A Sermon for Series C Proper 20 – 2016 “Where do you place your trust?”

Old Testament Lesson  Amos 8:4-7

Second Lesson  1 Timothy 2:1-15

Gospel Lesson  Luke 16:1-15

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the gospel lesson just read.  [Luke 16:1-15]

In the gospels, there are over thirty-one ‘teachings of Jesus’ called parables.  And if you count the times Jesus taught by using examples or metaphors that were parabolic in nature, then that number is closer to sixty-five.  In fact, the parable seems to be Jesus’ choice of teaching form; his teaching style.

He told his disciples that he taught in parables so that those who did not believe wouldn’t get it and those who did believe would get it.  In other words, parables aren’t meant to be clear and obvious teachings, but rather, teachings that require thought and understanding to discern; thought and understanding that comes from the Holy Spirit.

So, using that understanding, that revelation that comes from the Spirit, what is the parable in today’s gospel reading teaching us?  Does it teach us that dishonesty is OK if it gets you what you need?  Does it teach that the end justifies the means?  When we compare this parable to the other teachings of Jesus, it doesn’t seem to fit; not then, not now.

Just picture this happening in our day.  The manager would’ve been in double trouble wouldn’t he?  First he skims the profits for himself, and then he cooks the books to impress the master’s debtors!  And he gets caught with his hand in the till both times!

But then, just when we’re thinking, “How foolish can this guy be?”  The Master praises him for his shrewdness.  He doesn’t have him locked up.  He doesn’t demand repayment.  He doesn’t do anything but take away his managership.

In our world the rich man would’ve called for an audit right away.  He would’ve found out exactly who’d tried to cheat him and by how much and he would’ve demanded justice; not just repayment of what he was owed, but punishment for those who’d tried to deceive him.  In our world the rich man’s servant and those other debtors would’ve been fined and maybe even locked up.

But like so many of the teachings of Jesus, we’re shown that the values of our world are in direct opposition to God’s values.  If we look at these parables through the eyes of our world, all we get is confusion.  All we see is a paradox; but when the Spirit reveals God’s truth to us we look at these parables and see God teaching us about himself and our relationship to him.  And then, instead of bringing us confusion, this parable brings us hope and joy.

Without the Spirit, what do our eyes see?  What jumps out front and center? We see the Master’s servant sneaking around behind the Master’s back, trying to get whatever he could get away with before he could get caught; … but think about how little time he had to do all the damage he was doing.  Granted, there was no internet, no social media, but the word would still have traveled fast.  He had to know he’d get caught; yet he did it anyway.

Yes, he was desperate; but he wasn’t stupid.  He knew he’d get caught, but he did it anyway; … why? … Why?  Because he knew his master was a merciful man; and he trusted in his master’s mercy despite his own personal sinfulness.

He was desperate, he couldn’t help himself … just like you and me when we find ourselves unable to resist temptation and we sin.   In this parable, Jesus is talking to us.  We are the manager who makes mistakes, consciously and unconsciously; and our heavenly Father is the merciful Master who shows us our sin and tells us we can no longer live as we have been; abusing his gifts, misusing his blessings.

With this parable, Jesus is telling us about God’s kingdom.  Jesus is telling us that we can trust in the mercy of our heavenly Father, just as the manager in the parable trusted in the mercy of his master.

We sin, and we know it; God’s written the law on our hearts and we can’t miss it.  Sometimes the guilt we feel is overwhelming.  We know we’ve misused the gifts of God, the blessings he’s given us.  Sometimes we’re afraid to share the love of Christ because, in our sin, we feel so guilty that we think sharing his love will mean there won’t be enough left to cover us.

And so, we fail to love our neighbors as ourselves or we back away from opportunities to show the love Christ has given us because our trust in God just isn’t great enough to give us the courage to get involved.  We know it’s true, the Spirit reveals it to us; and it crushes us.  We know it’s true and we know that all we deserve is God’s punishment for what we’ve done and what we’ve left undone.

But even though we’ve sold God’s glory on the cheap; handing out only a fraction of what he expects us to share, the love he’s given us to pour out on those in need; even though we’ve been caught red handed and there is no excuse, the punishment we deserve doesn’t come to us.

The payment for your sins has already been made.  You don’t need to fear God’s wrath.  Oh, his wrath is real, and you really do deserve his wrath, but for the sake of Christ Jesus your Savior, the punishment never comes to you.  For the sake of Jesus Christ, all your sins are forgiven.  You can trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness because God sent his Son.

God did not send his Son to condemn the world.  He sent him to save it.  He sent him to remove our debt and take it to himself.  He sent him to remove all that’s sinful and place it on his sinless body; and then to allow that body covered in our sin to be nailed to a cross; to take the punishment that belongs to us into himself, and in taking that punishment, to die … for us, in our place; so that in his death, our sins would be buried and never seen again.

We receive the benefit of this forgiveness through the faith his Holy Spirit gives us, as he reconceives us through his holy, creating, word and we are born again.  We receive faith that enables us to trust in him, trusting in God’s mercy as surely as the manager in Jesus’ parable trusted in the mercy of his master.

That’s what the parable in today’s gospel reading teaches us.  For the sake of our Savior, Jesus Christ, you have a Father you can trust; a God we trust to refresh us by his mercy; mercy that’s new every morning; mercy that’s poured out upon you at your Baptism; mercy that we feel flowing through us as we’re refreshed with the bread and wine of Holy Communion; mercy that never runs out no matter how much of it we give away to our neighbors.

So see, this parable is clear and obvious; not confusing at all.  Not to us; not to those who believe.  And your understanding of this parable is proof positive that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you.  Place your trust in him, and live in God’s mercy; because where the Spirit is, there’s mercy; and that’s the best place you could ever put your trust.

Amen

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle