Material for Worship on the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Let us prepare for worship today by joining the psalmist in praising our faithful God whose promises to us are changeless and everlasting.

You can listen to David playing the tune as you read or sing James Quinn’s hymn based on Psalm 100.

Sing, all creation, sing to God in gladness,
joyously serve him, singing hymns of homage,
chanting his praises, come before his presence:
praise the Almighty!

Know that our God is Lord of all the ages;
he is our maker: we are all his creatures,
people he fashioned, sheep he leads to pasture:
praise the Almighty!

Enter his temple, ringing out his praises;
sing in thanksgiving as you come before him;
blessing his bounty, glorify his greatness:
praise the Almighty!

Great in his goodness is the Lord we worship;
steadfast his kindness, love that knows no ending;
faithful his word is, changeless, everlasting:
praise the Almighty!

Our readings for today are Isaiah 45. 1-7read by Hugh and Matthew 22.15-22 read by Gudrun.

The Ven Peter Potter introduces the Gospel reading for today, and helps us reflect on our ambivalent attitude towards money.

“Whose head is this?” Jesus asked the Pharisees. Still today the monarch’s head appears on our coins while in France and Switzerland you see Marianne or Vreni, the national icon in the form of a stylised female figure. The image on the “heads” side of a coin is more than a decoration; it stands for the power of the state to guarantee the coin’s value but also to proclaim the ruler’s authority wherever the coin is used even though he or she is not actually present.

Behind Jesus’ question lies another one which the Pharisees, being religious people, will have heard. Unfortunately our modern translations often fail to bring out the double edge to Jesus’ words. In the original Greek, the word Jesus used is not “head” but “icon”. The Authorised Version renders this as “image”, which is nearer the mark. It is also the word used to translate “icon” in the Genesis account of the creation of the first human beings. The Pharisees knew that God made us in his own image and so, behind the image (or face) of the emperor on the coin is the likeness of God and it follows that giving to the emperor cannot be easily separated from our primary duty to give to God.

Equally it imposes a duty on the emperor, i.e. the state, to act in a God-like manner, using its power and authority to act with justice, mercy and compassion, working for the good of all and especially of the poor and weak. This is also the message of Old Testament prophets like Amos and Hosea, who castigate the rulers of Israel for their neglect of this duty. Today the state and big business are often characterised as “faceless”, which would imply that they are not acting in a God-like manner and that they in turn regard their citizens, employers and customers as an anonymous mass rather than as individuals. This has the effect of turning society into a collection of strangers. Like the prophets of old, today’s religions must help us recognise the times when we see our common identity in the face of strangers.

“Whose image do you see?” This is a question we too need to ask ourselves in our everyday dealings with our fellow men and women. If we are made in the image of God then we must expect to see God in the face of each one we meet. Although our faces are unique, there are features we all have in common, something we recognise in each one of us that identifies us as human. Can we then recognise God’s image in one who is not exactly, or even closely, in our image? It is when humans have failed to do this that the greatest inhumanities have occurred. These instances of inhumanity are not matters of secular politics or economics – the things of Caesar; they are instances of failure to give to God the things that are God’s.

The monarch’s head on our coins is an image of authority, a sign that authority is present wherever and whenever we go about our daily lives. And the faces we meet in the street or see on our television screens are fragments of God’s image, signs that he is present in all our dealings with each other.


Let us reflect on our ambivalent attitude towards money: we know that we cannot do without it; we know that the lives of many would be improved if they had more money; but we also know that there are dishonest and dubious ways of gaining money; nor can money buy us health or happiness.

We give thanks for all God’s good gifts, including money that is the fruit of honest labour and wise stewardship.
We pray for all whose lives are blighted because they cannot earn enough to provide for themselves and their families.
Lord, your kingdom come, your will be done.

We give thanks for all who give their money generously for the mission of the Church, for the good of those in need and for the advancement of well-being.
We pray that all may receive a just reward for their labour, skills and contribution to society.
Lord, your kingdom come, your will be done.

We give thanks for all whose gifts of time, talents and treasure have benefitted us.
We pray for debt counsellors and others who are helping people in financial difficulty; and for victims of scams, fraud and theft.
Lord, your kingdom come, your will be done.

We give thanks for those who administer financial affairs with integrity and honesty.
We pray for all who campaign for tax justice, against tax havens and other schemes thatp deprive poorer nations of a rightful share of the profits from their resources.
Lord, your kingdom come, your will be done.

We give thanks for all God’s gifts that cannot be bought with money: for the beauty of creation, kind words and smiles, love and companionship. And above all for his grace freely given.
Lord, your Son declared that your kingdom has come among us. Open our eyes to see it in the face of friend and stranger; open our ears to hear it and our hands to work for it.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You may want to finish your time of worship today by joining in with Edward J. Burns’s uplifting hymn, ‘We have a gospel to proclaim’.

Here is David playing the tune.

We have a gospel to proclaim,
good news for men in all the earth;
The gospel of a Saviour’s name:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.

Tell of his birth at Bethlehem,
not in a royal house or hall
but in a stable dark and dim,
the Word made flesh, a light for all.

Tell of his death at Calvary,
hated by those he came to save,
in lonely suffering on the cross;
for all he loved his life he gave.

Tell of that glorious Easter morn,
empty the tomb, for he was free.
He broke the power of death and hell
that we might share his victory.

Tell of his reign at God’s right hand,
by all creation glorified.
He sends his Spirit on his Church,
to live for him, the Lamb who died.

Now we rejoice to name him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
This gospel-message we proclaim:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.