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Between Sundays for Week of October 23, 2023

Jesus is in the thick of it in Matthew 22:15-22. Two opposing groups are conspiring to entrap him and there doesn’t appear to be a way out. If he says that it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, the Pharisees could use that to discredit him and accuse him of disobedience to the commandments. If he says that it isn’t lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, the Herodians could accuse him of sedition.

Jesus doesn’t attempt to carve some middle ground, instead he responds: “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperors and give to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus recognizes that we all live in a world where we are subject both to the laws of the nation and society in which we reside and so there are times when we must “give to the emperor the things that are the emperors.” We pay taxes. We obey laws. But in reminding us to “give to God the things that are God’s,” Jesus also recognizes that everything already belongs to God! Genesis tells us that we have been created to bear the image and likeness of God. We belong to God and we reveal God to the world! If this is true, then all of our life already is God’s.

In a world where everything belongs to God, then everything we do and say, every action we take provides us with the opportunity to make God’s way more visible! Even as we do our best to be good citizens, we never lose sight that God’s kingdom is already being revealed in this world, and there are times when WE are called to the be bearers of God’s justice, mercy, and love, even when it calls us into conflict with our other commitments.

A lasting community that follows Jesus is one where all that we are and all that we have is already God’s! And so we offer ourselves so that God’s kingdom of justice and mercy and love might be more visible on this side of eternity!

P.S. Want to listen to the readings and sermon from Sunday on this text? Click here to view Bethlehem’s full service

P.P.S. Due to escalating conflict in Gaza and Israel, a severe humanitarian crisis is rapidly unfolding in the Holy Land. The ELCA has a longstanding relationship with partners in the region, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and Augusta Victoria Hospital. Lutheran Disaster Response has a history of providing support for our partners and will be prepared to answer calls for assistance when the time comes. Contribute here to send a tangible expression of our love and prayers to those who are suffering.

Putting on Love . . . Abby and Amy wrestle with how to respond to the atrocities of war. What does it look like to put on love when the world is torn apart?


On the evening of October 19th, the Upstate NY Synod was privileged to be joined by Pastors Adam and Jordan Miller-Stubbendick and seminarian Jamil Zoughbi to discuss the recent events in Palestine as well as provide a historical background and first-hand experiences. Pastors Miller-Stubbendick are YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission) Country Coordinators with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Jamil Zoughbi is in candidacy with the Upstate NY Synod and a native Palestinian Christian. View the video to hear their conversation.