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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 21

Track 1: A Future with Hope

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

The Prophet Jeremiah was experiencing turbulent times:

At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.   (Jeremiah 32:2-3)

The future did not look bright. Jerusalem would be destroyed and a remnant would be carried off to captivity in Babylon. How could anyone be optimistic about the future of Judah? But  God spoke to Jeremiah:

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.   (Jeremiah 32:6-8)

Jeremiah went to great length to protect his purchase:

I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.   (Jeremiah 32:11-15)

God told Jeremiah that, even though he was seeing destruction all around him, he would have a future. Jerusalem would have a future. God was going to protect Jeremiah through all of it. The psalmist wrote:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the Lord,
“You are my refuge and my stronghold,
my God in whom I put my trust.”

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,
nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.   (:1-2,5-6, 14-16)

When we are bound to God in love, He will protect us from all harm. God is our shelter, He is our refuge and stronghold, in whom I put my trust.

Times are difficult now for many of us. But our future is bright when we put our trust in him

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.   (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

 

 

Track 2: The Rich Man and Lazarus

Amos 6:1a,4-7
Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

God spoke through the Prophet Amos:

Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria.

Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
and lounge on their couches,

and eat lambs from the flock,
and calves from the stall;

who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
and like David improvise on instruments of music;

who drink wine from bowls,
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!   (Amos 6:1,4-6)

It was not just that certain people were rich. They did not care about the welfare of others, Jesus told a parable to illustrate this point:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’   (Luke 16:19-26)

The rich man did not care about Lazarus. He did nothing to help him, although he was well aware of this poor man’s condition. The price the rich man paid was very high. He was now in Hades. He called out for some relief from his suffering. No relief was possible. So be began to think of others:

He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”   (Luke 16:27-31)

When Jesus rose from the dead, did all Jerusalem repent? No. The minds and hearts of the people had been so warped by false teaching. False piety. Even when there was hope that things could improve for their great benefit, they were stuck in a world that the rulers said was better. They lied and they knew they lied, but they did not want to lose control. The psalmist wrote:

Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,
for there is no help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
whose hope is in the Lord their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

The Lord loves the righteous;
the Lord cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.   (Psalm 146:4-8)

Which of the two worlds do we want to believe in? Which of the two worlds do we want to live in? One is very controlled, but oppressive. We must create our own happiness in some way, even when what we do has little thought about the feelings and needs of others.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.   (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

Then there is the other world, a happy one. Again: “Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

We have a Savior who died, but who rose from the dead and made all things new. Do we believe in this world? Do we want to live in this world? In this world we feel the love of God so strongly that we want to share his love with everyone

Of course, the enemies of Christ want to drag us back into their dark world. One of the primary ways is through financial wealth. Wealth is not necessarily bad. It may come on its own. Paul writes Timothy?

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.   (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

If we are missing something in our hearts, Go0d will fill them with his love and presence. We do not need to seek anything but him. Nothing else will ever satisfy us except him. All we need to do is turn to him.

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.   (Jeremiah 29:13)

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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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