18th Sunday after Pentecost—Lectionary 25C—September 22, 2013
Preached at Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
I think that this parable, as most Biblical readings, at least the ones that tend to some up in the Sunday Revised Common Lectionary, has three things to say to us this morning. First, it reminds us of a truth about ourselves (we Lutherans call this the “law” in a text). Second, it tells us something about God’s nature (we Lutherans call this the “gospel” of a text). Third, it provides some tangible advise on how to balance our human nature with what we know about God’s nature; that is how to live in response to God’s grace and participate in the realization of God’s kingdom in this world.
LAW: God entrusts us to manage abundance, but we are unjust stewards
Just like the rich man entrusts his assets to a manager, God entrusts an abundance to us. God provides us with daily bread for our survival, but also with time, talents, and treasures for the good of the world. For some of us, we are entrusted with seemingly more talents than treasures. Others have more time to spare than unique talents. Others are talented at sharing their treasures.
But at some point, all of us get selfish, scared, or oblivious to the need in the rest of the world and we fail God; we are unjust stewards. Sometimes 10% seems like more than we can spare of our time, talents, or treasures. Sometimes our earthly wants seem more pressing than the needs of the world. Sometimes we simply loose sight of the fact that we are all in this together; it is not every man, woman, and child for themselves. We belong to one body that can accomplish great things…when it works together!
Sometimes we realize that we have messed up and we try to fix things ourselves. The key word there is “try.” We try to be worthy of God’s gifts by fixing our behavior. We try to set ourselves up for what comes next, since we have messed up when it comes to God. However, we fail at that too. We cannot succeed apart from God. The more we try to do things apart from God or in order to worthy of God, we fail even more.
So that is the law in the parable, the bad news. But thankfully, the story does not stop there. It has more to say to us; it has a word of good news as well. It demonstrates God’s overwhelming, abundant, ridiculous at times grace!
GRACE: But God forgives us anyway
So after we have failed at being good stewards, and have failed at fixing things after we realized that we have let God down…God forgives us anyways! God continues to love us, rain blessings down upon us, and continues to entrust us with an abundance of riches. We do not get fired!
…and in the midst of our mess-ups reminds us about what is important
God does not fire us as managers because “in God’s economy, people matter more than profits.” And even though we do not always act in accordance with this principle, God does! Although we mess up, and at times put profit above people, God remains faithful, and while encouraging us to change our mindset, to live in accordance with the same principle, we are never fired or even punished for falling short! God loves us that much!
Poem Prayer by Joan Beck
I want to end this morning by sharing with you a poem prayer written by Joan Beck which utilizes this parable for its core. Let us pray:
We are your managers.
You call us for an accounting. You have heard that we have been squandering your property.
We admit that this is true.
The lands are polluted. The temperatures are rising. The wars are burning out of control.
We fear other people,
even though they are human beings more like us than different from us,
even though they are human beings made in your image and loved by you.
You say you are not going to have us as stewards anymore.
What is there left for us to do?
Break our backs for work that is meaningless without you?
Beg for support when life is insupportable without you?
Make friends who will care for us when you have turned your back and disowned us?
And so we do have our networks of friends
of church community and school community and work community and civic community
and national community and global community,
and yet without you the threads of these networks tear and do not support us,
do not support the weight of our need
or our anxiety
or our fear. . . .
How wonderful to hear you saying to us that we act wisely when we seek refuge in one another—
that relationships are where it’s at;
that while money is cold and heartless, warmth comes from people caring for each other;
that when we love each other we are loving you;
that when we love each other you are loving us.
If we have money, let us use it to strengthen those life-giving relationships.
Even if we have little money, let us spend it in faithful ways.
Let our money not be our god, but our servant,
and let us and our servant money be your servants,
like your servant Jesus
who spent everything he had
and everything he was
and for you.