Tag Archives: yoke

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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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16

Track 1: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

Let us begin with the Old Testament reading:

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 1:4-8)

God watches over our lives from a very early age, beginning in our mother’s womb. King David understood this when he composed this psalm:

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

For you are my hope, O Lord God,
my confidence since I was young.

I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;
my praise shall be always of you.   (Psalm 71:5-6)

How much does God have to do with our birthing? The psalmist wrote:

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.   (Psalm 139:13-16)

Let us examine the call by God on the Prophet Isaiah. When did that call begin?

Listen to me, O coastlands,
    pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born,
    while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
    in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
    Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain,
    I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the Lord,
    and my reward with my God.”

And now the Lord says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
he says,
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”   (Isaiah 49:1-6)

Where would we be without the great prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah? How many prophets have we aborted in the womb?

The Church should be the moral compass. Are we not speaking out that abortions are wrong? But what if the life of the mother is at risk? How often does that occur? Enough to justify the killing of millions of babies? Is not abortion, for the majority, just a convenient form of brith control? And murder of children?

The Church is always under pressure not to tell the truth, or not to do the right thing. This is not new. Jesus was under that pressure:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.   (Luke 13:10-17)

The religious rulers were trying to place shame on Jesus. When Jesus did and spoke the truth, the shame fell back on his opponents.

Religious leaders do not always have the right motives. Let us recall what the Apostle Paul was facing:

Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry but others from goodwill.   (Philippians 1:15)

What are our motives today in the Church? Is it about membership numbers? Or my doctrine is more right than hour doctrine? If we preach and teach and act from a heart that loves God, then we will keep his commandments. Just before his ascension Jesus gave the great commandment to his disciples:

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.   (Mark 16:15)

We are his disciples today. Let us speak up. Let us speak out. And let us tell the truth in love. The are called to change the world. The world should not be changing us.

 

 

Track 2: From Bondage to Freedom

Isaiah 58:9b-14
Psalm 103:1-8
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

In today’s Gospel reading we have this wonderful healing of the crippled woman:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”   (Luke 13:10-14)

Jesus answered him:

“You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.   (Luke 13:15-17)

Satan’s desire and plan is to put many people as possible into bondage. He wants to keep us from experiencing the healing, freedom, and love which God extends to everyone who blesses his Holy Name. Jesus came to defeat the works of the Devil.

How do we respond to such a healing and deliverance? Do we believe Jesus is still miraculously healing people today? Or are rules, regulations, and doctrine standing in the way?

The psalmist wrote:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things,
and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.   (Psalm 103:1-5)

Why would anyone want to keep people in bondage? God warned Israel through the Prophet Isaiah:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.   (Isaiah 58:9-?)

God is telling those in authority: quit the speaking of evil against people, quit pointing the finger at others, quit placing a yoke around the necks of people to hold them back. He is saying: If you think you are righteous, start doing righteous acts.

Jesus called out the scribes and Pharisees:

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.   (Matthew 23:2-4)

The heavy burdens, alone, would be punishment enough. Except, it gets worse. Jesus, declared:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.   (Matthew 23:13-15)

Are we bound in the our church today? Are we locking people out of the kingdom of God by laying religious burdens on them? The Apostle Paul wrote::

If with Christ you died to the elemental principles of the world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.   (Colossians 2:20-23)

These burdens have a way of creeping into our churches. This was happening at the Church in Galatia. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.   (Galatians 5:1)

False teachers had entered this church, saying that faith in Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection was not enough for salvation. Unbelief of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the cause for any bondage. People want to step in and make u the difference that they believe is lacking in the Gospel.

What is the solution? What is the correction? Paul clarifies:

We have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.   (Galatians 2:16-21)

We need Jesus. We need his sacrifice o the cross. We need his teaching. We need his Word. Jesus said:

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”   (John 8:31-32)

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