Welcome to the month of July in the Parish of Wokingham Without. July is named after Julius Caesar, a Roman general, statesman and historian. Julius Caesar is not mentioned in the Bible, nor did he live during the times recorded in the Bible, having died in 44 BCE (Before Christian Era).
Tiberius Caesar was however referred to in the 12th chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Here, an alliance of religious sects posed a question about the payment of taxes to Caesar. Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin”. When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them.
There is no doubt of our legal obligation as citizens to pay the taxes levied by the UK government. That is our duty as these taxes fund the delivery of public services for our betterment, policies of our elected government and maintenance of structures for running this country. No difference to the levying of taxes during the Roman Empire times of the ‘Caesars’ but what about those things belonging to God?
In response to Job’s questions in the 38th chapter, God posed the following counter-questions: “Where does light come from and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there? Where is the path of the source of light? Where is the home of the east wind? Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? Who makes the rain fall on barren land, in a desert where no one lives? Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground and make the tender grass spring up?” I could go on, but my point is knowing what God’s natural wonders are. God was not seeking answers from Job. Instead, he was inviting Job to recognise and submit to His power and sovereignty. Only then could Job hear the words of God and so should we.
When we hear God’s words, we understand that we are God’s masterpiece. That God has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. I shared in a recent sermon that our internal witness of Christ is transformed in order to be an external witness. Each of us is special to God and He wants to fulfil specific things in our lives in harmony with our physical frames, and positively with our families, places of work and communities. If the frame is deficient or deformed, then God can use even that to highlight our unique qualities geared towards becoming more purpose driven.
You see, unless we see that God has been at work in our beings from the moment of our conception with a unique design for our lives, we will tend to regard ourselves as of modest value and insignificant value to God. God however continues working on us for our betterment, which a Christian writer captured with the words: “Stay on God’s Easel”. We are God’s painting on His Easel. We stay on God’s Easel for transformation moving from bitterness to joy. We stay on God’s Easel moving our fears into faith. We stay on God’s Easel to find thankfulness out of deep pain (and that can be difficult). We stay on God’s Easel open to be guided to His ends and outcomes, not our own.
As I write this letter, I pray that we find rest for our restless spirits in the time of anxiety. “Father of heaven, whose love profound a ransom for our souls has found: We pray for the world, created by your love, for its nations and governments. Extend to them your peace, your love and mercy. Amen.”
Stay blessed with love
Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of Wokingham St Sebastian’s