One of the handy things about our lectionary is that readings such as our Gospel reading today pop up toward the end of the year. This reading is very handy for sermon fodder as many churches enter their stewardship season.
Most people believe that stewardship season occurs in the Fall because parishes need to solicit pledges and raise funds so they can accurately budget for the coming year. While that may be practically true, it is not historically accurate.
The tradition of Autumnal stewardship drives dates back to when our economy was much more agricultural. Fall is when the crops come in. It was when the farmers were flush with money. It was the perfect time of year to ask for donations.
We generally focus the bulk of our stewardship efforts in the early part of the year. That is when most of our members are present, when they have returned from the northern climes to enjoy our mild winters here.
But this year is a bit different. As you may known we have had a bit of an interruption in our usual income. All in all we have done fairly well but as we approach the end of our fiscal year we are facing a significant short fall of over $70,000. Some of that is because of lower income. Some of it is because of unexpected expenses like having to replace a large air conditioning unit in the church. So today I ask you focus on a single word in our Gospel reading.
Jesus is confronted by some of his critics about Roman taxes. Had Jesus answered positively about them he would have been considered a traitor to his fellow Jews. Had he spoken negatively of them he would have raised the ire of the Romans themselves.
Instead Jesus slyly points out that the Romans are due to what is theirs just as God was due to what is God’s. But notice exactly what Jesus says: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Notice the central verb here: give.
Now in all honesty I do not give taxes. I pay them. I give to St Paul’s. I pay my taxes. I pay my taxes because I am required to do so. I suspect that is true for each of you or else you wouldn’t be here this morning, you would be in a jail cell.
Taxes are a requirement and I have never heard a person proudly and joyfully exclaim, “I just paid my taxes!”
Giving is a choice. It is an expression of support and often stems from a deep sense of gratitude and understanding that we are awash in blessings from God. Quarterly I sit down and write out a rather large check to the US Treasury. I attach it to a bill. Then once a year I sit down to find out that whether I have paid enough and how much I am expected to owe in the next year. Incidentally I have never received a thank you note from the IRS.
Monthly I give to St Paul’s. Weekly I give my energies and share worship at St Paul’s altar. Daily I arise give my time for the health and future of St Paul’s. I do so because I am called by God to do it. In doing so I am thanked by many of you, warmed by your kind words and gracious hearts.
I pay taxes. I give to St Paul’s. I pay for a safe and stable country. I pay for roads and infrastructure. I pay for the support for the stability of our cities and towns. I pay for all this because governments aren't free. I pay to the government what belongs to the government.
But I give to St Paul’s because I know that everything I have, everything I am, everything I can see, hear, taste, feel, smell, everything I can intuit is God’s. I give to God because it all belongs to God anyway. I am just a steward. I am only a manager of the things God has entrusted me to hold for him; therefore I try to hold God’s gifts loosely and gently and faithfully. Sometimes that means I give away what God has given me.
I invite you and ask you to do the same. Please give to St Paul’s.