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What Our Words Can Never Say

You hypocrites... give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and to God what belongs to God
Isaiah 45:1,4-6; Psalm 96:1,3-5,7-10; I Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21

Sermon Week Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Scripture Summary Matthew 22:18,21

Emerson wrote: "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." -1 Indeed, actions not words are most important. These days, we don't have to look past the morning news to find glaring examples of such hypocrisy – the "do as I say, not as I do" condition that has plagued humanity throughout the ages. More than one-hundred years ago, a religious snob, who liked to appear full of virtue, said to Mark Twain, "Before I die, I'm going to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I shall climb to the top of Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud!" To which Twain replied, "I have a better idea! Why don't you stay right at home and keep them?"

Now listen to the Word of God spoken through the Prophet Amos some 2,800 years ago:
I hate and despise your feasts,
I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals,
I reject your oblations
Let Me have no more of the din
of your chanting,
no more of your strumming on harps.
But let justice flow like water,
and integrity like an unfailing stream (Am. 5:21-24).

This ancient religious problem of hypocrisy and duplicity in worship was a matter of great concern to Jesus. Jesus came down hard on hypocrisy. And when He did, the condemnation was always against His people -- the good, Church going, law-abiding people. He condemned them for "show-boating" when they gave alms: "Hypocrites looking for applause," He called them. He rebuked them for showboating when they prayed. They go to Church and pray "to be noticed," He said. He condemned the pillars of the Temple who paid only "lip service" to God and offered Him only empty reverence, so devoted were they to their own man-made rules for worship and right living. "Woe to you, you frauds," He said to them. Literally, over-and-over again, He called them frauds! He called them "blind fools" when He condemned them for their nit-picking and haggling over legalistic trivia "while neglecting the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and good faith" (Mt.23:23).

Today's Gospel Lesson gives us one more example of [...]

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