Tag Archives: rest

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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Labor Day

The Dignity of Work

Ecclesiasticus 38:27-32a
Psalm 107:1-9 or Psalm 90:1-2, 16-17
1 Corinthians 3:10-14
Matthew 6:19-24

God is our creator. He is the master craftsman of the universe. We are made in his image. Thus, a large part of our life on earth is the discovery of the God-given talent and creativity which he has placed within us. This discovery gives us joy, but also contributes to the wellbeing of others.

King Solomon wrote about the skills of the potter:

He molds the clay with his arm and makes it pliable with his feet; he sets his heart to finish the glazing, and he takes care in firing the kiln. All these rely on their hands, and all are skillful in their own work. Without them no city can be inhabited, and wherever they live, they will not go hungry.   (Ecclesiasticus 38:29-32)

We are familiar with King Solomon. He was the wisest and the most wealthy ruler of his time, or perhaps of any time. Yet, Solomon found that all that material wealth was “vanity and striving after wind.” It did not satisfy. Again he wrote:

So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them? (Ecclesiastes 3:22)

Solomon was saying the our work alone should provide us satisfaction. The doing is more rewarding than the wages and what they can provide. Thus, whatever we do, let us do it unto the Lord, offering him praise and thanksgiving.

This Labor Day let us pause and rest. But let us also enjoy and appreciate our work and that of others. If we are still on the discovery to find our God-given vocation, we should not give us. God is with us. The psalmist wrote:

May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork.   (Psalm 90:17)

There is great dignity in any kind of work. All work if for the betterment of society. To not work is a drag on society and on others. The Apostle Paul warned:

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.   (2 Thessalonians 3:7-11)

While on the earth Jesus never stopped working:

“My Father is still working, and I also am working.”   (John 5:17)
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”   (John 9:4-5)
We need to follow his example. We want to be working up to that day in the Kingdom of God. Then we will be prepared to work for him in his millennial reign.
Today, let us pause and give thanks for all our workers and citizen saints who keep us going. And let us all rest. Our best rest is in Jesus:
“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.   (Matthew 11:28-29)

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Twelth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

Track 1: Cracked Cisterns

Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

What is our source of strength in this life? Reading from today’s Old Testament:

My people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.   (Jeremiah 2:13)

God complained through the psalmist:

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,
“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

And yet my people did not hear my voice,
and Israel would not obey me.

So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their hearts,
to follow their own devices.

Oh, that my people would listen to me!
that Israel would walk in my ways!   (Psalm 81:10-13)

Israel forsook the living water that God provided for them. How are we doing today? We live in a culture that is cracked and broken. We certainly do not want to rely on it as a source for anything. Yet Satan is more than ready to provide for us his counterfeit cistern. We are feed it each day in our entertainment, media, and in some of our churches.

There is a fountain of living water that God still provides for his people, but we must choose to drink from it.. Have we sought this water?

The psalmist wrote:

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.   (Psalm 36:7-9)

The living water is the fountain of life. There is no life without it, just existence. Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well, we may remember. She was only living an existence. He said to her:

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”   (John 4)

She asked him:

“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

 

Track 2: All Who Exalt Themselves

Sirach 10:12-18
or Proverbs 25:6-7
Psalm 112
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

In this world there is a ranking order. Perhaps we pay a little too much attention to it. Reading from today’s Gospel:

When Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, `Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”   (Luke 14:7-11)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.   (Philippians 2:3)

This was not the attitude of the Pharisee:

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.   (Matthew 23:1-8)

Is there a pecking order that we should follow? Not according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We read in the Book of James:

My brothers and sisters, do not claim the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory while showing partiality. For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here in a good place, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?   (James 2:1-5)

The pecking order is a smoke screen of Satan. It is a distraction so that we will not be concerned about the needs of others. Satan is suggesting that we must earn our way into a place of importance.If we buy into him, we will find ourselves judging the spiritual walk of others. Not only that, we will become a stumbling block for others.

Is’t time to drop the competitive Christianity and live the life of Christ? Paul wrote:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted him even more highly
and gave him the name
that is above every other name,
so that at the name given to Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:%-11)

Jesus is Lord. He alone is worthy of praise. We stand at the foot of his cross. in this place the ground is level for all of us. Only Jesus can raise us up on high.

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Third Sunday in Lent

The Heart of God

Moses encountered God at the burning bush that would not consume. There he was given an assignment by God, a very big assignment: Reading from Exodus:

The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”   (Exodus 3:9-12)

Moses was reluctant. Then he became impatient with God’s plan due to the way the children of Israel were responding. We remember the numerous plagues God brought against Pharaoh and Egypt, the many signs and wonders he performed through Moses.

Moses learned to trust and be patient. God’s timing is not always our timing. But his timing is perfect. He brought a great victory. He delivered his people from bondage in Egypt and brought everyone out safely while their enemy was destroyed.

How did they respond. The Apostle Paul writes:

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.   (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)

Israel had seen more signs and wonders of God than anyoney. How could so many of them rebel against God? They misjudged the character and heart of God. For them, God had become the cause of all their problems. How do we relate to the Israel in the wilderness?

At times we find ourselves in our own wilderness? When things do not go the way we wanted, we may grow impatient with God. God’s timing is perfect. His plans for us may be better than our plans.

Let us look a little deeper. What might be the first words out of our mouths when, suddenly, an unanticipated attack or offense comes our way?  Do we blame God? We may say “no” but our initial words may have sounded life a “yes.” The enemy wants to make us believe that the evil deeds he is doing is God’s evil.

Reading from Today’s Gospel:

At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”   (Luke 13:1-5)

The question must have grieved Jesus. He responded by going directly to the heart of the matter: repentance. Imagine how God fells when we blame him for all the tragedies in this world. That may far surpass taking God’s name in vain.

The psalmist wrote:

You are good and do good;
    teach me your statutes.   (Psalm 119:68)

Is it loving God’s desire to destroy the ones he has made in his own image for eternal companionship? Do we really think that?

God does allow our faith to be tested:

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.   ( 1 Corinthians 10:13)

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.   (1 Peter 5:10)

If we misunderstand God and become angry at him, then it is a good indication that we need emotional healing. We may have been wounded in our souls. God wants to heal us, and he will if we allow him.

There is a limit on how many times one rejects God. Jesus told this parable about a fig tree:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”   (Luke 13:6-9)

The fig tree stood for Israel. It also stands for us. Do we wish God’s tender care in order that we may bear fruit?

God wants to heal us and forgive us. Repentance is the key. When we find ourselves hating God and blaming him for every tragedy and atrocity that we see, we need his healing and deliverance from the lies of the enemy. Here is the good news:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   (John 3:16-17)

This should establish our love relationship with God. He loves us enough to give of his all.

Today, Jesus i9s calling us to his altar:

“Come to me, all you that 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.   (Matthew 11:28-29)

He wants to make us whole in him.

See Healing the Soul.

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