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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20C

Track 1: The Dishonest Steward

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Psalm 79:1-9
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells the parable of the unjust steward:

“There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, `What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, `And how much do you owe?’ He replied, `A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.   (Luke 16:1-9)

The parable seems to be quite a controversial one. It is not su much that the parable is controversial but rather the interpretations of it. Some Bible “scholars” have suggested that Jesus is actually commending the steward because of his shrewdness. Worldly people are more clever that we Christian disciples, the thinking goes Thus we need to be more sophisticated and shrewd like the world. Is Jesus really saying that? I believe that is highly doubtful!

The dishonest steward was actually stealing money from the rich man in order to endear himself with other people like himself. Would the rich man commend someone who is stealing his money? Doubtful wouldn’t you say?

Maybe the steward is being commended for his shrewd planning for a more secure future? The parable states:

Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.   (Luke 16:9)

How secure is wealth, especially dishonest wealth? The parable implies that it will not be lasting in the long run? An even more sobering thought is expressed in the parable. What is the final destination for those who have relied upon dishonest wealth? They will be welcomed into “eternal homes.” The word “eternal” in the original Greek is αἰωνίους (aiōnious). It mean “perpetual.” There is nothing really perpetual in this life so that rules out any earthly destination.

Clearly, Jesus is not commending the dishonest steward. He is saying, in a sarcastic way, that the dishonest steward has, by his actions, sealed his final destination. He will be welcomed there by people like himself, but it not God who will be welcoming him.

Today’s Old Testament reading reveals God heart for those who have been defrauded and not the defrauders:

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.

Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land:

“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”

(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?”)

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.   (Jeremiah 8:18-21)

At the end of the parable, Jesus, commends the faithful stewards and not the dishonest one.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”   (Luke 16:10-13)

The dishonest steward put his trust in wealth. Where do we place our trust? There are only two choices: God or financial wealth. It is one or the other. Which one leads to eternal life in heaven?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:16)

 

Track 2: The Unjust Steward (Alternative)

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

This second homily is like the first one in its approach and conclusions. What is different are the introductory readings from the scripture. In this case, the heart of God concerning the poor is revealed through the Prophet Amos:

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,

buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.   (Amos 8:4-7)

The conclusion of the parable of the unjust steward is the same:

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”   (Luke 16:10-13)

Whoever or whatever we serve will determine our final destination.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:16)

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St Matthew, Evangelist

Are You Calling Me?

Yes, God is calling you. He is calling me. He is calling us to be evangelists. Are we prepared to walk away from our personal plans and ambitions?

Matthew was a first century Galilean who collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. He had become rich because of his trade, though he was despised like all the other tax collectors who worked for Rome. It must not have been an easy decision for Matthew to leave all that he had and follow an unknown itinerant preacher. After all, his call was very early in Jesus’ earthly ministry. He had little idea of what was being asked of him.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”  (Matthew 9:9-13)

The Pharisees were gatekeepers. They made the rules and keep the scores, not for themselves but for everyone else. That is not what an evangelist does. The evangelist is the one who extends God’s mercy. Judgmental people do not understand evangelism. They may be pious. They may quote scripture. But do they understand the love of God

Matthew came in contact with the love of Jesus. It changed his whole direction. Are we ready to follow Jesus as Matthew did? Are we ready for a new direction? Do we know the love of God in our hearts? If so, then we will want to share it with others!

In proverbs we read:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Matthew, the tax collector, could answer the call of God because his heart had been touched. He set aside his agenda for that of the Lord Jesus. He did not know where Jesus would be leading him, but he trusted him nonetheless. Do we trust Jesus? Do we love Jesus? He is calling us to go on a adventure. We may never leave home, but we will see our neighbors in a whole new light. Our joy will be to share the good news of Christ with them and all whom we meet.

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 19C

 

Track 1: A Hot Wind out of the Desert

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

Today, let us look at two types of winds that come from God. The first one we will look at is covered in today’s reading from Jeremiah:

At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse– a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.

“For my people are foolish,
they do not know me;

they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.

They are skilled in doing evil,
but do not know how to do good.”   (Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22)

This wind is not a cleansing wind. It is a wind that cannot be ignored. In fact, it brings us to our knees. Israel was not listening to God. What was prophesicd by Jeremiah came to pass:

For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. (Jeremiah 4:27)

God did not stop with this desert wind.  He has provided a cleansing wind and a winnowing wind. We remember in the Gospel of John that Jesus attempted to explain this wind to Nicodemus:

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   (John 3:5-8)

Which wind of God is blowing in our lives today? Are we allowing the Holy Spirt of God to reshape us and refresh us? If not, we may be experiencing a strong hot wind that tells us that something is wrong. This wind does not cleanse us but it can move us to seek out the wind that does.

The Apostle Paul was once persecuting the body of Christ. God had to literally knock him off his horse and blind hm. Paul wrote:

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the foremost.   (1 Timothy 1:12-15)

All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. That does not stop God for seeking us out. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells the parable of the lost coin:

“What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”   (Luke 15:8-10)

The parable of the Lost Coin tells us how much God wants to rescue us. He wants to cleanse us. He wants to restore us. He wants to refresh us. God the Father’s heart longs for our soul to return to hm. He will use any means possible to reach us. Oftentimes that means we may experience that hot dry wind from out of the desert. This wind is a call to repentance.

Which wind of God is blowing in our lives today? Jesus breathed on his disciples and said: Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Are we ready for Jesus to breathe on us today, perhaps for the first time? Or perhaps to refresh us, restore our health, or equip us for further ministry in his name?

 

 

Track 2: The Lost Coin

Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 51:1-11
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

Jesus told many parables. They were able to capture the attention of the listener. This one always grabbed me:

“What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”   (Luke 15:8-10)

The scribes and Pharisees, the religious authorities of Israel, did not understand the ministry of Jesus. Nor did they want to understand it. Perhaps one of the best illustrations of this is when Jesus went to visit the tax collector Zacchaeus. From the Gospel of Luke:

All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”   (Luke 19:7-10)

Jesus came to seek and to save. He is still very much in that ministry. His ministry to Zacchaeus illustrates one very key factor, however. Repentance is required on the part of those who were lost. The Great King David was lost. He had committed adultery and later, murder, to cover up his sin from the eyes of his subjects. God sees everything, however. When David was confronted by Nathan the prophet, David repented from his heart before God. His repentance is found in his beautiful Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.  (Psalm 51:1-4)

The Apostle Paul was at one time lost. He had been persecuting the Early Church. He had zeal for the Mosaic Law. What he failed to understand was that Jesus came to fulfill that law. Paul writes:

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the foremost.   (1 Timothy 1:12-15)

Are we a lost coin today? If we have sinned against God he will rescue us. He will not only forgive us but he will also cleanse us restore us. Nevertheless,  our repentance must be from our heart. David’s confession in Psalm 51 goes on to say:

For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.  (Psalm 51:7-11)

Lost coins can become dirty and dull. The good news is that God can clean them and shine them up. The blood of his Son Jesus washes away all of our sins. All we need to do is to turn to Jesus with all our hearts. He has already turned to us. Amen.

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