Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Faithfully shrewd

“Praise be to thee, O Lord.” 
“Praise to you, Lord Christ.” 

That is our customary response at the end of the gospel reading. That is what we say..and said this morning. 

But THIS morning when the reading of the Gospel ended in your heart you were maybe..probably saying something like “Huh?” Whaaaa? What WAS that all about? That was how I felt when I looked over the gospel early last week. And we are not alone. 

From the 1st disciples on we faithful—saints, scholars have been banging our heads against this parable. And all agree that, of all the parables, it is the most baffling, 

 It IS baffling. But Jesus told it. So there’s got to be some point here that he wants us come to understand--- --something that will help us follow him and live the Life to which he calls us. Our Lord never explained this or any other parable. He just told them… and let the hearers think through what they mean. 

Recently I came the following words on the wall at LV hospital: Tell me…and I’ll forget. Show me…and I’ll remember. Involve me...and I’ll understand. In telling parables and not explaining them Our Lord invites us to become involved, to think them through so that we will not only remember but understand in our hearts, our bones, our whole being. 

Now, the accepted wisdom is that, for the most part, each of our Lord’s parables has one point and one point only. Many of the parables make the point by giving us an example to follow--- like the good Samaritan who cared for the wounded man on the road and a bad example to be avoided--- like that of the priest who walked around that same man and missed that opportunity to show mercy. 

But I think what baffles us here is that there is not one good example to be found in the entire story. They are all a bunch of crooks. The master fires the manager….seemingly on hearsay--- before he even looks at the books. 

The manager is clearly dishonest—untrustworthy, undependable and proves it by cutting deals with the tenants---- cheating his boss out of some of what’s coming to him in order to obligate the tenants to take care of him when he’s out of a job. And the tenants go along with it! 

They’re all a bunch of crooks. Seemingly, not good example here. And, we are told, the master COMMENDS the dishonest manager. 

That, I think, is where most of us throw up our hands in confusion and ask, “What is going on here?” Jesus can’t be condoning his dishonesty. So, I don’t know. This just doesn’t make sense.” But, notice: the master does not commend the manager for his dishonesty ---for his IS dishonest—not made of true stuff… unfaithful, untrustworthy, undependable. No. But he is commended for his “Shrewdness.” 

He found creative ways to use all he had and every opportunity to do what good he could for others. And he didn't put it off. And Jesus says that if the children of this age who live by the ways of the world and for this world (like the dishonest manager) are shrewd we, the children of Light should be just as smart and smarter. And, our Lord concludes, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves by dishonest wealth (It is the same word used of the manager. Not wealth gained by dishonest means but “not honest” not true and therefore undependable, not lasting. 

Make friends, do good using your life and all you have now so that when it is gone they may welcome you into the eternal homes. Now that may sound like Wrack up lots of good works and earn points towards getting into heaven. But, of course, we can’t earn our way into heaven. It is God’s gift—give to us thru the dying and rising of our Lord. But, loving, caring, using our lives and all we have to do good for others changes us— makes us ready to fit in, to live with God and one another in the kingdom. 

Do you see where this is going? 

The dishonest manager was shrewd. He was single-minded in thinking up creative ways to use all he had and every opportunity to good for others. And he was urgent about it. He didn't put it off. And Jesus urges us to be shrewd….in living our lives for God? to live our lives, to use our time, our smarts, all we are, and all we have in a single-minded service of God and others. Seeking to be alert, moment by moment, to the presence, the love, the leading of God alert for every opportunity to show God’s love to others: a helping hand perhaps just a smile for someone who looks like they could use one a sincere thank you to the person who serves you, a calm wave to the driver who gives gets in your way or gives you a scare. 

Maybe being shrewd means always thinking---finding ways to do for others. Or ways to simplify life, save money, make do or do without so as have more to give to help those in need. I knew a lady who, when she could no longer stand for hours working in the soup kitchen, began volunteering at the hospital visitors desk. And when she wasn't doing that she was stuffing envelopes for he church, knitting caps for cancer patients and sending cards to shut-ins. She was some shrewd lady. 

To do all the good we can for all we can in any way we can. And not to put it off . For some things can only be done in the now—in the moment like that smile for the stranger or that word of thanks to the clerk. Or being regular in daily prayer or Sunday Eucharist. You can’t make it up later. For this day will never come again.

It’s now or never.

This day, this opportunity will never come again.

There are other things occur to us, things we could do for God and for others (the Holy Spirit suggesting, nudging us on) --making a phone call, writing a note, visiting a nursing home sending that email to your rep in congress advocating for the poor, seeking to mend that long-broken relationship w/ a friend or family member making that donation you've been meaning to make. ---things we can put off but at the risk of being too late, the opportunity gone.

Jesus urges us to godly shrewdness: To do all the good we can for all we can in any way we can When we can. There is a lot more that could be said about this Gospel---esp those last verses. But, if I have any understanding of this godly shrewdness then, if I have done you any good with this sermon, I have done you all the good I can in every way I can for now. So I’ll sum up and be done.

Be shrewd children of light.

Do all the good you can for everyone you can in any way you can.

Use your imagination.

And do it when you can.

Don’t put it off.


-- A Sermon for Sunday, September 22, 2013 by the Rev. Raymond Harbort.
Proper 22C
Luke 16:1-13

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