First Lesson: Exodus 33: 12-23
Responsive Reading: Psalm 99
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 22: 15-22
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The year was 1947. The place was about thirty miles north of Roswell, New Mexico. A sheep-rancher named William “Mac” Brazel found some unknown debris in the pasture. Officials from the Roswell County Sheriff’s Office and local Army Air Force base quickly came out to investigate. What made Brazel’s discovery so interesting is locals had reported seeing unidentified flying objects or UFOs above the Roswell sky. Days later an Air Force official seeking to discredit the rumors proclaimed the remains found by Brazel to be nothing other than a crashed “weather balloon.” People were skeptical as the ballon’s description was unlike any other ballon people had ever seen: “ultra-lightweight and ultra-strong metals, fiber-optic cables and fireproof fabrics .“ Interestingly enough the Army officials were so interested in this “balloon” that they flew it from Roswell to Fort Worth, Texas for further investigation.
The story would seem to end here only it didn’t. In the 1950’s the Air Force would frequently conduct secret “tests” over New Mexico fields which involved dropping “dummies” from high altitudes as a means of evaluating future military safety. What did the dummies look like? Latex skin with aluminum bones appearing to look like “space aliens.” So the whispers kept spreading. The decades after brought all sorts of further rumors as to what exactly did happen at Roswell. Many people claim that the UFO found by Brazel was an alien spacecraft whose contents have been hidden by the U.S. Government. Government documents have since revealed that the remains found by Brazel weren’t, in fact, a “weather balloon” but rather a top-secret project involving “surveillance balloons.” These surveillance balloons which possessed the ability to travel in high altitudes with the intent of picking up soundwaves from thousands of miles away (hence the unique materials involved). The project went by the name of “Project Mogul” had nothing to do with aliens but rather everything to do with spying on the Russians.
Due to people doubting this official explanation, the Roswell Crash Site remains a popular tourist destination for UFO Seekers from all over the world. What happened at Roswell? While I cannot say anything for certain, I can say this Lutherans believe in an alien invasion. Lutherans don’t just believe in alien invasion, understanding Lutheran beliefs about alien invasion are one of the key tenants about the Lutheran Reformation whose 500th Anniversary we celebrate next week.
You see the Lutheran Reformation’s central question is “How are human beings made right with God?” What exactly do people need to do? Do people need dramatic conversions? Do people need to live such clean, wholesome lives that they may make many a preacher blush? Do people need to give a certain amount of money, pray a certain amount of prayers, or dedicate a certain amount of time to various “holy” causes?
Martin Luther addressed this question in 1518 sermon titled “Two Kinds of Righteousness.” In this sermon, Luther describes “salvation” as being a process of alien invasion. Only when I’m talking about Lutherans and aliens, I’m not talking about little green men, rather for Luther salvation comes purely from heavenly sources outside the world. According to Luther, We have as much power in the salvation process as we do in calling down Aliens to appear in Roswell, New Mexico. Our relationship with God is made right not because of our actions, but rather because of Christ’s actions. We are passive bystanders in the alien invasion process of salvation.
We are made “right with God” because Our Father chooses to invade from Heaven to Earth in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world. ((Eph. 1:3-14). So Christ’s alien salvation ultimately becomes ours also.
John Piper gives another way to look at this. Picture the following scenario; A sixteen-year-old son has a “dirty room.” The father gives an order “Clean your room before going to school or else you won’t be able to go to the game tonight.” The son being sixteen years old has more important things to do on his iPhone than to clean his room before school. The son is bothered by this all day as he sits in school, he dreads not being able to go the evening’s game. He fears Dad’s reaction upon seeing his room. What dad does though is interesting. Dad doesn’t get mad. Dad proceeds to clean his son’s room until the room is spotless. The son is stumped when he goes home and sees the seeming Alien Invasion of his room. Finally, the dad admits doing it for the son so that he would be able to go to the game. Such a story illustrates the meaning of “alien righteousness,” Salvation is pure grace. All we ultimately bring to the Salvation table is “our imperfect faith” then the Cross cleans our rooms, and changes everything forever more.
Yet no one wants just to say alien forces will clean your room and you can forget about everything else. No one wants too-many stray raccoons wandering through the house. People often criticize Luther for not paying enough attention to how people should live. Yet Luther did have a vision for us as Christian people to follow once the alien invasion changes everything.
Today’s Gospel Lesson comes to us from Matthew the 22nd Chapter. It’s a passage about paying taxes and whether Christian people should do so. Now people in Jesus’ day didn’t like paying taxes to the hated Romans. They had a list of everything that was wrong with the Romans they occupied land that wasn’t there, they worshiped political leaders as gods, and the like many government officials weren’t exactly stingy with other people’s money.
Now the Pharisees who Jesus encounters in Today’s lesson weren’t big fans of his ministry. They thought the Aliens were too lax in who they were choosing to save. So they decide to try to trap Jesus.
“Is It lawful to pay taxes to Caeser or not?”
Here’s the trick to the question, if Jesus says “no,” the Pharisees and Herodians charge him with being an “enemy of the state. On the other hand, if he says “yes,” then he’s just another hypocritical religious sell-out. A normal politician would be sweating at such a question with the potential to sink one’s career.
Jesus’ response was to the point “Whose likeness and inscription is this on the coin?” he asked “Caeser’s? They answered. So Jesus says his famous line “Render, then, to Caeser that things which are Caeser’s and render unto God the things that are God’s.”
Jesus’ answer is making a profound point. It was the same point that Luther was making in his sermon “On Two Kinds of Rightness or Righteousness.” We as Christian people live both as citizens of this world while also being citizens of heaven at the same time.
Jesus’ point is that these citizenships will often have dual obligations. We should pay taxes (proper righteousness), but we are not saved by paying taxes (alien righteousness.)
We must not confuse our dual citizenships nor their obligations.
A few months back, I was heading down to Superior to watch summer league basketball driving down the hill out of Silver Bay. Now the speed limit on that hill is “30”, I was driving like “42” or something on this day. Noticing this was Silver Bay’s Honorable Police Chief Doug Frericks, Chief Frericks turns on the siren on me, pulls me over. Chief Frericks in the act of grace walks up to my car and says “This time it’s on me, next time it’s on you” and walks away.
Now was I in the wrong? “Yes.” I could have been a better citizen driving down the hill out of town, yet my careless driving has nothing to do with my status within the Kingdom of Heaven.
You see Lutherans do place a lot of emphasis on “Christian living,” our emphasis is on being a good neighbor, parent, grandparent, spouse, friend, or driver. These things are what Luther called proper righteousness. We don’t do these things because they make us right with God, but rather because they keep us right with each other. The following understanding of our callings is the difference between “alien rightness” which comes from above in receiving salvation versus “proper rightness” in being a good citizen. We must never confuse the two.
These two types or rightness like Jesus’s proclamation about paying taxes to Caesar are in reality two sides of the same coin. Our Lord establishes both the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdoms of this world. They are both sustained by his work in governments, families, communities, and churches. We cannot control “Alien Rightness” or “Alien Invasion” of how and when God chooses to save yet we do have power over whether we ultimately obey the speed limit.
One last story told by Ed Markquart for this morning, John D. Rockefeller was born in “1839”. Rockefeller was born into modest means in Upstate New York. Rockefeller’s genius idea is that the future of the American economy lies not in oil drilling, but oil refining. Rockefeller is a millionaire by age 23. He finds Standard Oil at age 31. By the age of 50, Rockefeller is the richest man in the country. The story would seem destined for a happy ending at this point; only it isn’t.
At age 53, John D. Rockefeller grew seriously ill. He began losing all the hair on his head and began dropping weight like crazy as his body could only handle milk and crackers. Rockefeller was known for being unable to crack a smile. Doctors believed Rockefeller would be dead within a year.
One night though Rockefeller while unable to sleep distinguished between being a “citizen of this world” versus “a citizen of heaven.” Rockefeller knew he couldn’t take anything he owned into the next world. So John D. Rockefeller established The Rockefeller Foundation which supported all sorts of medical and missionary causes. Rockefeller’s new outlook eventually leads to the discovery of Penicillin.
Something interesting happened to John D. Rockefeller once his priorities shifted in life. He didn’t die within a year. In fact, he lived to the unbelievable age of 98 before dying in 1937.
Rockefeller’s story shows us how God works not only through the sacred (alien invasion) but also through the secular of our seemingly normal lives.
Next week is a major week in the history of Lutheranism. We will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. Aliens will be present! Only the aliens take the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. These aliens will promise not only to maybe clean your room but also bring gifts unto you of forgiveness, and life everlasting, even if we don’t find any proof of UFOs afterwards. Amen
 “Roswell UFO Incident.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 3.Oct.2017. Web. Oct.16.2017.
 Roswell”. History Channel. Web. Oct.16.2017.
 “Roswell”. History Channel.
 “The Two Kinds of Righteousness.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.1.July.2016. Web. Oct.16.2017.
 Piper, John. “Faith and the Imputation of Righteousness.” Desiring God. Given at Bethelham Baptist Church in Minneapolis on 17.Oct.1999. Web. Oct.17.2017.
 Matthew 22:15-22.
 Matthew 22:17.
 Markquart, Edward. “Paying Taxes to Caesar.” Sermons from Seattle. Series A. Pentecost 22. Web. Oct.17.2017.
 Matthew 22:21.
 Thompson, Erick. J.. “Commentary on Matthew 22:15-22.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 22.Oct.2017. Web. Oct.16.2017.
 Thompson, Erick. J.. “Commentary on Matthew 22:15-22.”
 Schwedes, Richard. “God's At Work Restoring Our Perspective: Everything Is Sacred.” Sermon Central. 21.Oct.2008. Web. Oct.16.2017.
 “John D. Rockefeller.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 15.Oct.2017. Web. Oct.17.2017.
 Markquart, Edward. “Paying Taxes to Caesar.”.
 Markquart, Edward. “Paying Taxes to Caesar.”