9th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 16:1-9 + August 13, 2017

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15

Introit
Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is with those who uphold my life.
He will repay my enemies for their evil. Cut them off in Your truth, O Lord. (Psalm 54:4–5)

Save me, O God, by Your name: And vindicate me by Your strength.
Hear my prayer, O God; Give ear to the words of my mouth.
For strangers have risen up against me: They have not set God before them.
For He has delivered me out of all trouble; And my eye has seen its desire upon my enemies. (Psalm 54:1, 2-3, 7)


Readings

Collect for the 9th Sunday after Trinity
Let Thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of Thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please Thee; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon


In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

1)         Today Jesus teaches us to be circumspect about how we use the things God gives us in this life. He could have just said, “Everything you have is a gift from your heavenly Father. All your possessions, your wealth, your time, your energy, your talents and gifts, these are all bestowed upon you graciously from your Father who art in heaven. Therefore be careful how you use them.” But that wouldn’t sink all that deep into our hearts. To lodge this message deeper and more firmly in our minds, Jesus tells a parable of a master who had entrusted all his goods and possessions to a steward. We don’t have stewards anymore, so let’s call him a caretaker. This man was in charge of everything that belonged to his master. Now he may have been a trustworthy fellow when he first got the job. What’s important is that at some point he fell into temptation. The temptation of the caretaker was twofold. First, he was tempted to disregard the fact that all these possessions were not his, but someone else’s. Like Judas, at some point greed got the better of him. The caretaker realized that his master’s goods made a pretty good life for himself. He used his master’s possessions for his own pleasure and personal enjoyment, treating them as if they were his own and that he had produced them himself. Being ensnared by this temptation led to him easily falling into the second temptation. His heart, being calloused to the fact that what he had was not his, was then tempted to forget that one day the master would want an accounting. Covetousness, greed, and a fully belly had blinded the caretaker to the fact that there would be a day of reckoning.

2)         That day came like a thief in the night. He had no time to prepare and cook the books. Once the report of malfeasance and mismanagement came to the rich man’s ears, it was all over. He sent for him with this message, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.” Everything he had sinfully ignored came to pass in that moment. He lost his position as caretaker, so that means that he lost access to all his master’s good things for future use. Thinking of the impending judgment he realizes that he can’t dig. He’s not accustomed to manual labor. He doesn’t want to beg. Begging was worse than death in his mind. But it in that brief moment before he had to hand over the ledger to the rich man, the wasteful, slothful caregiver gets an idea to save his future. He’ll use the few moments he has left in his position to make his life “post-stewarding” better. He calls every one of his master’s debtors and reduces their debt. “You own one hundred measures of oil? I’ll forgive half. Write fifty. You owe my master one hundred measures of wheat? Scratch that out and write eighty.” He’s not above stealing. But he’s proven that already by his malfeasance, mismanagement, and misuse of all that belonged to his master. At the last possible moment, the caretaker gets it. He uses his master’s possessions for the sake of gaining friends and so that when he’s fired, he’ll have a place to go.

3)         This is what Jesus wants from His Christians. He doesn’t want you to steal and defraud like the caretaker did. He won’t command you to do something that contradicts His own word given in the seventh commandment. The master in the parable doesn’t commend the caretaker for his thievery and dishonesty, but his shrewdness. “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” Christ wants to you be shrewd with your possessions. He wants you to be circumspect with your time. He wants to you be prudent with whatever you have in this life, whether you think it’s a lot or a little. He wants to you behave wisely with what you’ve got because what you’ve got isn’t yours. St. Paul asks the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive?” The question can be pointed at each one of us. What do we possess in this life, whether material or spiritual, that is genuinely ours? The answer is nothing. It is all gift from God our heavenly Father. He is the one that gives us daily bread, which Luther teaches is: “Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” Everything we have is a gift from God. It is His. By graciously giving us all things He calls us to be stewards and caretakers of what is rightly His.

4)         But if we truly look at our stewardship, we often find that we have too much in common with the caretakers in Jesus’ parable. Too often we view our possessions with the possessiveness of children who horde toys away from others. There are many times when we are lazy and don’t make the best use of our time. We often grow complacent with our vocations and imagine that they are only given to us to meet our needs. Then we look at our neighbor selfishly, imagining what they should be doing for us instead of what we can be doing to help them in their needs. Even spiritual gifts are often taken for granted. We find ourselves slack in prayer for our neighbors and for the Church. We may find ourselves tiring of hearing the Gospel because we’re so accustomed to it, so that we begin to think we don’t need to hear it continually. Like the caretaker in the parable, two great temptations surround us daily and are ready to pounce on us. The first is the temptation to imagine that all that we have been given is actually ours. When we become entangled in this temptation, we begin to fret and worry over our wealth and possessions, which means we end up subtly worshiping mammon, expecting good things to come from mammon if we can get more of it. When we become entangled in this temptation to think of all that we have as ours, or that we are able to provide for ourselves apart from God’s gracious hand, we become like the unrighteous caretaker, living on our master’s good things for our own pleasure and comfort.

5)         Not only this, but like the caretaker in the parable, there will be a day of reckoning for us as well, a day when our master demands an account of our stewardship of His things. That day will come like a thief in the night, just as it did for the caretaker in the parable. But our Lord is gracious and has told us far in advance that this day of reckoning will come. St. Paul tells the men of Athens that God “now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:30-31). We know that day is coming. Yet when our bellies become full of God’s good things we are tempted to forget that fact. The rich man in the parable provided no advance warning for his caretaker and caught Him unawares. Christ has graciously told us Himself and through His Apostles that that day will indeed come, though we are not told the precise day. Jesus says in Matthew 24:50, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of.” We ought to take this to heart and repent as St. Paul tells us. We ought to repent for wasting our master’s goods on selfish endeavors. We ought to repent for abusing His possessions by using them only for our own pleasure and comfort. For there is not one of us who has not wasted the good gifts of God, material or spiritual, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

6)         And then we are to believe the Gospel. That’s why we’re here, after all. Jesus says in Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” You may have been a wasteful steward of the many blessings God has given to you. You may have not used your blessings to serve your neighbor in love. You may have been slack and cold in your prayers, negligent in hearing the Word, and absent in using your gifts for the spread of God’s kingdom on earth. But there is the Gospel that God, because of Christ Jesus, is merciful to sinners. Jesus takes our many sins and dies for them upon the cross of Calvary. Jesus sheds His innocent, precious blood to atone for your sins. St. John says that “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Though our sins against God and neighbor abound, St. Paul comforts us in Romand 5:20, saying: “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” David sings of the mercy of God which is able to cover any sin, no matter how heinous or vile, saying: “For with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:7-8). We may be unrighteous stewards of God’s possessions, but Christ atones for all our sins, so that we can be sure that He fully forgives our offenses and transgressions when we believe that for His sake we have a God who is merciful and gracious.

7)         And then, having your sins forgiven, Christ puts you back in your stewardship. He doesn’t take His good gifts away from you. He places you right back in your vocations, surrounded by neighbors that need your good works of love just as much as they need your prayers. He wants you to be circumspect about how you use the things of this life, because being forgiven of all your sins, you know that these things aren’t yours to begin with. It is as we sang moments ago, “All that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee.” Be like that caretaker in the parable, though do not emulate his sins of being wasteful, negligent, and dishonest. Rather, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Use the blessings that God has given to you to make friends in this life. This means shrewdly use God’s goods for the earthly benefit and spiritual benefit of those around you, so that on the Last Day those friends will receive you into your everlasting home of heaven. Be careful to use your wealth, your time, your talents, your possessions for the sake of your neighbor and for the sake of the kingdom of God, to His glory and the salvation of men’s souls. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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