Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. Matthew 22:15-22
Tonight and tomorrow night are the big hearings for PB&F - Program, Budget and Finance. In these lean and hard economic times we are facing some real tough issues about where our limited resources will go and how money will be spent. New priorities and structures will probably be put in place after this convention that will change the way parts of the Episcopal church do business. There is anxiety everywhere about budgets, limits and how we manage the little that we have. Times like these can make people frustrated and angry. These times can also invite deep prayer, an invitation to holy examination of all of our wealth and what it says about who we worship and how we serve.
Jesus is challenged by the religious rulers about money and taxes. In an occupied land, many people felt it was sinful to pay taxes to the occupying government. The complexity of the situation was also further complicated by hard economic times and much unrest. Jesus posed a threat to the already fragile peace. His answer was plain - pay the tax and offer to God our all. We are gathered here during tough times. We are invited to "render to God the things that are God's." I hope and pray that in all our deliberations and testimonies we are reminded of our absolute dependence on God and that all that we have is a free gift from a loving and abundant Creator. May we exercise compassion and love, and be willing to give our all for the love of God.
General Convention Prayer 2
Gracious Creator, source of all life and all blessings, make us mindful of the needs of others and Christ's call that we serve the world. Make us generous and prayerful in all that we do today. Give is ears to hear the cries of the poor. Give us hearts that are willing to be broken open for others. Give us minds to imagine a way forward when the passages seemed closed. Help us rejoice in the abundance and focus all of our energy in prayer and thanksgiving. Make us your church today. In the name of Christ who gave his life that we might live, Amen.