Well, yes. This week’s sermon title is another question, as so many of my sermon titles are. This week the question is “Whose is it?” The sermon is drawn from our Gospel lesson, Matthew 22:15-22, the famous “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” passage. The phrase “render unto Caesar” and its variants have moved into cultural parlance even if those using it don’t know where it came from. It comes from another attempt by Jesus’ enemies to trap him into saying something damaging. These enemies bring along some Pharisees and some Herodians to witness Jesus’ answer to the question, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?” Sounds like an innocuous question to us perhaps but in this case it is anything but. If Jesus says “Yes, ” he will mortally offend the Pharisees, rabid nationalists; and if he says “No” he’ll equally mortally offend the Herodians, complete collaborators with Rome.
This is a classic example of a “gotcha question.” Jesus takes the novel approach of not answering the question at all but rather asks for a coin and then says the (in)famous “render unto Caesar.” This got me thinking of how often we are faced with similar “gotcha questions” and how difficult it is to not answer the question. The example I used in the sermon, to give you a warning if you need one, is the current pressure to declare support for Hamas or the Israeli government. I haven’t faced the question often but when I have I have insisted on my right to consider both sides despicable and having nothing to choose between them. Do I have to answer any or everyone’s yes-or-no questions? No, I do not. Jesus frequently didn’t answer them and this is yet one more place to follow our Lord’s example.
It was not my intent to offend anyone with this sermon so I hope I didn’t and don’t. If you would like to continue this discussion in any way, let me know and I will be happy to do so.