Matthew 22.15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Today 19/10/14 we have been asked by the Church of England to take part in a survey about church attendance. We have also used this opportunity to ask you some other questions linked to our services and worship.

In our gospel reading Jesus said that people should pay to Caesar what is due to him and give to God what is due to Him. The big question is, “What do we owe God?”

We can find the answer in our service with Jesus' summary of the law. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

We could paraphrase this by saying we owe our complete love and devotion to God all the time, and we should love people, too. Our love of God should include us giving financially to the church and charitable causes, which is what Jesus was quizzed about, but it is a lot more than that.

One Sunday, a number of weeks ago, I asked one of our Brazil team if they had worshipped God that day. They retorted that they worshipped God every day! Which serves me right for using imprecise language. They were right. The believer should worship God every day with all their being.

This links in with what is on our service sheets at the end of the service. This is acknowledging that our worship of God doesn't end once we walk out of church. Rather, our church worship should equip us and inspire us to live for God for the rest of the week. Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ. Through him we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice. Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.”

This, in turn reflects Paul's words to the Roman Christians, 12.1. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God– this is your true and proper worship.

Our epistle reading today featured Paul rejoicing in the faith of the Thessalonian Christians.

Paul acknowledged that they had v9 turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. This was due to the work of the Holy Spirit, leading to a deep conviction, verse 5.

Today there are many “idols” that can tempt people. Obvious things like money, possessions, pleasure, power, pride. But there are also other, more subtle idols, things that take the time and devotion that belong to God. The things we use to help us worship God can become idols. The form of service, the type of songs, the Bible. So, if someone says that they can only worship if a particular liturgy is used, or a certain style of song, have these things become idols. Are they the one that is being worshipped rather than our Lord and Saviour who is due our devotion, honour and praise?

I remember when I was at the Vicar factory, they used to alternate the Chapel worship between BCP and the Alternative Service Book. One student, who had not encountered the BCP before and didn't find it easy, declared that he would not let this get in the way of his worship, indeed, it would inspire him to worship God.

Not only had the Thessalonians turned to God this had affected the way that they lived. v9. turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

There practical faith became known “everywhere”, v8. We know from 2 Cor. 8.1-8 that this included giving to other Christians who were in need. This giving was exceedingly generous in relation to what they had. Described by Paul as “beyond their ability”.

So, giving to God and those in need is part of our worship of God. So, next time the collection plate comes round, or you see the Standing Order on your Bank Statement, remember it is part of your worship, and give thanks to God for who He is and being able to give. We should give in the way we have received from God. Cheerfully and graciously. This caused Paul to write 2 Cor. 9.7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. The Greek for cheerful is hilarion, from which we get the word “Hilarious”. So, we ought to be laughing with joy and generosity when the plate comes round.

So our whole life should be an act of worship. Showing how much God means to us and bringing praise to him. Jesus said, Matthew 5.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. We are to shine for God and be seen by others. Like the Thessalonians whose faith was known “everywhere”.

I conclude with some words from a book “Young People and Worship” I read during my study leave ; “Properly, fully, worship is our wholehearted response to the wonderful, majestic, encouraging reality of God. Worship is our attempt to give God what He deserves. Worship is our attempt to cause God delight by living in His name to His glory. Worship is what happens when we are conscious of God and long to be closer to Him. Worship is standing before God and learning how to live. Worship is that 'yes' which is our heartfelt and instinctive response to the God who made us and loves us and died for us, who lives for us and in us.”

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