Sunday, August 29, 2010

Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 13)


Luke 10:23-37; Galatians 3:15-22; 2 Chronicles 28:8-15

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We want to skip directly to the end, don’t we? – “You go, and do likewise.” That’s the point of Jesus’ parable, isn’t it, to give us an example of faith in action, to teach us how we should live? “Be like the Good Samaritan,” that sounds like something we can do, doesn’t it? In fact, often we are Good Samaritans, helping out others in need, and that fact makes us feel pretty good about ourselves, doesn’t it?

So, we want to skip directly to the end. But, to do so is to misinterpret this Parable of the Good Samaritan so as to strip it naked of all its comfort which flows from the mercy of God while turning it into a simple morality lesson. And yet, that is not to say that there is not a simple morality lesson in the parable, after all, Jesus does end it saying “You go, and do likewise,” but that is a command of God’s Law, which condemns us, unless we first learn how it is possible for us to fulfill the Law of God and to not stand under its condemnation. And, this too, and foremost, Jesus would teach us in this Parable of the Good Samaritan, what the nature of mercy is and that we are all in need of it in abundance.

It story begins with a lawyer doing what lawyers do – looking for a loophole. The lawyer stood up, so that all eyes were upon him, and He asked Jesus a calculated question to test Him, to try Him as a prosecutor would try a suspect before a judge and jury, even to tempt Jesus. The lawyer’s question was “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Do you catch the subtle irony in his question in his use of the two verbs do and inherit? By definition, you cannot do anything to inherit something; if you have to do something then it’s not an inheritance. But, this lawyer knew what he was doing, that was exactly the point. For, he was not a lawyer of the civil law of either Rome or Israel, but He was a student and teacher of God’s Law. He knew God’s Law well and he believed that he did it pretty well. His self-righteousness had puffed up his pride so much that he thought he’d put this itinerant rabbi that’s got everyone all astir to the test of the Law. And, since the lawyer asked Him a Law question, Jesus gave Him a Law answer: You want something to do? You’re a lawyer, what’s your reading of the Law? The lawyer answered correctly, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Indeed, that is the great summation of the Law of God; you can’t get more correct than that. And, Jesus acknowledged the lawyer’s correct answer and replied, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

“Do this – and you will live.” How does that settle with you? That statement should not make you comfortable and secure. If it does, then you have not wrestled with the Law of God in its full strength and weight and you have not been honest with yourself. Do this and you will live does not mean try your best. Do this and you will live means always love God, without ever failing, with absolutely all that you are, 100%; oh, and while you’re at it, always love your neighbor, without ever failing, as you love yourself. Do that, and you will live. Now, how does that settle with you? How did that settle with the lawyer in the parable? Not very well. It says that after hearing those words of Jesus the lawyer sought to justify himself. The lawyer stood convicted by the Law of God, even as he himself understood it, because he knew that he failed to love God perfectly and completely and that he failed to love his neighbor. He was convicted and embarrassed before the crowd of people he sought to impress; he stood there squirming in his shoes, looking for a way out, looking for a way to save face. So, to take the attention off of himself, he puts Jesus on trial once again asking, “And who is my neighbor?”

The lawyer knew that this was a matter of debate amongst the Jewish religious leaders. The Pharisees, for instance did not see known sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes or persons that had been declared ceremonially unclean to be neighbors. It was quite permissible according to the Law as they interpreted it to mark and shun such persons. Yet, it was widely known that Jesus associated and even ate and drank with such as these. The lawyer was looking to justify himself; he was looking for a way to direct the conviction of the Law away from himself and on to Jesus, and so he exposes Jesus, hoping to force him into taking a side on this controversial issue, believing that Jesus would answer that sinners, and all people, are equally neighbor, and then be able to condemn Him with the support of the scribes and Pharisees. Thus, this is the setting for Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan; Jesus’ reply to the lawyer is a story with a lesson in it, a parable.

But parables are not what they appear to be on the surface, it takes the eyes of faith to see their truth and it takes the ears of faith to hear their message. And, spiritual eyes and ears are not earned or purchased any more than are their physical cousins, but they are gifts of grace. Jesus addressed His disciples concerning the great blessing of spiritual ears and eyes just before the lawyer stood up to put Him to the test. It almost seemed like Jesus knew this was going to happen ;->. Again, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Good Samaritan, not in reply to the lawyer’s question “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” but in reply to the lawyer’s question “Who is my neighbor?” However, in the parable, the Master answers both questions for those having eyes to see and ears to hear.

You know the story well. A man fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him, and left him half dead. Both a priest and a Levite pass by on the other side of the road, but a Samaritan had compassion upon the man, went to him, bound up his wounds, poured on oil and wine, placed him on his own beast of burden, took him to an inn and paid for his stay there promising to come back and repay the innkeeper whatever else it cost to care for the man. It’s a simple story, but only on the surface, about a man who finds himself in a terrible predicament and is utterly incapable of helping himself out of it. What the man needs is someone to help him, someone to have mercy and compassion upon him, someone to be a neighbor to him. Though three men pass by, it is not the highly regarded priest or Levite that shows mercy to the man, but it is the despised Samaritan, a man the priest and Levite would likely not consider their neighbor.

Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” And, the lawyer again answered correctly, if reluctantly, “The one who showed him mercy.” It was not a coincidence that the two men in the parable who passed by and left the bloodied and beaten man in the ditch were themselves students and teachers of the Law like unto the lawyer himself. The lawyer wanted to justify himself in the light of the Law by defining his neighbor in a very narrow way and then to claim that he has done the Law well serving as neighbor to a select group of people. But, the Parable of the Good Samaritan is not about the Law of God and what we must do to inherit eternal life, but it is about the mercy of God in the Good Samaritan Jesus Christ who comes to those who cannot come to Him and helps those who cannot help themselves at His own expense, even at the expense of His own life in His crucifixion, suffering, and death upon the cross.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is not meant to inspire us to go out and do good and then feel good about ourselves because we have been good neighbors. This parable is about entering the way of Christ. So, when Jesus says, “Go and do likewise,” it is tantamount to His call, “Take up your cross and follow me.” If we reduce this parable to a lesson in morality then we stand convicted by the same Law of God that convicted the lawyer – “Do this, and you shall live.” We don’t do it. We can’t do it, not as the Law of God requires. Every time we pass by a homeless person or a beggar on the street it is a reminder, a lesson in the grace and mercy of our Good Samaritan Jesus; of course we should help, and not just give them a dollar or a few coins, but really help, get to know the person, take them to get food, clothing, and shelter, show real compassion, real mercy to them. But we don’t, and more often than not we pass by on the other side. If by “Go and do likewise” Jesus means be like Him in every circumstance and you will live, then we are all condemned to death and hell.

But that is not the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus would have you relate to the man stripped naked, beaten and bloodied, and left for dead by the side of the road, not the Good Samaritan. We are the man, Adam, who had everything, all that we needed to live comfortably and at peace, who was overcome by the robber Satan who stripped us of all that we had and left us wounded, crippled by sin, and half dead, unable to help ourselves. Jesus is the Good Samaritan who found us in this condition and had compassion upon us. He cared for us, healed our wounds, and made all arrangements for our care at His own expense, taking our stripes, our sin, our death upon Himself so that He became like the man left for dead by the roadside. Yes, it’s all about Jesus; it’s always all about Jesus!

We need to see ourselves as a helpless person who receives mercy from an unexpected and completely undeserved quarter, for, the primary definition of a Christian is not a person who does good deeds, but a Christian is one who knows that he is in need of mercy and that he has received mercy from the Son of God. In Holy Baptism your Good Samaritan Jesus applied to you the healing oil of His Holy Spirit and bound up your wounds. He brought you into the inn of His Church at the expense of His own body, His own life laid down for yours. There He continues to care for you with the bread of His body and the wine of His blood, and with His Word of mercy and forgiveness that you may be strengthened, preserved, and kept for His return.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homily for the Christian Funeral of Frances Parkhurst


John 14:1-6; Romans 5:1-11; Isaiah 61:1-3, 10

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God the Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Listen again to the comforting words of our Lord Jesus: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you be also. And you know the way to where I am going.

Aren’t those wonderful words? Do they not speak warmth and comfort? Do they not evoke in us a confidence that the Lord is in charge and that there is nothing to worry about or to fear? Yet, what is Thomas’ response to Jesus’ words of comfort? Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” <PAUSE> “Whaddaya talkin’ ‘bout Lord?” “We don’t understand what you mean!”

Perhaps a little context will put Thomas’ confusion in perspective. Just before offering these words of comfort to His disciples, Jesus had knelt down and washed their feet in humility. He had foretold of His imminent arrest, crucifixion, suffering, and death. He had celebrated the Passover meal with them in which He proclaimed the bread and wine they were eating and drinking to be His body and blood. Then He foretold that one of them whose feet He had just washed and who had just ate and drank with Him would betray Him that very night. Suffice it to say, the disciples’ heads were spinning. They were overcome with emotion, confusion, and dismay – not unlike many of you this day.

Indeed, you may rightly feel a little like Thomas: Whaddaya talkin’ ‘bout Lord? We don’t understand what you mean! Why did my mother have to die like this, so suddenly? How are we going to get through this? I played bingo with her earlier that day; how could this happen? What does it all mean?

It is to hurting and confused disciples like you that our Lord Jesus speaks His comfort and peace: Let not your hearts be troubled. Jesus speaks comfort and peace that is real, that is certain, and true even if you don’t feel that peace right now. After all, our feelings and emotions are fickle things and are easily confused and deceived. Have you ever been angry at someone, only to find out later that they had not done or said the thing that incited your anger? Nevertheless, your anger was all too real and it felt all-consuming at the time; but it was wrong and falsely directed.

What I mean to speak to you is that, though your grief, sorrow, mourning, and yes, even anger is real and true, though your confusion and dismay are real and true, you can even now find comfort and peace in something else that is real and true, that, in fact is more real and true – that Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, your God, has set you free from all that. He has died for all that. Jesus died for all your suffering. Jesus died for all your sorrow. Jesus died for all your pain, all your fear, all your anxiety, all your anger. Jesus died for sin and Jesus died for the wages of your sin – Jesus died your death. And, in exchange for all that, He gives you His life – and that is peace, peace as the world cannot give, peace with God, peace that no one can take from you.

You can trust that the peace that Jesus gives is real and true because it comes from outside of you. That which comes from inside of you is subject to your emotional highs and lows and to the perceptions of your senses, but the peace that Jesus brings is not dependent upon these, it is always real and always true and always certain no matter what. And, it comes to you as a free and perfect gift. You did not earn it, you did not deserve it, you cannot buy it or take it, but God gives it to you because He loves you in His Son Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

And, somewhere’s about 85 years ago, God gave that gift of peace in Jesus to Frances when her parents, out of faith and love, brought her to Jesus that He might lay His hand upon her, touch her with His gift of forgiveness, and speak to her His true and lasting peace in Holy Baptism. That day she was named and claimed a child of God in Christ Jesus and God promised her that nothing in heaven or on earth, not even death, could separate her from His love in Christ Jesus her Lord. Throughout Frances’ life God kept that promise to her. Yes, to be sure, there were dark and difficult times when her perceptions would have her believe that God had broken His promise, times when she was filled with confusion, sorrow, suffering, and dismay, but in truth God did not, will not, and cannot break His promise. And, deep down, Frances knew that. I know that, and you know that too, because Frances displayed that belief, that faith, in her life. No, she didn’t go to church every Sunday. Yes, she could be blunt and frank in her dealings with people. But, Frances was kind and gracious, merciful and loving; she had an innate sense of what was just and fair and she defended those who were being marginalized or taken advantage of. The heart of Christ was alive in Frances, and anyone who knew her could see this.

And, that’s really what the Christian faith is all about – letting the light of Christ shine through you for others to see. The Christian faith is not about being a good person or doing good works; the Christian faith is about faith in Christ, trusting in Him even when the going gets tough, even when our perceptions and emotions are overcome with confusion, fear, and anxiety. In the end, it’s not about big faith or small faith, strong faith, weak faith, or struggling faith – it’s about faith, faith in Christ to the glory of God the Father. Faith is not a choice that you make or a decision to accept Jesus into your heart, faith is a gift of God’s grace, it comes from outside of you, and thus it is unchanging even though your emotions and perceptions wax and wane and are in flux from day to day.

Frances had the gift of faith. She was, and is, a child of God purchased in the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of her sins and eternal life. Her faith was displayed continually throughout her earthly life as she remained strong for her family through trial and tribulation. She displayed her faith as she continually downsized her homes and possessions, shedding material attachments and utilizing what she had shrewdly and conservatively. She displayed her faith by caring more about others than herself, desiring not to burden others with her financial concerns or other causes of worry. You may be thinking that these are insignificant things and not necessarily the fruits of faith, but they are not. We all have faith in something; we all have our gods. Your God, the object of your faith, is whatever or whoever you fear, love, and trust above all others. Frances feared, loved, and trusted the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who created, redeemed, and sustained her throughout her earthly life and who now has graced her with true and eternal life in Jesus, a life that is so full, rich, and complete that we, in comparison, are the ones who are dead.

For, the peace that Jesus gives is that during our lives, which we live in this valley of the shadow of death, surrounded by perilous enemies, He walks with us and never leaves us. He leads us by cool and refreshing streams when we are parched and beat down and He lovingly guides us with His rod and staff. He provides us rich sustenance, even in the presence of our enemies. And, when the time comes, He leads us out of this valley of death into His Father’s house where there is no death, but only life forevermore.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, and believe in His Son Jesus. He has kept His promise to Frances and she is alive in His Father’s house. Cry your tears and release your grief, you have experienced great loss. But your loss is Frances’ gain. She is not dead, but she lives. And she would have you follow her in the way that she has gone. Do you not know the way? I am the way, says Jesus, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Homily for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 12)


Mark 7:31-37; Romans 10:9-16; Isaiah 29:17-24

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

What must I do to be saved? Now, there’s a question that gets people’s attention. If only we could have that questioned answered, get a check-list of those things we must do, then we’d get right to work in doing them and we’d feel pretty good about ourselves and about our oh-so fair, just, and reasonable God. That’s all we’ve ever really wanted, isn’t it, a plain and simple statement of the minimum that’s required of us so that we can do it and live happily ever after?

Well, there are a lot of churches dedicated to answering that question for you. They’ll give you sermons full of practical advice on how to live your life, how to raise your kids, how to keep your marriage alive. They’ll tell you that all you really have to do is have faith and try to be the best person you can be. And many of these churches are large and prosperous, some are even made of crystal, but they are filled by souls that are no more saved by their works according to the Law than are the souls of this humble assembly. For, it is by grace that we are saved, through faith, and not by works of the Law. And that, my brothers and sisters, is the Word of the Lord that endures forever.

For, it is a delusion, a lie, to believe that we can justify ourselves before God by our works. This truth Martin Luther himself confessed as his final written words before his death saying, “We are beggars, this is true.” We are beggars who have nothing of our own to offer to God, for we are conceived into this life already corrupted by Original Sin and our wills are enslaved in bondage to sin and can do no good before God in and of themselves. It does no good to protest “That’s not fair! Sin that I was born with, even conceived in? That’s not my sin. That’s my parent’s sin! That’s Adam’s Sin!” It does not good to protest, for, we are Adam, all of us, one huge sinful man. And, not only have we nothing within us to offer to God, but we cannot even move towards Him of our own wills. We are spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb; from conception we are corrupted by sin and from birth our ears are stopped from hearing God’s Word, our eyes are blind to seeing the light of His Truth, and our lips are closed to praising His Name. We are in bondage, in chains and shackles, to sin and death, and we are so desperately in need of a Savior, someone to have mercy upon us and shower us with His grace and favor lest we perish.

So, as we could not come to Him, God came to us in the person of His Son. The Son of God stepped into our spiritual ditch and there He took up our flesh, wounded and bleeding from the assaults of the devil, left for dead, and He made with us a glorious exchange, binding up our wounds and pouring on oil and wine while taking our stripes as His own and dying our death. For, Jesus is God moved in love and compassion to reach out and to help those who cannot help themselves, those who will not reject His help or claim self-sufficiency. He has come to save sinners, and only sinners can be saved. He has come to poor sinners such as us to pardon, to restore, and to grace with His lavish gifts of goodness and love beyond our imaginings.

Jesus came to us who could not come to Him; He has set us free from our bondage to sin and death and He has empowered us by His Holy Spirit to bring others to Him who are in bondage to sin and death. This is why the crowds in the Gospel lesson brought a man to Jesus who was deaf and unable to speak. The man could not speak because he could not hear; he could not hear because he was in bondage to sin. It’s not that being deaf is sinful, but deafness is a result of sin, just as baldness and arthritis are a result of sin. Nor is the deafness the result of that one man’s sin or anyone’s sin in particular, but deafness is the result of sin in general: For, the wages of sin is always death.

The man could not hear the Word of God and his mouth could not confess Jesus as Lord; he was utterly incapable of changing his condition or situation. Such is our condition according to nature, fallen, corrupted, in bondage to sin. But those who could hear and speak brought the poor man to Jesus and they begged the Lord to lay His hand upon Him. Last Sunday the very same thing happened right here in your presence as Christian parents brought their infant daughter, who could not come on her own, who could not understand the Word of God, or confess with her mouth that Jesus is Lord, in faith they brought her to Jesus that He may lay His hand upon her, forgive her sin, and receive her into Himself through the means of Holy Baptism.

Just as Jesus, through the hands and mouth of the Pastor, released that infant child from the bondage of sin and death, opening her ears to hear the Word of the Lord and to receive faith, releasing her tongue to confess Jesus as Lord and to sing His praise, so too Jesus took the man aside, put his fingers into the man’s ears, spat and touched the man’s tongue, looked up to heaven to give God the glory, and then He spoke the Word “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. It was not Jesus’ fingers alone that opened the man’s ears anymore than the pastor’s touch in Holy Baptism, nor was it His spit and touch alone that released the man’s tongue anymore than the water of Holy Baptism, but it was the Word that Jesus spoke, the Word of God, along with these physical elements, that released the man from bondage to sin and death: The Word of God the Father, the touch of God the Son, and the finger of God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, come down to earth, to speak forgiveness and release from the bondage of sin and death to we who were spiritually deaf, dumb, and blind. Whether we were brought to Jesus as helpless infants that He might touch us with water and Word or if we were brought to Him later in life by those who love us and would have us know the love of God in Jesus they enjoy, it is the Word, only and always the Word, that opens our sin-closed ears and releases our sin-tied tongues that we might confess with our mouths what we believe in our hearts, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In Jesus, Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled: In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. For, on the cross our Savior Jesus sighed and breathed His last for us and has given us to hear and to believe in Him; He has opened our lips that our mouths may declare His praise.

We could not come to Him, so He came to us; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Even still, in bondage to sin and death, we could not hear the Word of the Lord or speak His praise. So, again, Jesus comes to us and brings us to Himself through the hands, feet, and mouths of His pastors, believing parents, friends, and even strangers that we might receive His healing touch and life-giving Word and be opened to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and to believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead and be saved – to the glory of God the Father, in Christ His beloved Son, through the sanctifying power of His Holy Spirit.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Homily for The Ninth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 9)


Luke 16:1-13; 1 Corinthians 10:6-13; 2 Samuel 22:26-34

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Why do you have what you have? What do you do with what you’ve got? Why does the master in the parable commend the dishonest manager? These are but a few of the questions that are raised in today’s lessons from Holy Scripture. But, let us begin by acknowledging that this Parable of the Dishonest Manager (also known as the Parable of the Unjust Steward) is historically one of the most difficult and challenging of our Lord’s parables to interpret and to understand. And, as with most parables, there is more than one approach that we might take in understanding it.

Fundamentally, the parable concerns how you manage the goods that are entrusted to you by God while you live your life in this world. For, your Lord is not unlike a rich man, and you are not unlike His managers. And, Satan, the accuser, is not unlike one who has brought charges against you that you have been wasting your Master’s possessions. The Master is coming soon to require an account of your management. What will He find? What will you say? Will He not be justified in condemning you? What will you do? Shrewdly, use the Master’s possessions, over which you are given management, for the good of yourself and for the good of others; not just the money and the material goods, but use the Master’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, charity, and peace. Give to all, generously, not sparingly, that when the Master comes to require an account of your management, you will have many friends who think well of you and who will glorify the Master believing that your giving is the fruit of His generosity. “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

For, is this not what the sons of this world do? Do they not give generously to others so that they themselves might profit in the future? How shrewdly they act with the things that they love! They spend money to make money. They use their wealth to make friends. They do favors to gain favors; quid pro quo.

But, not so the sons of light! You were conceived and born into this world, this life, with the guilt of sin. You were brought into this world, this life, with nothing of your own so that all is a gift: your life and breath, your food, clothing, home and family, the Father’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. Why do you have what you have? It is the gift of God your Father’s grace. What do you do with what you’ve got? Do you use it for your own good and for the good of others to the glory of God, or do you horde His gifts and selfishly, sinfully, keep them hidden and of no use to others? “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”

We are confounded that the Master commends the dishonest manager for his shrewdness in our Lord’s parable. It is not the manager’s dishonesty that is commended, however, but the wisdom, zeal, and shrewdness he devoted to his earthly future. How much more wisdom, zeal, and shrewdness should you, sons of light, devote to your heavenly and eternal future?

Another way of looking at this parable is to see that the dishonest manager is actually our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, it may seem difficult to see Jesus as being dishonest, it may even seem blasphemous, but is this not the way the world viewed Jesus – as a dishonest criminal, a thief to be condemned to death? Jesus “dishonestly” squandered His Master’s, His Father’s, grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness by showering it upon us poor, sinful, debtors. We, who shoulder an impossible debt to our Master, God, have had our debts, cut, not in half, or reduced by a percentage, but completely erased by our Master’s “dishonest” Manager, His only Son Jesus, our Lord. Jesus believed and knew perfectly well that His Father was gracious and merciful and that He would honor the forgiveness He dishonestly dispensed because of His sacrificial death upon the cross for all sin-debts and debtors.

Does it make you uncomfortable to think of Jesus in this way, as a dishonest manager of His Father’s grace and mercy – as a criminal and a thief? Is that discomfort not the point of Jesus’ parable? The debtors would never have dared to approach the Master to bargain and settle their account, but they gratefully welcomed the dishonest manager, and they did not think Him dishonest, but only doling out the amazing grace and mercy of their Master. They were thankful to the manager and counted him as a friend and they glorified the Master for His grace and mercy shown to them.

If the Master Himself were to have approached His debtors, they would have rightfully fled in terror; but, the Manager they did not fear or flee and they were willing to bargain and deal with him to reduce their debt to the Master. Indeed, Jesus, the man from backwater Nazareth, the carpenter’s son, regularly ate and drank, touched, and had fellowship with sinners and the unclean. They did not fear Him, but approached Him and appealed to Him for mercy; and He showed them mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness. It was the Pharisees who continually cried out, “Not for such as these!”

You sons of light are shrewd and cunning managers of wealth and goods, well practiced in the art of self-preservation. But how do you manage the spiritual gifts you have, grace, mercy, love, charity, and forgiveness. Your Master and Father, God, would have you manage the spiritual gifts with the same shrewdness, cunning, wisdom, and zeal with which you manage your wealth, even more so. For, your life in this world will end, and then you will know the true worth of those things that you value now. But, the spiritual gifts, given you sons of light, bear fruit unto eternity.

“Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth,” Jesus teaches, “so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” The dishonest manager was shrewd in using oil and wheat to provide for his earthly welfare. So also do these earthly elements aid us when pressed into heavenly use in the anointing of baptism and the wheat of the Lord’s Supper. Those who have the Sacraments will have an eternal home when their earthly home fails.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.