22nd October 2023 10.30am – The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

22nd October 2023: 

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Download the order of service here: 23 10 22 20th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

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The Readings

1 Thessalonians 1. 1 - 10

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.


Matthew 22. 15 - 22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings.

Jesus had two main types of enemy.

First, were those who were jealous of him. His words and his actions
attracted and inspired people in ways they couldn’t match. They couldn’t
compete. So they resented him. They were jealous.

Then second were others who felt threatened by him. People listened to what
he had to say – about God, about how to live well. People took notice of him,
not them. He spoke with authority. So they felt undermined, threatened.

Both those who were jealous and those who felt threatened were the more
educated, the more powerful, the better off. They thought of themselves as a
cut above the ordinary people.

So his enemies – the resentful and the disturbed - come together to find ways
of diminishing the standing and authority of Jesus among the ordinary people.
Today’s gospel tells us what they tried to do.

Being educated and clever, they decide to trap him into saying something that
would make the ordinary people angry and might even get him into trouble
with the authorities.

They ask him whether paying taxes is lawful – which means morally and
religiously right as well as a legal duty. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the Roman
Emperor? Remember, the land in which Jesus lived was occupied by foreign
soldiers, who made sure that taxes were paid to Rome.

Of course, people resented the occupation, resented the presence of Roman
soldiers, resented having to pay taxes to the Emperor, to Caesar. So if Jesus
said, It is lawful, there would be many who would no longer trust him in
matters of morality and religion. He was siding with the regime that had
conquered their land. On the other hand, if he said it was morally and
religiously wrong to pay taxes to the Emperor, that would get him into serious
trouble with the authorities. He would look like a troublemaker, someone
trying to lead the people astray.

So it was a trap either way; and his enemies must have thought themselves
very clever in devising a question where either a yes or a no would bring

Before they put the question, they try to get Jesus to lower his guard,
pretending to be on his side with a bit of flattery: ‘Teacher, we know that you
are true, and teach the way of God truthfully..... Tell us then, is it lawful to pay
taxes to Caesar or not?’

Jesus recognises the malice behind the flattery and he gives a clever neither-
yes-nor-no answer. ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to
God the things that are God’s.’

We can see how this got Jesus out of a tricky spot at the time; but what about
all those Christians who come after? What about us? Did Jesus mean his
words to have any on-going relevance?

It’s possible that Jesus was only meaning to get himself out of a potentially
difficult situation. That what we have here is just an example of how his
enemies conspired against him and how he outwitted them. In which case we
shouldn’t read too much into what he said.

But I think he does say something that has continuing relevance for us – in
two respects.

First, he says Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. In other words,
Christian people should be in no doubt that there is a proper place and role
for rulers, for government, for the state. Those Christians who don’t believe
this and who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy under God of worldly
rulers – like Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Amish – are wrong.

Human communities need good governance if they are to thrive. Without
good governance human communities fall into pits of lawlessness or squalor.
So even if rulers and governments are secular or anti-religious, they are still
what God wants for us. Their role is to protect and safeguard their people and
to seek their well-being. This is why it is right that we should pray for our
rulers. That is not to say that all forms of government are the same and none
is better than another. But it is a sharp warning to Christians that even a bad
government – like the Roman Emperor – is better than no government, better
than anarchy and chaos. That is not always an easy message to hear.

But we also render to God the things that are Gods. We acknowledge that the
values by which we as Christians live come to us from God, not the state. So
we give our ultimate loyalty to God not to any earthly ruler – which can put
Christians in a tricky place if rulers like Emperors or dictators demand worship
or unconditional obedience, which Christians can’t give.

We are lucky in this country. We can render to the state the things that are the
states. We can give thanks for good governance. There are many Christians
in the world who are not as fortunate and we must pray for them and their

For whether they acknowledge it or not, those rulers too are under God and
one day they too must answer to him. And render to God the things that are

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe.

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie,
our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, all here who lead us in worship
and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St
Mary’s, St John’s and St Mark’s.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

In these difficult times we pray that we too can become imitators of
the Lord, and welcome the Gospel in to our lives with joy. We pray
that we can become inspire others to come to Christ through our
faith and deeds.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray all those wounded, suffering, imprisoned and displaced in
Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, that the current crisis may be
brought under control, and that a non-military solution that is just to
all involved may emerge. We pray for those who have died in this
conflict. We pray that other countries do not become involved, and
that a long-term solution be sought for the region. We pray for the
people of Ukraine and hope for a peaceful resolution to that conflict.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those affected by storm Babet, that communities will
have the resources to repair the damage. We pray for those who’ve
lost their lives, and their families and friends.
We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of
Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or
spirit, and those who find life especially difficult at this time. We pray
that you bring them strength, healing, and peace. In a few moments
of silence, we think of those we know who need your healing
presence in their lives.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those currently close to death, and those accompanying
them on this final part of their Earthly journey. We pray for those
who have died, recently and in the past, and those who mourn.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us, and
those issues and concerns that we have in our own lives.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary, Mark, John and of all the Saints,
let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to God.
Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our
Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.