Sunday, August 9, 2009

Trinity 9

(Celia and I got safely back from fun and family in California last night at 11:30 - which only felt like 9:30 - and I was up and getting stuff ready this morning at 6:30 - which felt like 4:30. The joys of time changes. If there are more typos in here and I missed them in my perusal this morning, I apologize)

Trinity 9 – August 9th, 2009 – Luke 16:1-13

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
What do you value? What is important to you? I mean, really, what is vital, what do you just have to have, what can you not do with out? What’s important to you? What would you fight, tooth and nail, get down in the mud and slug it out in order to protect, to keep safe? What is your priority? These are the questions that our Lord raises in speaking the Parable of the Dishonest Manager to us this morning, a question of what our own priorities are. When we hear the Parable, we see clearly what the manager’s priorities are, and so we are led by our Lord to consider our own. To consider what really is important to us.

It’s clear what is important to the manager. When the dishonest manager is told that he is going to be fired because he has been wasting the master’s possessions, he says, “What shall I do, since my master is taking the management 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 removed from management people may receive me into their houses.” So, what’s important to the manager? It’s not his reputation – he doesn’t seek to clear his name, either honestly or dishonestly. He could have fought the charges, sought to clear his name. He doesn’t. His pride in his work isn’t what is important to him. No, what is important is his life style, his stuff – money. He wants to be well taken care of financially, and this fellow makes no bones about it. And so, he fights, fights dirty to get what he wants, to see that he is taken care of.

He walks up to one person who owes the master 100 measures of oil – olive oil most likely, and he says to him, “now, you only owe him 50.” Each measure was around 875 gallons, so we are talking a big sum here. The manager can do that, he’s the manager, he can give discounts legally, and the master will have to legally respect that. He cuts the measures of wheat from 100 to 80. Each measure of wheat was around 1200 bushels – so 20 measures is, what – 24,000 bushels? That’s quite a bit. So this manager basically steals from the master to buy future favors from these people.

And then we get a line that has confused people – the master hears what the manager does and then – The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. We have a villain being commended. Seems rather odd for Scripture, doesn’t it? But consider what the master sees – a man who knows his priorities and does whatever is necessary to see that those priorities are realized. He gets what he values by hook or by crook – and as the master is a wealthy businessman, is one who himself probably greatly values wealth and money, the master figures he has to hand it to this manager – because that was some pretty slick thinking. He got what he wanted, and he didn’t care who got in his way.

So, what in the world could this story have to do with us as Christians, with our lives as Christians. Our Lord clearly is not advocating theft, we aren’t to go breaking the 7th commandment which we just learned about again this morning. Rather this – listen to what Christ says – “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their generation than the sons of light.” They are more shrewd in their generation. When they play by their rules, with their priorities, they get things done. Money is important to this manager, to the master, and they work hard to get the money, they do what they need to do. They are shrewd. In fact, they are more shrewd than the sons of light.

So, let me ask the question to you, sons of light. What is your priority? What do you view as most important? Was it faith? Was your highest priority being faithful to God and letting the chips in this world fall where they may – if it means you have less stuff, if it means your friends and family despise, forsake you? Is your faith, is hearing the Gospel of Christ Jesus proclaimed to you and to others, is receiving His Body and Blood for your forgiveness your highest priority? Or do other things take precedence?

It’s a hard question, a blunt question, one we don’t like to hear. We don’t like being told that we aren’t just wonderful little Christians. But what Christ says is true – the sons of this world are more shrewd, care more about the things of this world than we Christians care about the things of Christ. We will let things slide – attendance in Church, in bible study, private devotions, care for the neighbor and showing the love that God has shown us, simple compassion for others, striving to live according to God’s will – these things all can slip slide away from us. And Jesus lays it out bluntly – No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love to other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. I like the old “mammon” word better – because the point is really you cannot serve God and the things, the pleasure, the stuff of this world. The two are opposed – for Satan will use the fleeting pleasures and pressures of this life to try and pull your eyes off of Christ.

And this has been something that has plagued Christianity since the beginning, and plagued all Christians. Think on Solomon, wisest man ever, yet he gets distracted by wealth and women and song. Think on Elijah – we heard a few weeks ago his despondency over the fact that he was the only person left – even though the chapter before God had just defeated all the priest of Baal. Luther understood this well too, and he wrote a beautiful prayer for pastors, one which I pray before every sermon because this plagues me too. The prayer says – “Then if Thou art pleased to accomplish anything through me, to Thy glory and not to mine or to the praise of men, grant me, out of Thy pure grace and mercy a right understanding of Thy Word and that I may also, diligently keep it.” We can chase after so many things, glory, power, wealth, respect. So many things that keep the Gospel, keep faith, keep maintaining this place and all the Churches of God throughout the world from being our highest priority. And let’s be blunt since we are being blunt this morning – that’s just sin, sin taking our eyes off of God and His will and focusing our eyes on our own wants and desires.

Christ our Lord, though, knows how to handle sin. And our Lord Christ Jesus is shrewd when it comes to how he handles sin. While we struggle, while we are not as faithful as we ought to be, Christ Jesus our Lord is faithful. Consider this. What is Christ’s priority? What is Christ’s focus? It is upon doing His Father’s will, and the Father’s will is that Christ Jesus go to the Cross and be crucified in order to save you. And our Lord Jesus does so, does the Father’s will. And Christ Jesus fights hard for you, is diligent, does whatever could be required. To be arrested, done. To be abandoned by friends, done. To be whipped and beaten, done. To be mocked, done. To be put to death, even death on a cross, done. Our Lord leaves nothing left undone, fights Satan thorn and nail to win you forgiveness and salvation. This is the task the Father set Him to, and it is the task which He accomplished upon Calvary.

And Christ Jesus our Lord is also diligent in handing out this forgiveness unto you. Think about the means of grace, the ways in which Christ gives us forgiveness. Word and Sacrament. Christ is so thorough in seeing that we are forgiven. He uses His Word. Jesus brings us forgiveness through His Word, be that the Word read, be that the Word spoken here in Church, be that the Word of comfort and forgiveness that He places upon our lips that we speak to each other during the week. He makes His Word to dwell in you to keep pulling your eyes off of the world and on to His forgiveness. That’s shrewd on His part, that’s diligent. Or consider Baptism. Our Lord washed you at your baptism, made you to be a new creation, decided to make you His temple so that He would be with you always, poured out His Holy Spirit upon you so that wherever you go, whenever you are tempted by Satan, He is with you to give you strength to resist and fight against Satan. Or consider His Supper. Our Lord takes simple bread and wine and through them He gives us His Body and Blood, gives us Himself, pledges Himself to be with us so that whenever we desire forgiveness, whenever we desire strength, it is readily available to us. Christ is still diligent, still cunning and shrewd in His efforts to bring us salvation.

And so, dear friends, keep watchful and wary in your own life about your priorities. Keep your focus upon Christ, upon the faith, but do so confidently, knowing that our Lord Jesus has won you forgiveness, that He is eager to forgive you, and that He has done all that is necessary to give you life everlasting. Our Lord is shrewd for you, and His love for you leaves no stone unturned – including the stone which was placed in front of His tomb. He overturned that stone and rose, and account of His love and mercy, so shall you. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +


Christopher D. Hall said...

Welcome back home! Glad you had safe trip.

And thanks again for the Jever. I saved us two back to enjoy sometime!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

We shall do so at some point soon, God willing!