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Last Sunday's Sermon: The Shrewd Manager

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I apologize for being late with this post.  I just returned from visiting my son in North Carolina.  It was a very good visit.

The Gospel

Luke 16:1-13

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."

The Sermon

 Let me give a brief summary of this story. The rich man finds out that his manager is squandering the rich man's property. He tells the manager he is fired and as a last act the manager decides to at least win the good will of the community and reduces the debt of the people who owe the rich man money. The rich man gets wind of the deals the manager is making and praises the manager for his shrewdness.

There are several ways to look at this parable from today's perspective. Lets put ourselves in the place of the steward. We have been given life by God and we are expected to manage our life well. We are charged to look after not only ourselves but also others and in reality, all of God's creation. We are to be stewards of this planet for a short time and then our end will come. God will require an accounting of what we have done and it would be in our best interest to make a positive report. It would be far better for us to use good judgment in the management of Gods creation rather than waiting until we are near the end of our time and then try and fix things as the manager in our story did.

And, sometimes good stewardship means not always taking the safe route. I was looking at another interpretation of this reading and I found this passage.

Our society often prizes safety over welcome, fear over compassion, division over unity. We are sometimes too often willing to sacrifice love, compassion, and caring on the altar of safety. But God insistently and consistently points towards the good, and good is not always safe.
Jesus in his life and ministry chose always to do the good at the risk of being safe.
  • Safe says, “Stick to what you know.” Good replies, “Put out into deep waters. Imagine the possibilities.”
  • Safe says, “Follow the rule of law.” Good replies, “Seek compassion and mercy.”
  • Safe says, “Keep score. Hold grudges.” Good replies, “Love your neighbor. Forgive.”
  • Safe says, “Worry about yourself” Good replies, “Consider the lilies of the field, the birds of the air.”
  • Safe says, “Take care of our own.” Good replies, “Just as you do to the least of these you do to me.”
  • Safe says, “Come down and we will believe.” Good replies, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”
  • Safe says, “King of the Jews.” Good whispers, “Resurrection!”
  • Safe is tempting, but good is eternal.

Near the end of this reading from Luke, Jesus makes a very clear statement.when he says, “no slave can serve two masters.” He is telling us that God must come first. He says you cannot worship God and wealth. This statement is all about attachment. It is something we humans deal with all the time. We seem to want to accumulate things and at the same time we find it difficult to let go.

I give lip service to being unattached to my possessions but I think I am not always being forthright. When I started having problems with mobility I became frustrated that I could not do the things I could do before. I think that sometimes God gives us challenges so that we can learn from them. So what have I learned. I have learned that all things will pass away including my health. I have learned to allow people to do things for me. I have learned to slow down and not always to charge forward. I have learned that God is in charge and yet I trust that even though I may be walking slower these days, God still walks right beside me.


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