Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
Today’s readings encompass two very different emperors: Cyrus, God’s instrument in liberating and repatriating the exiled Jews, and Tiberius, whose image is inscribed on the coinage of the occupied and brutally taxed Jerusalem six centuries later, when the Pharisees try to entrap Jesus.
In Matthew’s story, Jesus grants the emperor his denarius, just as he tells us to give to God what is God’s. But while the former is concrete — the return of the coin to the one whose image it bears — what exactly does the latter involve? What does God say through Isaiah to Cyrus, whom he calls his anointed?
He says, “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.” We have all received those treasures and secret riches; we receive them every day, with every breath, from every direction, from the God who calls us by our name and anoints us as his own in baptism. And what he calls us to do with those riches is what he called Cyrus to do with his imperial power: use it in God’s name to benefit God’s people, “so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me.”
Let us be imitators of the Thessalonians who “received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,” and in that joy, may we continually find new ways to offer ourselves, our treasures and our secret riches joyfully to the one who forms light and creates darkness, in whose image and likeness we ourselves are made.
This reflection is written by Peter Grace, a member of the cathedral congregation since 2010 and a 2014 graduate of the Education for Ministry program. He is currently a co-facilitator of the Thursday Bible study and 4:30 Sunday book study group.