Tag Archives: Amos

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20

Track 1: Where Is Our Treasure?

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Psalm 79:1-9
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

In today’s Gospel from Luke Jesus is telling a parable whose meaning has been disputed by some biblical scholars. Let us take a look at it and consider what Jesus is telling us.

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.’   (Luke 16:1-7)

What is going on here? The manager has been fired. He is afraid of his future. Before he leavers his position he decides to take certain actions, to prepare for what is to come. It appears that he is feathering his nest, so to speak. What he is doing is wrong. It is the rich man’s  property, not his. He has no right to alter any monetary agreements which the owner has made.

Now, here comes the difficulty. It has to do with the way the rich man reacts to what his manager was doing while he was gone:

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.   (Luke 16:8-9)

The interpretation is in question by some scholars. The difficulty is how the master commends his servant for his dishonesty. What is Jesus telling us? That we need to be as shrewd as worldly, dishonest people, That is what some scholars believe.  They Jesus is not commending dishonesty, but shrewdness. 

What may be missing here, bu some, is sarcasm. I do not believe that Jesus is telling us that we need to be shrewd as the world. We are children of the light and have no need for darkness. Jesus is our wisdom. We are guided by the Holy Spirit.

What I believe Jesus is telling us has to do with the phrase “eternal home.” The shrewd servant was concerned about being received in people’s homes if he became broke. Those homes are temporary. What is important is to which eternal home he will be received in when he dies. It is clear from the parable Jesus told of Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) that hell will be the eternal home of the shrewd servant,

In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   (Matthew 6:19-21)

The shrewd servant did not know the treasures of God. He was relying on worldly treasures to save him. It the end of today’s parable Jesus goes on to say:

“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.”   (Luke 16:10-13)

Where are our treasure stored? And who is our master? Is it Jesus or wealth? Wealth is not necessarily bad, but it cannot be our master. That was the problem of the shrewd servant. How shrewd is anyone who serves the wrong master? Jesus is the only one who provides the way to eternal life in heaven with him. If we have not given our heart to him, now is the time.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   (Matthew 6:21)

 

 

Track 2: False Balances

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

God spoke through the Prophet Amos:

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,

buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.    (Amos 8:4-7)

Greedy people were cheating when selling goods to others. They were using false balances and their lives were out of balance. God was secondary to everything that they did. The people they were cheating were not even part of their lives, except for their moneymaking schemes.

They paid lip service to Judaism, but their interests were in making money anyway they could, including. The Sabbath rest which God provided was just interfering with their business. They were too busy to rest.

How do we stack up against them today? Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   (Matthew 11:28-39)

Those who used false balances in the of Amos did not want to be yoked to God. They wanted no yoke at all, just the freedom to do whatever they pleased without any consequences. They did not want to serve God, only their ill gotten gain.

In today’s Gospel Jesus said:

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.  (Luke 16:13)

There is no rest in the service of wealth. It is all consuming. It impoverishes the soul. Its burden can become overwhelming. Sadly, for many, this lesson is learned too late, when there is little life left.

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, who sits enthroned on high
but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust
and lifts up the poor from the ashes.   (Psalm 113:4-6

God is offering us a taste of his glory through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do we want to substitute his heavenly riches with temporal wealth that leads to spiritual poverty and death?

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Filed under homily, Jesus, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11

Track 1: Out of Balance

mos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

The worship and presence of God is an inconvenience to the wicked. The Prophet Amos wrote:

The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,
says the Lord God;

“the dead bodies shall be many,
cast out in every place. Be silent!”

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,

buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.   (Amos 8:1-12)

The wicked are about gaining wealth and power at other people’s expense.. The psalmist wrote:

You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness
against the godly all day long?

You plot ruin;
your tongue is like a sharpened razor,
O worker of deception.

You love evil more than good
and lying more than speaking the truth.

You love all words that hurt,
O you deceitful tongue.

Oh, that God would demolish you utterly,
topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
and root you out of the land of the living!

The righteous shall see and tremble,
and they shall laugh at him, saying,

“This is the one who did not take God for a refuge,
but trusted in great wealth
and relied upon wickedness.   (Psalm 52:1-7)

Today we have our version if wickedness. But little has changed. “You love evil more than good and lying more than speaking the truth.” Of whom does this statement remind us? Politicians? The media? The CEO’s of corporations? Perhaps even some church leaders?

Evil leaders want to keep out of balance. They want to mislead and misdirect. They create false narratives to divide us and demoralize us. What is our defense?

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus told Martha:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”   (Luke 10:41-42)

The distractions and distortions of today are not new. The enemy has always used them. In many cases, he dupes us into thinking that these are valid concerns which take precedent over all others. Jesus us tells us that only one thing takes precedent. What is this one thing?

The psalmist wrote:

You show me the path of life.
    In your presence there is fullness of joy;
    in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.   (Psalm 16:11)

There is only one path of like. There is only one place with the fullnes of joy. God invites us into his presence. Only in him is there balance in our lives. Only in his presence is there freedom and truth. Jesus was imparting God’s presence to Mary.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him– provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.  (Colossians 1:19-23)

Once we selfish just like other evil doers. But we have been reconciles to God. Let us hold on to the hope of the Gospel and not become distracted and discouraged by the lies of the enemy. This, alone, brings balance to our lives and joy to our souls.

 

Track 2: Our Choices in Life

Genesis 18:1-10a
Psalm 15
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

In today’s Gospel we read of the two sisters Mary and Martha:

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her, then, to help me.”   (Luke 10:38-48)

“Are you and Mary or a Martha?”How many times have we heard this question? This passage in Luke has little to do about the personalities of Mary and Martha. Mary was spiritual and Martha was practical. This is entirely too simplistic. Martha was very spiritual. Reading from the Gospel of John:

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”   (John 11:20-27)

Neither Mary nor a Martha was a Mary of a Martha (so to speak). We must look deeper. Reading on:

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but few things are needed—indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”   (Luke 10:41-42)

This passage is about a visitation from God and the choices we make. First, let us look at a visitation from God in the Old Testament:

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on– since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”   (Genesis 18:1-5)

God visited Abraham in the form of three persons. Abraham was aware that there was something different about these men. He stopped all that he was doing and put all hi8 efforts into encouraging them to stay with him.

This brings us to the choice. God comes to us, but we must receive him. Why would we not want to receive him? If we wish to hide our sin, then his visitation would not be welcome. But it is more likely that neither Abraham, Mary, or Martha were hiding away from God because of their sin.

Martha was entertaining Jesus and she probably realized that Jesus was a Godly man. She knew about his miraculous power. Why was she upset?

Jesus said that she was “worried and distracted by many things,” We all have practical duties to perform, and they are important. Martha was not  wrong about wanting to do her chores. Perhaps she was  wrong about how important they were to complete in the moment, above all else. Perhaps she was wrong about thy importance of her role in performing them, as compared to that of someone else.

We can easily be distracted when the mundane is elevated above the spiritual. The enemy uses distractions to keep us from answering the call of God. He does so by convincing us that we are doing the right thing,  God is important, but he must wait his turn because we are in the middle of an urgent and vital task that he would want us to complete first.

Life is about choices. Do we chose God first or second, now or later. The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way
    and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.   (Isaiah 55:6-7)

We should not take the Lord’s visitation forgranted.  God came to bless Abraham. Mary set under the blessings of Christ Jesus. And God comes to bless us. The psalmist wrote:

You show me the path of life.
    In your presence there is fullness of joy;
    in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.   (Psalm 16:11)

I was once programming a computer. I was struggling through a difficult part when the Lord visited me. I asked him to please wait. Dummy me had to learn he came to assist me. He cares about all that we do. I needed to priories my life by putting him first. Otherwise I was going to miss his visitations and blessings.

Life is about choices. Jesus said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.   (John 10:10)

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C