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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


2017-10-22 Lk 20 19-25 Possessed!

The Christmas decorations have gone up in the stores.

Which means it must be getting close to Halloween.

I have no theological beef with Halloween.

It's a church holiday.


Did you know that?

A long time ago, the church in Europe didn't like it when the pagan Anglo-Saxons had their Fall Festivals with creepy, godless activities, like dancing, and apple-bobbing.

(Frivolity!) So the church rebranded Fall Festivals as All Hallows' Eve.


And then Halloween got too creepy and godless, so churches rebranded Halloween as...

Fall Festivals.

When our girls were little we never thought Halloween was all that demonic.

We just liked dressing then up in cute costumes (and sometimes dressing the dog up, too).

We tried dressing a cat up.



But somebody always goes overboard and ruins it for everybody else.

This is why we can't have nice things.

A lot of people are afraid of Halloween.

Like it's Satan's gateway drug.

Like the spooky stuff rubs off.

Sure, your kids are Disney Princesses now.

Next year, their beds will be spinning.



The truth is, we don't need to dress up in spooky costumes to be possessed.

That stuff we fill our homes with, what do we call them?

Oh yeah, possessions.

But they're OUR possessions, right?

We own them.


It sounds like today's scripture is about money.

And on one level, it is.

They ask Jesus about paying taxes.

But Jesus turns the question inside out.


He looks at the coin and says, "It's got Caesars picture on it.

It must be his.

He owns it.

But it's in your pocket.

Does Caesar own you?

That's what the scripture asks us, too.

Who owns you?

Whose possession are you?






Matthew 6:21 Jesus says, " where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Look in your wallet.

Open your purse.

What treasures will you find?

Your cash.

Your credit cards.

Your debit chip-card you swipe when you're supposed to insert (or insert when you're supposed to swipe) which always makes the teenage cashier sigh, and makes everyone in the line behind you sigh, and makes you want to shout, "I'm sorry I'm so old." Maybe that's just me.

On your keychain, you've probably got some of those purchase tracking devices.

Stores call them, "Loyalty cards," because "Privacy Destroying Barcodes" sounds bad.


Looking at my keychain, I'm very loyal.

To multiple shopping partners.

I'm a retail floozy.

I scan the card and the self-service cash register tells me, "Welcome Valued Customer." Mister Valued Customer to you.

That's me.

I count.

I have worth.

The store values me and I give them my loyalty.

Kroger loves me, this I know, for the scanner tells me so.

Warm feelings.



Who's possessing whom?

I don't want to go all conspiracy-theory, here, but I know the stores know me.

They've got my identity.

They know what deodorant I buy, and how often I buy it, and whether I could use a little more.

That's helpful.

They know when I spend my money.

They know where I spend my money.

They know which aisles are my favorite.

And then they share the information.

They sell my identity to trustworthy third parties.



Am I the shopper?

Or am I the product?

My identity can be bought and sold.

How much of me do they possess?

How much is left for me?


How much is left for God?




In scripture, the unnamed people in charge sent unnamed spies to trick Jesus.

So they could catch him being disloyal.

So the authorities could entrap him.

So they could possess him.

No treats.

Just tricks.

They pretended to sincerely know him and like him.

To appeal to his loyalty.

To pump up his sense of value.

So they...

Who are they?

That's important to the story.

They are Pharisees.

AND they are Herodians.

Both barrels.

The religious authorities AND the civil authorities got together.

They colluded.

So they [ – the religious guys and the government spies – ] they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth.


"Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"



If that's what we think this is about, we're tricking ourselves.

Romans had pictures of Caesar on their coins, with the title "Son of God" beneath his head.

Rome was god.

So for the Jews of Jesus' time, even touching Roman money was a filthy act of blasphemy.

To even have the money in your possession was to commit idolatry, to break at the first two of Ten Commandments.

It was a sign of possession.

One writer says, "Rome's demand for tribute signaled nothing less than a claim of ownership [.

Ownership] over the land and [ownership of] its inhabitants." (Aslan, 76)

In other words, possessing Roman money, using Roman money, paying taxes with Roman money, meant Rome owned you.

Rome one you.

Rome possessed you.

A scary, pagan, violent, demonic, ungodly force possessed you.


And what do you do?

You carry its picture in your wallet.


But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, "Show me a denarius.

Whose head and whose title does it bear?" They said, "The emperor's." He said to them, "Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."


What does this mean?

Take a breather and think about it for a minute.


"...give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."

What do you think?

In the words of Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means."

In Jesus's time, a separated church and state, a free-market economy where your identity comes from what you buy and how you buy it – both of these were inconceivable.

But the idea of being owned?

Jesus got that.

Who's possessing whom?




Christmas is coming soon.

Only 9 weeks to go.

Does that make anyone else's blood pressure go up?

Only 9 shopping weeks left.

So gird up your loins and get out there.

Perform your sacred shopping duty.

If not for yourself, do it for someone you love.

Do it for the good of the economy.

Trickle down, people.

It's fun to buy presents.

It's fun to get presents.

I mean, c'mon.

A Cabbage Patch Doll never hurt anybody.

Except in a couple of movies.

I think its name was Chucky.

If you're in a movie and you see a creepy doll, do not take it home.

That doll is possessed.


At Halloween, we get spooked by tales of possession.

And between now and Christmas we're obligated to buy possessions.

It's a fine line that separates the holidays.

What we buy and how we buy it identifies us in ways we don't even know.

Our treasures are the gateway to our hearts.

Even Jesus knew that.

Our possessions are all over us like stickers on a NASCAR racer.

We'll never see the corporations or people who own our identities.

At least the Romans were honest enough to put a picture of their owner on their coins.

Who do you belong to?

Who owns you?

Whose possession are you?

Who decides your value?

How much stuff we have in our house, how much money we have in our bank accounts, how much of our debt belongs to credit card companies – that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Jesus is not preaching about materialism.

Jesus is not giving tax advice.

Jesus is not trying to separate church from state.

Jesus is asking his people, asking us, a far more basic question: Whose valued soul are you?


Who owns you?

What spirit possesses you?

Whose are you?

Can you be bought and sold for a price?

Or do you know, do you see that in the heart of God, you are priceless?


Give to Caesar what is Caesar's.

Give him back all his coins.

They must belong to him because they've got his name and face on them.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's.

But give to God...

I don't know.

Give God some credit.

Give God some credit for wanting to claim, for wanting to pull together, for wanting to forgive, for wanting to possess -

Scared and wonderful little people like you and me.




(David Lose http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1589)