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20th Sunday after Pentecost

Render to Caeser

Morning Prayer with Sacrament Reserved


 I make weal and create woe                                              Isaiah 45:7

 Why do you put me to the test?                                         Matthew 22:18


 The Invitatory and Psalter          

V.   O Lord, open thou our lip
R.    And our mouths shall show forth your praise.
V.   Glory be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
R.   As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Alleluia


[acc_item title=”Jubilate”]

Jubilate Psalm 100[1]

1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness and come before his presence with a song.

2 Know this: The LORD himself is God; he himself has made us; we are his *.
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

4 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

 The mercy of the Lord is everlasting. Come let us adore him.


( Click on the “+” as you go to show each part of the service )

[acc_item title=”Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)”]

96:1 O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.

96:2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

96:3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.

96:4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.

96:5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

96:6 Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

96:7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.

96:9 Worship the LORD in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.

96:10 Say among the nations, “The LORD is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.”

96:11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

96:12 let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

96:13 before the LORD; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.

 The mercy of the Lord is everlasting. Come let us adore him.


[acc_item title=” The Old Testament Lesson:                                               Isaiah 45:1-7″]

45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him– and the gates shall not be closed:

45:2 I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron,

45:3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

45:4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.

45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me,

45:6 so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the LORD do all these things.        

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.[/acc_item]

[acc_item title=”Hymn: Praise to the living God  – M. Landsberg, N. Mann)  – Hymnal # 372″]

Praise to the living God! All praiséd be his Name
who was, and is, and is to be for ay the same.
The one eternal God ere aught that now appears:
the first, the last, beyond all thought his timeless years!

Formless, all lovely forms declare his loveliness;
holy, no holiness of earth can his express.
Lo, he is Lord of all. Creation speaks his praise,
and everywhere above, below, his will obeys.

His Spirit floweth free, high surging where it will:
in prophet’s word he spoke of old; he speaketh still.
Established is his law, and changeless it shall stand,
deep writ upon the human heart, on sea, on land.

Eternal life hath he implanted in the soul;
his love shall be our strength and stay while ages roll.
Praise to the living God! All praiséd be his Name
who was, and is, and is to be, for ay the same.

[acc_item title=”The New Testament Lesson:                                              Thessalonians 1:1-10″]

1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1:2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly

1:3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1:4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you,

1:5 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 persons we proved to be among you for your sake.

1:6 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,

1:7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

1:8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.

1:9 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,

1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

 The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.[/acc_item]

[acc_item title=”All people that on earth that do well   –   William Kethe   –  Hymnal 1982 # 377″]

All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell,
come ye before him and rejoice.

Know that the Lord is God indeed;
without our aid he did us make:
we are his folk, he doth us feed,
and for his sheep he doth us take.

O enter then his gates with praise,
approach with joy his courts unto;
praise, laud, and bless his Name always,
for it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good,
his mercy is for ever sure;
his truth at all times firmly stood,
and shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
the God whom heaven and earth adore,
from men and from the angel host
be praise and glory evermore.

[acc_item title=”The Gospel Lesson:                                                        Matthew 22:15-22″]

22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.

22:16 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.

22:17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

22:18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?

22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.

22:20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?”

22:21 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.”

22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

The Gospel of the Lord. Praise be to you, Lord Christ. [/acc_item]

[acc_item title=” Sermon: Render to Caeser“]

The question is not a vain one, and the answer is not obvious: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor?” But never try to con a con, or pull one over on a god, which means that Jesus has the Pharisees’ number before they even knew they had a number, and will not fall into their trap, let himself be a victim of their malice – yet. His non sequitur response – “Who’s head is on the coin? Give it to him.” – carries the moment, and gives us the winning phrase: “But give to God what is God’s,” without anyone’s ever noticing that no-one had asked about God, or at least not directly. The Pharisees’ question, that is, is not vain, and had they asked it without syrupy flattery and Minnesota nice-ness – “We know, Jesus, that you’re a fine, upstanding man, showing no partiality or deference, and are as sober as a judge and as sincere as a teen proposing marriage to a crush” – he might just’ve answered them not in half-formed poetry but in straight, no-nonsense prose.

Had he done so, of course, the story wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or memorable. The answer depends very much on whose laws we’re talking about here. If it was Roman law, the answer to the question is as obvious as the axiom A = A. Yes: of course it was legal under Roman law to pay the taxes Roman law demands. It was illegal not to, and doubtful that one had the right even to ask. The question’s a no-brainer.

If, however, the Pharisees are asking whether it is legal to pay taxes to Rome under the laws of Israel – the laws of Moses, codified during and after exile in Babylon – then the answer would be quite different, if just as clear: No. This is because Rome did not hold power justly in Judea, but by ‘right’ of conquest, with neither divine sanction nor the consent of the people.

Under the laws of Moses, paying taxes to run the Temple – first or second – was commanded and therefore allowed (see Exodus 30), as apparently was the slave labor used to build them both; shame, shame. At least ten other taxes were taken by various entities, most with dubious authority to take them. At best, a legitimate king could legally, if foolishly, demand that his people pay the costs of his palaces, his wives, his weapons, and his wars. He could demand that they defend against all enemies foreign and domestic a system of rule that God blessed, or at least allowed. He could, and they often did, demand tribute in the form of captives, slaves, cattle, or grain from those he conquered, or whose rebellion he quelled.

He could not, legally, defy the law, however, or the God who wrote it – and if he did, would lose the right to rule, and find he could rely on power only, and would ever after have to doubt the sweet deceits of the sycophant and the fawning smiles of the toady, and always beware the knife in the dark. Many of those who ruled the people of Israel did just this – and many a prophet railed at them for it. Those who rule with the blessing of God do so, and only do so, in order that mercy may flow like a river, and justice roll down like a mighty stream. Rule for some other reason – rule selfishly, say, to benefit your family or your business, your funding base or your tribe – and you do not rule justly, with authority, or with the blessing of God.

To bring it back to the Pharisees’ question: those who have no right to rule over you have no right to demand your money. This is why they tend to seize it by force and then rule over you by force and guile, not persuasion and dignity. Deep down, they must know they are wrong, and might even be ashamed, but power soon forgets that when money and power are on the line, which is why the world so often stays the way it is and does not become what it should be. So, when the Pharisees ask whether or not it is lawful to pay taxes, what they are really asking Jesus is to say out loud whether or not Roman rule in Judea was or was not legal, moral, or just.

The Pharisees – no friends of Rome, let us not forget – know as well as Jesus does that it wasn’t. All of them would’ve been glad to see it end. Many of them worked tirelessly to end it, even if many collaborated with the regime, and some collaborated enthusiastically. These people, after all, are the ones who start the war against Rome that Jesus wouldn’t, and who lose it as decisively as Napoleon at Waterloo, or the Scots at Culloden. For all God’s blessing on the Persian king who let the people come back home – Cyrus, Kiros, whose name means simply ‘The Great King’ – that blessing did not extend to his successors, or not for long. Sure, as Isaiah 45 says, the Lord went before this latest King of kings and Lord of lords to level the mountains, shatter the doors of bronze and slice to ribbons the bars of iron, stripping the robes from kings and dragging their crowns through the mire, but that was just the once. The point was to show that the Lord God of Israel was still in charge, the source of light and life, as well as of darkness – the font of both weal and woe. One could be forgiven for thinking that it was Persian arms and bureaucratic savvy that won for Cyrus his great realm and kept it, but in any case, it did not last forever. What the Lord giveth, the Lord can take away – and where is the Persian Empire now? Where the Empire of Rome? (And don’t say, ‘The Vatican’, though I see the point.) ‘Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair,’ run the words on the statue of Ozymandias, in Shelley’s famous poem, as they ironically face a blank, empty desert under an indifferent, yet punishing, sky. Vanity of vanity, says the Lord. All is vanity.

All this was in their minds, I suspect, as they stood there, Jesus and the Pharisees, and whoever of his disciples and theirs were listening. None of them could hear the question and not feel instantly how far the system under which they sweat for their daily bread was from the sort of thing God wanted for them, or that they wanted for themselves. None of them could hear it and not think how far Herod and Pilate were from Cyrus of Persia, or Solomon of old. None of them could hear the question and not feel how much more good they could do with that denarius than Pilate would, or his soldiers, or his staff, or his father-in-law, whose sneering, paranoid visage the coin most likely bore. None could hear the question and not feel the weight of having to pay by force a tax to an unjust government they could not change, yet for which they would have to atone. They did not know what to do about it – and any teacher claiming greater authority than they had would raise his stature greatly if he could tell them.

This, of course, is what Jesus does: he gives them a coy, but when you think about it quite a straight, answer: give the king what is his, and give to God what is God’s. But what, O Jesus, O rabbi, is the king’s? Is it what the king has taken, what the king demands, or what the king justly deserves? On the answers to these questions much depends, but note the dignity Jesus gives to each who hears him in expecting, in demanding, that each answer this question independently. What, then, is God’s? What is not? Do not all things come of thee, O Lord, and only of thine own do we give thee? Of course they do, and of course we do. If the Lord is the source of light and life, and of darkness, of weal, and of woe – the Creator, no less – then what is not the Lord’s? What, indeed?

Serving a living and true God, as Paul reminds the people of Thessalonica, asks a lot of us. It also gives us a lot – grace, salvation, blessing, wisdom, an understanding of our purpose, and plenty of reasons to keep going. It’s best to be sure that the god one serves is real – and if one of your god’s names is love and another mercy, you can rest assured on the point, as they did, and as Jesus no doubt wished the Pharisees et al. would. That was not, or not yet, their fate – but it soon would be, and he might well have known that. Maybe that’s why he gave them not the answer they wanted – neither of them, actually – but the answer they needed. “Unlike your rulers,” he is in essence saying, “I’m not going to tell you what to do with your money. I’m going to tell you what God wants you to do, as best I can figure it, and which you know as well as I do: give people, and give God, what they deserve. They deserve love and mercy and justice. What say we start there?”



[acc_item title=”A Statement of Faith, A Song of God’s Love  – 1 John 4:7-11″]

Beloved, let us love one another, *
for love is of God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, *
for God is Love.
In this the love of God was revealed among us, *
that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us *
and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, *
we ought also to love one another.
For if we love one another, God abides in us, *
and God’s love will be perfected in us.[/acc_item]

[acc_item title=”A Collect for 20th Pentecost (Proper 25)”]

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.[/acc_item]

[acc_item title=”A Collect for the Renewal of Life“]

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the
night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive
far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your
law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having
done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may,
when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.[/acc_item]

[acc_item title=”A Collect for Abiding Guidance“]

We praise your abiding guidance, O God,
for you sent us Jesus, our Teacher and Messiah,
to model for us the way of love for the whole universe.

We offer these prayers of love
on behalf of ourselves and our neighbors,
on behalf of your creation and our fellow creatures.

Loving God,
open our ears to hear your word
and draw us closer to you,
that the whole world may be one with you
as you are one with us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


[acc_item title=”A Prayer After St Alphonsus”]

O Jesus, you are present to us in the blessed sacrament. We love you above all things, and desire to receive you into our souls. Since we cannot at this time share your sacrament, let your spirit dwell within our hearts. Let us welcome you as one already with us, making us one body and one spirit, never to be parted from you. Amen.[/acc_item]

[acc_item title=”Closing Hymn: O God of earth and altar   –   G.K. Chesterton    –   Hymnal  1940 #521″]

O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation of honor and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!
Tie in a living tether the price and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together, smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation, a single sword to thee.




The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.


Hymn: Spirit of the Living God    Daniel Iverson, alt.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.


About Episcopal Worship and this Service

We give thanks this morning for our reader, Jess Rowland, for our organist and music director, Beresford Coker; for our post-production team Linda Lee, Lee Mericle, and Joyce Walker; and for our video compiler and editor, Gabriel Wilkins.

Image credits: Lady Justice (the Old Bailey, London); the Statue of Liberty (NY); the Statue of Freedom (US Capitol); Thomas Crawford, Figure of Freedom with Liberty Cap (US Capitol), view of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and Washington Monument (Washington, DC); Roman silver coin bearing the image of Tiberius; communion bread and wine; autumn footage from Wyoming, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Alberta, and Maryland.

St Mark’s returns to in-person worship at 10:30 am on October 25, 2020. The bulletin and video of that service will be posted to the church website after the service. Please join us, either in person or online, as you are able. Commitment Sunday, when we celebrate our pledge givers for 2021, is November 8, 2020. We are grateful for your pledge support, and hope that you will continue it.


Resources (available for free online)

These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.

This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.

The Revised Common Lectionary and Daily Office,

Links to church websites – National, Diocesan and our church’s website.

The Episcopal Church:

Episcopal News Service:

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington:

St. Mark’s, Fairland:


A Prayer in Times of Sickness and Contagion

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health, source of all wisdom and peace: Comfort and relieve your servants who suffer from sickness or fear, give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, and let your grace be with all those who work to protect us from contagion and disease. May we be strengthened against any weakness, sickness, fear, and doubt, and place our confidence in your loving care through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


[1] Or Venite, Psalm 95