ourselves in a situation where somebody presents themselves to us as a friend and they are obsequious and they are nice and they are lovely and they are dripping, dripping, being nice.

And then there’s a sting in the tail. Ahh here we go. This is what this was really about. This is what was really going on here. Jesus had, and we’ve been reading through Matthew, Jesus has been criticizing the Pharisees and the scribes and the leaders of the synagogue since the time he arrived in Jerusalem. It’s not just his presence that was frustrating them, but what he was teaching. And it wasn’t what they said you should do. This is what we should do.

This is how we should do it, and you are arguing with us and you are making us sound like we don’t know what we’re talking about. And it’s not on. How many of us have been in that situation?

And the thing is, we do it in church today still.

We go to each other’s churches and as Christians, we treat each other dreadfuly. Because we’ll go to another church, we’ll go to the parish church and they might have screens up and there might be a worship band and they might be hands in the air. And we know that we say all these nice things.

Lovely. I really enjoyed that. You don’t mean that. You mean it wasn’t for you and you’re nice to the people there, but you would say, you know, as a Christian, as a Christian. What you should do is sit in silence before the Blessed Sacrament for an hour.

That’s what a good Christian should do. What are you saying to those people is what you were doing is wrong and this is what’s right. This is what Christians should do as a Christian, you should behave in this way. We see it played out in the public square. The Archbishop of Canterbury gets this all of the time.

And actually, I have to say I feel sorry for him, this morning, he’s released a letter to Gordon Brown saying thank you to Gordon Brown for an initiative that Gordon Brown was talking about for full employment where everybody gets a job.

And so on this Sunday morning, the Archbishop of Canterbury has decided to say, Gordon Brown, I think this is a great idea. This is a good and Christian thing to do. I agree with you. And some people have read that and they’ve gone, thank you, Archbishop, for speaking out on this and other people have said, Archbishop, you shouldn’t be involved with politics. Why are you sticking your nose in politics? And that, of course, is what the second half of our gospel talks about this morning, and this is often used to separate the political sphere, the secular sphere from the sphere of church and of God.

So not content with criticizing other Christians. We will also criticize other people who who who say that they want to do good, who say that they want to make the world right and proper.

Now, our response to that. Can be two things we can say, right, well, Jesus said render unto Caesar what you render unto Caesar. That’s the secular world. This is the sacred world. And they’re not going to meet as a good Christian, I’m going to concentrate completely on God’s world to the exclusion of the secular world. And for those of you who have been coming to mass this week, watching it on the webcam and so on, you will know that our readings have been about that, have been about living a godly life here on Earth.

But. What I want to say to you this morning is that Jesus tells us that those two things are not entirely separate. Jesus tells us that to live a sacred and Holy life, we must be part of the world. And so we render unto Caesar what is Caeser’s as we pay our taxes, we are involved in politics, we lobby our government to try and reduce homelessness. We write to our MPs to try and make sure that the world is a better place because it is our job as Christians, because Jesus has taught us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to give water to the thirsty.

And so as tempting as it is to read scripture and come to church and put the sacred over there and the the secular over there, we must not, we cannot.

Because this compels us to love this. This drives us to love our brothers and sisters in this. The sacred drives us into the secular, we should not retreat into our churches and leave the world behind us. And that is why I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of your gifts in the last week for our harvest festival today. Our harvest festival, perhaps more so than any other service during the year, is about connecting the sacred with the secular.

Is about rendering unto Caesar that which is due unto to Caesar, it’s about saying thank you to all of those people who grow our food, who feed the hungry and the poor. And we take those gifts and we make them abundant to everybody. And so perhaps that’s a slightly different thing that’s happened this year. Instead of giving thanks to the farmers, which of course we do, instead of giving thanks to those who make our food, which of course we do.

We take that bounty. We take those gifts that we have been afforded in the sacred world. And we make them abundant in the secular world.

Listen, there’s no greater evangelism than this, let’s be cynical for a moment. We want people to come to Jesus Christ. We want them to know Jesus Christ. Well, there is no better way of helping people find and know Jesus Christ. Than making the sacred known in the secular world. Your response to my plea two weeks ago, for, three weeks ago, for help for the homeless of this parish has been astounding.

There has been a day this week where I have not come into this church and there has been a bag waiting for me that’s got wipes in it, that’s got pot noodles in it, that’s got hot drinks in it, that’s got something to help people on these streets of Hayes.

And this week we have fed people we have given people something to drink. We have taken three people off the streets of Hayes this week.

Three people. This is what it means to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. We will take the money of the secular world. We will spend it in the secular world, but we will do it understanding those things that Jesus has taught us.

I could go on for another hour and a half on this and I could beat the lectern, but I don’t need to because you all get it. I see it when I ask you for help.

And this week has been a hard week.

This week. With the death of a child at Dr Triplets, with a shooting on the red brick estate with a stabbing in the High Street yesterday. It is a hard week. But you know what? This we have to remember and see the joys of the world around us, we combat evil, we combat darkness with love. We combat evil and we combat darkness by saying, not here. Not in our parish, not in our church, not our people, not on our estates, not on our high streets.

We combat it by being the love of Jesus Christ in our parish, by being on the streets, giving people drinks, by being on the streets, smiling and holding people’s hands when they are in pain. We do it by giving an example to the young people who are caught up in this violence – of love. And we do it by telling them to come to church because these people need Jesus – these boys and these girls who are caught up in this violence need Jesus.

And we will bring Jesus to them. We might not get them through these doors on a Sunday easily, but if we are out on the street living and doing what Jesus Christ has taught us to do, then we will bring them Jesus. And Jesus will break through. Jesus will open their hearts. Jesus will drive away the darkness, do not doubt it for a moment. And it starts here in church on a Sunday with your gifts at the altar.

That’s where it starts. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Be unceasing in your prayer for peace, be unceasing in your prayer for forgiveness, be unceasing in your prayer that God’s gifts among us are shared equally. Be unceasing in your joy for the little ones amongst us. Who are full of the love of Jesus, who bring a smile to our face and who through their witness in school, through their witness, with their friends may just capture one heart of their friends and bring that person away from darkness.

I’m sorry, it’s a rather rambling sermon today, but there’s lots of things to cover and I love you and I want you to understand what’s going on here and how powerful what it is we are doing and the effect that it will have on these streets.

Darkness will not prevail in Hayes, we will defeat it and we will defeat it in prayer. Amen.