St. Matthew’s Sermon 09-18-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 09-18-2016

Moving to the New World

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

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

So, two weeks ago when I last preached, I was challenged with the reading that included Jesus saying “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple”. (Luke 14:26)

Now, this week, I’m faced with another challenging reading in which a rich man commends his dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.

In between these was last week’s heartwarming reading about the shepherd searching for one lost sheep and rejoicing when he finds it and the woman who likewise rejoices when finding a lost coin!

One easy to read, easy to preach, joyful story between two tough to understand, hard to preach and not so uplifting teachings of Christ. The odds were two to one; and which Sunday do I take for vacation…?

I’m really not complaining, I love my work and the challenges that come with it! But, just like I’m sure you need to hear some light, uplifting, “Good News” every so often, I need to be able to deliver it sometimes too!

The parable in last week’s reading was followed by another warm story in Luke’s Gospel; the parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s another of Jesus’ illustrations of how life under God should be lived with love and forgiveness even when the hurt one caused seems unforgivable. And it also includes the reaction of the faithful son who becomes jealous over the attention given to his vagabond brother upon his return. That son was reprimanded for his unwillingness to forgive his brother and join in the celebration of their reunion.

Both the story of the shepherd searching for one lost sheep and the father rejoicing over the returning son were told directly to the Pharisees and Scribes who were grumbling about Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them.

We all, I think, are aware of how often Jesus was in conflict with the Pharisees and Scribes; how much of his ministry was delivered in response to their criticism; and how time after time Jesus put them down for their way of thinking. But what we might not be connecting is how closely this relates to our world today.

The Pharisees and Scribes were noted for having great knowledge of the Scriptures. They studied them well, they knew the God-given Law and the teachings of the Prophets inside and out. They lived their lives accordingly and expected everyone else to do the same believing that when God saw his people living righteous lives He would look favorably on them once again and deliver them from their oppressors. To the Pharisees and the like, there was nothing more important than living by God’s Law.

Unfortunately, life was to be lived according to their interpretation of the Law. Add to this their lack of forgiveness of “sinners”, one of Jesus’ greatest desires, and you can see why they opposed our Lord. It also adds to understanding the parables he told them; the impact it had when he addressed them the way he did.

To get a better picture of this just imagine Jesus, speaking directly to the Pharisees, as he tells the story of the Prodigal Son. If you understand their way of thinking they’re probably nodding their heads in anticipation of the ending of the story; already expecting the father to deliver some deserved justice to the renegade son like kicking him off his land, or selling him into slavery for his disobedience and the pain he has caused.

Then, you can also imagine the Pharisees’ jaws dropping to the floor when the father welcomes him home with extravagance! Not to mention the eye-popping moment when Jesus wraps it up with the words “But we have to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found”.

Now, with those images in your minds, think about our world today. How often do we see and hear the self-ascribed religious authorities of today acting like the Scribes and Pharisees. And not only the elite who have the attention of the media and government officials, but often the common folk within certain religious communities. How often do we hear them citing scripture to put-down things like homosexuality, immigration, other religions, or even other Christian denominations! How often do we see their words creating division between races and factions as they use Scripture to justify their position, often inciting violence against anyone who disagrees with them! And, when we look closely, how often are they preaching their interpretation of the Law just like the Pharisees! And, just like the Pharisees, leaving no room for sympathy or forgiveness much less a new understanding!

Then, how often do we not hear or see forgiveness, compassion, or an effort to understand another point of view from these same people.

What existed between Jesus and the Pharisees in his time still exists in our world today; that is plain to see. And, just like in Jesus’ time, it’s not limited to religion. The effect of the attitude “I’m right and you’re wrong” infects other parts of our social order. And, even more than this, the status quo, whether working for the good or not, is grasped so tightly that we dare not try anything different even if it seems clear that something different is desperately needed.

And there, there is the “Good News” from today’s reading!

Jesus was previously addressing the Pharisees and Scribes. Now he turns to his Disciples, but the others are still able to hear him as he begins the story of the Dishonest Manager. Again, use your imagination here; picture the Pharisees listening to Jesus tell a story that sounds a lot like the status quo. Then, envision their jaws dropping again as they realize he is talking about them; he is using a dishonest manager and a rich man to equate the Pharisees to the ways of the world in which they live; the ways of the world in which we live!

Have you ever heard the expression “Great minds think alike”? Or how about the less congenial variation “evil minds think alike”?

This is what Jesus is illustrating here with a backwards pointing finger towards the Pharisees as he speaks. The story doesn’t illustrate God commending a dishonest servant; it shows how the way of the world has become the way of the Pharisees. In opposition to how the Pharisees believe the world should adapt their ways, they have adapted the world’s ways complete with rigidity, selfishness, and condemnation of all who think differently.

Now, yet again, re-imagine the scene as Jesus speaks those difficult verses…

“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”.

Remember now, Jesus has turned to his disciples; speaking directly to them with the Pharisees and Scribes behind him; figuratively (or, perhaps literally) pointing over his shoulder as he speaks these words. It-is-sarcasm!

What “eternal homes” do they have to offer!? Other than, perhaps, eternity in the place of unquenchable fire?

Now hear Jesus drop the sarcasm as he continues, “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?

In this story, and in many, many other teachings, Jesus is calling us to give up the ways of this world; he is telling us to try something different! What was commonly acceptable behavior in his time wasn’t what God expected of his people. Through Jesus, God was attempting to establish a new way of thinking and a new way of behaving; a new world order; the Kingdom of God on earth; where people live in harmony rather than division; where the status quo is working for the good of all people.

Once more, use your imagination.  Imagine a world where differences are not only accepted, but appreciated. Where people recognize what is not working for the good and have the courage to make changes; to try something new; to move toward establishing the Kingdom of God’s plan where all people receive true riches!

This New Kingdom isn’t a fantasy. It is a possibility! But it will take effort and faith to make it reality. Be faithful with what God and Christ have given you; move toward this new world, and you, along with everyone else, will receive the true riches for your own!




Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
8:18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
8:19 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?”)
8:20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
8:21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?
9:1 O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!


1 Timothy 2:1-7
2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone,
2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
2:3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
2:4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2:5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human,
2:6 who gave himself a ransom for all–this was attested at the right time.
2:7 For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Luke 16:1-13
16:1 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.
16:2 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.’
16:3 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.
16:4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’
16:5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
16:6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’
16:7 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.’
16:8 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.
16:9 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.
16:10 “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.
16:11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?
16:12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?
16:13 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.”