A Recent Sermon
Rev. Mike Haines gave the following sermon on Sunday September 19, 2010:
September 19, 2010
St Luke and The Epiphany
"Then Jesus said to the disciples, "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. 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."
In case I didn't read loudly and clearly enough, or perhaps you thought you misheard --let me just assure you, the gospel we just heard is a story about a man who upon finding out that he is going to lose his job either because of mismanagement or embezzlement (or whatever squandering means-- ) decides to soften his landing by playing loose with more of the boss' money and cuts a few very good deals with his bosses debtors. And then –when the boss finds out what has happened, instead of all heck breaking loose, the boss congratulates the guy for his deception.
To make matters more confusing, Jesus in commenting on the story says to his friends (and so to us) pay attention to what just happened, because you, children of the light, should be just as smart and crafty as that dishonest manager. Now, I don’t know where Jesus went to Sunday School but this just doesn’t make sense to me.
Fortunately, I am not alone. Let me read a quote to you that might put things in perspective. This is from a professor at one of the Episcopal seminaries (though not one that either Rodger or I went to –) William Brosend says "This is the weirdest story in the New Testament. Really. If you meet someone who says he knows exactly what it means, run away quickly and hold onto to your purse or wallet, because most scholars think even Luke wasn’t sure of what to make of it." (Conversations With Scriptures: The Parables p. 80)
That being said, I assure you that I am just as confused as everybody else. All we can do is try to understand what Jesus is telling us about money and relationships because the bottom line is that we will work really hard at the things we care about. And, we can't give our attention to, we can't serve two things we are passionate about either we will hate the one and love the other.
I suppose that if we stopped now and went out onto 13th Street (or if we even did this here -inside this building) and randomly asked people what Jesus thought about money most people would say Jesus said: Money is bad (filthy lucre). Give it all away to the poor.
Yet, that is not what we see or hear in the gospels. In the Gospels Jesus says a lot of different things about money and what it can buy. Yes, he does say more than once, that the people who follow him need to give away their possessions and give to the poor. Yet we see Jesus, freely and gratefully, gladly accepting the hospitality of friends and others -- followers -- who are able to care for him and his disciples. And we see him accepting even small gifts, five loaves and two fish, and making the gift into so much more. Mostly it seems that Jesus encourages his followers to take care, to be on guard because life doesn't consist in the abundance of possessions.
Money (or for that matter so many other things) can be a tricky thing. Tricky because as often as not "IT" becomes the center of our attention, the be all and end all, and we begin to serve it and it serves us less and less.
I know from my life and from my friends and from talking with folks here, we all struggle with the issue of money. Money is complicated. Whether we think what we have is too little, just barely enough, too much, or more than we ever thought we would have, we struggle with the questions of how much should we spend, how much should we save, what should we share and where and with what worthy causes are we going to share it. We wonder, will what I have last as long as I need it to, have I been a wise manager? Will I have enough and, if not, what can I do to get more? We sometimes struggle with guilt because we didn't plan ahead well enough. Or we spent it on something that wasn’t very smart or maybe our means of acquiring it was closer to the manager in today's story than we are comfortable with or we struggle with jealousy or envy because we think everybody has more than we do, and we should definitely have more. Sometimes we struggle with thinking how much better we are than someone else because we are smart or clever enough to earn more, because we make better choices.
Money is complicated. We all want to make peace with it. We know we have so much more than other people around the world and probably so much more than people around us. Especially now, when we learned this week that one out of seven people in the US now live in poverty. And, that number will probably increase to one out of six in our life time -and more than likely will include some of us. And sometimes, we struggle (and we should struggle) with the consequences on other people of how we spend "our" money.
It is interesting that the first line (Luke 16:14) right after this story of the dishonest manager says that the Pharisees (who are called lovers of money) think Jesus is just crazy to talk about money this way and they laugh at (ridicule) him.
So how do we "Take care! Be on our guard"? How do we not fall into the trap of serving wealth and not God? because, "one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15)
It is important that we remember that for Jesus there is nothing in life that is not part of our life with God. Every part of life is holy, sacred. Everything we have and all that we are is a gift. Every thing and every day helps us to love God with our whole heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as our self. We may need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or the words of Jesus, or the words of a friend to help us. Or even some quiet prayer time by our self to remember money is a thing. It is not good or bad. It is not a sign of God's approval or disapproval. It is not God.
This is actually part of the Good News we Christian people have to share with the world. Money is not a measure of our worth. God desires every one "to be saved, to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4) To be saved is to come to the place of that deepest truth that what makes us whole and makes us human and what makes us free, is that we are beloved of God. God thinks we are trustworthy and clever enough to use the gifts we have been given to God’s glory. To use the gifts we have been given for the welfare of the world.
So this week, pray about it. Make peace with money. Claim your freedom as a child of God and love God with your whole heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.