Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trinity 9 Sermon

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +

          Christians can be lazy and dumb.  Christians can be foolish and unwise.  Not that we should be, not that believing in Jesus is an excuse for us to be careless in life or anything like that – but sometimes Christians can just live in a la-la land where we expect everyone to be nice and to do what we want and we all love each other and isn’t it wonderful.  Blech.  The world isn’t pretty all the time.  Just because we find delight in it doesn’t mean that everything is fine.  Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean there will be no trials, no sore spots, no rough sailing for us.  In fact, Christ warns us that the world will hate us because of Him.  And so, to help us prepare for what this life on earth will hold for us, our Lord tells us the parable of the Dishonest manager.  Hear the Word of the Lord.
          He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.  And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you?  Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’  Here’s the situation – there is the manager – and he’s got a cushy job.  It’s a good gig.  And he’s living out his life, when disaster strikes.  He gets fired.  The rich man hears that the manager is doing poorly, so the rich man cans him, fires him.  Note, the rich man doesn’t say, “Give me an account, explain what you’ve done.”  Nope.  I’ve heard stuff, turn in your account, turn in your books – you’re fired.  Suddenly, out of the blue, the manager is fired, going to be left on his down.  Disaster has come – and we don’t know if he deserves to be fired.  He might have been a fine manager, but jealous people wanted him gone.  Or he might have been rotten and is simply getting his comeuppance.  Either way.  Disaster comes.  How does the manager respond?
          And the manager said to himself, ‘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.’  There’s no denial here.  There’s no –the sun will come out tomorrow- from the manager.  His life is ruined, and he knows it.  He’s realistic.  He knows he’s going to be out of a job.  He sees the implications of disaster and realizes that in a bit, it will be too late to do anything.  So he acts.  So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’  He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’  Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’  He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’  He said to him, ‘take your bill and write eighty.’  What does the manager do?  He bilks the rich man, he steals from him – sort of.  Technically, the manager is still the manager until he turns in the books – the accounts are his to oversee as he pleases until then.  What the manager does is completely legal – the manager has every legal right, until the books are no longer his, to erase debt.  It’s sleazy, it’s dishonest, but it is perfectly legal.  And so, before he finally hands over his books – the manager basically made himself a pension.  He saw the hard times that were coming, he saw his own lack, and decided that he would make a living off of the rich man.
          And you would think that the rich man would be livid, that he would be incensed, that he would be spitting nails.  Nope.  The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.  The rich man is impressed – that’s good thinking.  That’s foresight.  The rich man looks and it and thinks, “Well, I was going to fire him, it makes sense that he would look out for himself.  That was pretty smart of him.”  The manager didn’t panic; he didn’t freak out – he kept a level head and got through the situation.
So why then, does Jesus tell us this parable?  What are we to learn from it?  For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.  Shrewd.  To have understanding of what is going on around you.  To be shrewd is to be realistic concerning disaster – to know that bad things are coming and to prepare for them.  This is the wisdom that the dishonest manager has – he knows what situation he is in, and he takes it into account.  The sons of this world, the people out there who don’t believe in God – they are shrewd too.  They see the world for the dog eat dog rat race it is.  They know that it is cutthroat and harsh and mean and gritty – and they prepare for it.  They are prepared to handle disaster when it strikes, because they know it will strike them.
This is the danger to Christians – this is why Jesus speaks this parable.  We can be so foolish and unaware sometimes.  We can get this false idea that simply because we are Christians disaster won’t hit us.  If our faith is just strong enough – nothing bad will happen.  You guys have heard people say that.  If you believe enough, your loved one will get better.  If you pray hard enough, everything will work out.  That’s foolish.  Christ says “Pick up your cross and follow me,” not pick up your ample checkbook.  How did the world treat our Lord?  They mocked Him, they whipped Him, they crucified Him.  Why should you expect different in this life, O Christian?  Satan has designed your fall.  He wants you to stumble.  If you can’t be distracted by wealth, maybe problems will shake your faith.
And this, sadly, is what happens when we base our faith on improper things, when our faith looks to success – if you are a Christian you will have money and power and wealth and everything will work out.  Really?   Is that the sign that God loves you?  Then why does our Lord say, “Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek”?  The thing is, once Satan gets you thinking that way, once Satan gets you thinking that God makes the people He loves rich – if financial disaster comes – your faith is not built upon Christ but upon the stuff that just vanished.  Or what about basing your faith on your emotions?  I want to feel God, I want joy joy happy happy feelings.  Does that mean if you are sad, is that a sign that God doesn’t love you anymore?  Does that mean if tragedy strikes and you mourn, you weep, that God doesn’t love you?  Satan would have you think that – our Lord says, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  God’s love for you isn’t based upon your feelings.  Whether you are happy or sad, does that change the fact that God loves you?  If you are shaken, if you are devastated in your life, does that change the fact that Christ Jesus died for you?  Not in the slightest – but Satan wants your focus, wants your attention anywhere but Christ.  If you pay attention to stuff, Satan rejoices – because when that stuff goes away, Satan has you.  Satan loves it when you rely on your emotions – because emotions change, we get down, and we start turning in on ourselves and our feelings and our problems, and we forget the Truth – we forget Christ, and our faith is shaken.
          This is not what Christ Jesus wants for you.  This is why Jesus wants you to be wise – this is why Jesus gives us this example.  Know that bad things will come in this life.  You are still in the world, and so things will go poorly.  There will be bad days.  There will be disaster.  Relationships and friendships will fall apart.  Loved ones will die.  Jesus knows this, and He wants you to get through it.  This is why Jesus teaches us not to love the things of the world – so that when the world takes them away, we aren’t devastated.  He doesn’t want us to fall apart.
          And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous wealth so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwelling.  What does this mean?  Don’t love your stuff – don’t love the things of this life – give it away.  Share with folks, don’t hold on to everything – why?  Because it will fail.  The things of this world will fail – and if your focus, if your hopes are tied to it you will fail as well.  Rather, have your eyes upon the eternal, have your eyes upon Christ.  He will never fail.  Whether the bills are paid or whether they aren’t – that is true, the Cross is true.  Jesus has died for your sins.  That’s where you live.  Whether you are happy or sad, You have been baptized, Christ has claimed you as His own, has publicly declared that you are His forgiven, redeemed, and precious child – and a bad day, a horrible day doesn’t change that.  This is why we always look to Christ, this is why we hear Jesus, Jesus, Jesus died for me, over and over here.  This is why we receive His forgiveness each week.  Because Christ puts our eyes where they ought to be – on Him.  That way, when the trials of life come, we hold our ground; this is how He keeps our feet from slipping, and how He keeps us steadfast.  We live off the bounty of the master, freely given to us.
          Be wise Christians, be shrewd.  Know that bad things will happen.  Know that disasters will pop up – and don’t pretend otherwise.  But know this – that no matter what happens, Christ Jesus has died for your sins, and never let anything or anyone tell you otherwise.  This is the wisdom God wishes you to have, that you see Him and His forgiveness at all times, no matter what trials you face.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +  Amen.


Steve Martin said...

Wow. a dose of reality in a world in love with happiness and comfort.

I needed to hear it. Thank you, Rev.

Mike Baker said...

Thank you for posting the text of your sermons, Pastor. They have meant a lot to me over the years.

After years of lurking on the Lutheran Blogosphere, I have posted on my site again.