Stand Up and Be Counted Sermon
“Stand Up and Be Counted” SERMON for 10/20/19 at Harbor Church
Exodus 30:11–16 11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the Lord. Then no plague will strike the people as you count them. 13 Each person who is counted must give a small piece of silver as a sacred offering to the Lord. (This payment is half a shekel, based on the sanctuary shekel, which equals twenty gerahs) 14 All who have reached their twentieth birthday must give this sacred offering to the Lord. 15 When this offering is given to the Lord to purify your lives, making you right with him, the rich must not give more than the specified amount, and the poor must not give less. 16 Receive this ransom money from the Israelites, and use it for the care of the Tabernacle. It will bring the Israelites to the Lord’s attention, and it will purify your lives.” 
. Paying Taxes to Caesar
Mar 12:13 And they sent some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to him so that they could catch him unawares in a statement.
Mar 12:14 And when they came, they said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are truthful and you do not care what anyone thinks, because you do not regard the opinion of people but teach the way of God in truth. Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?"
Mar 12:15 But because he knew their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius so that I can look at it!"
Mar 12:16 So they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" And they said to him, "Caesar's."
Mar 12:17 And Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God!" And they were utterly amazed at him.
“Stand Up and Be Counted” SERMON for 10/20/19 at Harbor Church
Today is a special .day for a couple of reasons. First because we have Called the Roll of our church once again to stand up and be counted with the people of God an renew our commitment to our faith. Second, because it is pledge Sunday when we make our annual financial commitment to the work of the church God. I’d like to try to tie together thee two important commitments that we make today by making two simple observations from our scripture readings about two coins mentioned here, the shekel and the denarius. The shekel was the standard unit of currency in the time of the ancient Israelites, and the denarius was the coin of the Rome Empire during the time of the early church. What is noteworthy about these two coins is found not so much in their monetary value, but rather in the commitment that each coin represents. So lets look at each of them for just a moment.
Israel had an ancient equivalent of our Calling of the Church Rolls; it was the census that Moses took of the people which were reminded of in our first reading. During this census the people were counted, but were also required to t give a small piece of silver as a sacred offering to the Lord.
The payment was half a shekel, based on the sanctuary shekel, which equals twenty gerahs. the gerah is known in Akkadian as gir–. The basic meaning of the Akkadian word is a grain of carob seed. A small amount, not inconsequential, but more or less a token symbolic payment) Everyone regardless of their wealth or status gave the same amount. This ‘atonement money’ did not buy their salvation, but rather expressed their commitment to God through a tangible physical means. It was not God’s tithe, or their regular offering, but rather their basic pledge to support the covenant community. So I exhort all of us today to bring our shekel to the church. The pledge is our foundational promise to support the work of the church through our giving. It is this principle that is paramount; the actual amount that commit is important, but secondary to the commitment itself. I am confident that if each of us brings our shekel to the Lord, whatever subsequent contributions follow will be sufficient to support the continued work of ministry at Harbor Church.
The coin mentioned in our second reading is the denarius, which Jesus used to illustrate another important principle of commitment. When He says, “ Give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God!" I am reminded of the great understanding of this that was given to us by St. Augustine of Hippo in The City of God –. It was his great treatise on the concept of our dual citizenship as Christians. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have two allegiances to Two very different kingdoms: The first he calls the City of Heaven and the other the City of Earth, or the City of this World. .
Augustine wrote this work in the early 5th century, which was a pivotal moment in Western history. The Vandals, under the command of their king, Alaric, captured the city of Rome. Rome was known as the Eternal City because the Romans thought that it would literally never fall, and the year 410 shook this belief to its foundations and ultimately led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world itself seemed to have been destroyed, and everyone sought answers about what to do and what to believe in. Those who adhered to the waning pagan faith were quick to blame the Christians, claiming that the gods had abandoned Rome because many Romans had forsaken them and taken the new faith. These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state, and they advocated forgiveness toward enemies. More important, they said the Christian God had failed to protect Rome, as he should have done, since Constantine had declared him to be the one true God. Augustine wrote in the midst of this social upheaval. His words spoke eloquently to his historical situation, and they still speak as clearly to us today.
He contrasted two realities: the City of Heaven (the church and the kingdom of God here on earth), and the City of the World(the state, politics, government and human ethics). The church is divinely established and leads humankind to eternal goodness, which is found in God. The state adheres to the virtues of politics and of the mind, formulating a political community. Both of these societies , he said, are visible and seek to do good.. But Humankind must first pursue the City of Heaven to maintain a proper sense of order, which in turn leads to true peace. And He emphasizes the idea that the peace and happiness found in the heavenly city can also be experienced here on earth.
In his arguments he appealed to the wisdom of The philosophers of the past, such as Plato, who had all said that a person does not owe full and absolute loyalty to any earthly society, and Augustine rigorously critiques this concept in the light of Christian doctrine. He states that the Scriptures alone can instruct human beings about the highest good and the highest evil and that without this guidance, human endeavor has no purpose. So, whenever there is a conflict between our two allegiances to these two kingdoms, we must have the courage and conviction to seek the Heavenly Kingdom above all else. So yes, we must honor the emperor, or the king or the president and their governments, but we must commit to honoring the Lord our God above and beyond all earthly leaders. This is the essence of Jesus object lesson with the denarius.
Which leads me to the title of today’s message: “stand up and be counted.” This expression means “to Reveal one's convictions or opinions, especially when it requires courage to do so.” When we stand up and are counted on Roll Call Sunday, we are renewing our allegiance to God as the supreme Lord and leader of our lives, and we are pledging to follow him, and to reveal both his truth and his love to the rest of the world, especially when it requires courage to speak up for God truth and his ways.
The Shekel and the Denarius. Two ancient coins with very modern equivalents. Not in terms of monetary worth, but in terms of commitments. Today this roll call Sunday, this pledge Sunday, we stand up and are counted as people who have promised to support the work of Gods’ Church, and to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom here on earth.