I’m not sure a recording happened this week, and I don’t have my good mike yet to record it after the fact. The trouble with moving.
This sermon reflects on two facts of the text. Father Abraham tells the Rich man in suffering that “Moses and Prophets” are enough to be heard. It should not take a miracle to see. The second fact is that Dives (“The Rich Man”) obviously never heard Moses and the Prophets, and so he never saw Lazarus sitting at his gate. His dogs did, but he never did. The first time Dives notices Lazarus is when he “lifts up his eyes” while in Hades. In the Spiritual life, hearing is important because it creates faith. And what you believe changes what you see. And these two things have eternal consequences. The sermon develops those ideas
The parable of the unrighteous manager is probably the strangest one that Jesus tells. The planting parables we have the key in the explanation to the Parable of the Sower. The Kingdom parables are a little trickier, but if you start with the main character as God they are understandable. But that doesn’t work with the unrighteous steward/manager. It’s not a kingdom parable or a sowing parable. It’s a discipleship parable.
It often gets used for monetary points, and that is present in this sermon. But it really goes beyond that. It uses money I think for two joined reasons. Money is the most changeable liquid thing we have. Money flows to our heart’s desires. Hence the biblical aphorism, “where your money is, there you heart will be also.” And it is in the aphorisms of Jesus the follow the parable that the explanation lies. It’s a parable about a fulfilling life and as such it is a parable about how one uses money, but it is more about how one uses their life. The sermon expands on that.
We humans have a bunch of ways that we try and describe or get a handle on the world we live in. The problem for me with most of these is they just aren’t that robust. The greatest apologetic of the bible is what it says about us and what it says about God. It says we are lost. And we have no way to find ourselves. We probably don’t even know we are lost and in great danger. It says God is the one who finds the lost and then rejoices. Those are robust models of the world we live in. This sermon develops those themes based off of the first two of three parables of lost things: the lost sheep and the lost coin.
In the text we have one of the notices of “great crowds”. The fame of Jesus’ ministry can be gaged by the modifier to the crowds. And when they get to “great” he always says something like he says in the text today. It’s always a warning about discipleship. Discipleship isn’t about numbers. It’s about the heart. The disciple of Jesus has to know that The Way is The Way of the Cross. And they have to reckon that way the way of life. Also a way that we have no ability to follow in and of ourselves. This sermon is about how the way of grace is absolutely free and terribly costly.
Jesus’ invitation to a dinner party is a surprisingly deep text. For something that on the surface is a simple text about compassion and justice, it dives to the heart of the gospel. It opens with a view to a status game. Is Jesus clubbable? Which the answer is both “no” and “how ridiculous are you in thinking you have the ability to ascribe status to The Son of Man?” In Jesus’ first answer, the healing, he sets the real terms. The Son of Man has come to pull all of us out of the well on the Sabbath.
But Jesus then turns around and observes how we assign honor. He tells a parable to the entire guest list. And then he gives some advice to the host. In the parable the key point is that it is an invitation to the wedding feast. How we assign honor is inescapable in this world. And such civil righteousness might not even be bad. But we need to check realm we are thinking of when we show up. If we are talking about the wedding feast, forcing ourselves forward to the place of honor will just shame us. The advice Jesus gives to the host is to ponder who you want to owe you? Those of this world who can reciprocate in worldly status, or God. It’s a challenge to live into the grace and love of Christ, which is always costly.
This is my first sermon at Mt. Zion. I think the text hovers around something quite important but rarely talked about. “Will many be saved?” is the question that kicks it off. That question plays on the fears of our loved ones and the doctrine of election. The all too easy answer is universalism. It also plays on our prejudice. Just our people, right? But Jesus’ answer is “the east and the west, the north and the south.” Anytime we become too concerned – taking responsibility for – the salvation of others Jesus and the apostles but the onus back on ourselves. “You strive to enter through the narrow door.” The election of God is God’s business. And the way he has chosen to work it out in time is our witness to our hope in how we live and faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Today is the day of grace for those who would here by those means.
It is always a bit melancholy seeing your house in the listings. 41 Coneflower Dr, West Henrietta, NY 14586 | realtor.com® . We lived here 12 years. Really, we raised three babies there. Yes, the youngest two aren’t fully baked, and the oldest has already boomeranged, but that was home. And it was a really good one.
But when you think about homes you are really thinking about the people and the activities that were centered around that place. When you’ve moved you are in that liminal space living off hope. You have left behind something good that was completely known. You are looking for a new hub. You are meeting new people. You are living on the promise that God intends good for his people, hoping that you haven’t made a big mistake just because you felt an itch. Or because you felt a call to someplace new.
My story isn’t perfectly like that of Abraham setting out from Ur. He was leaving family. We are living with my parents for the time being. But every move should have the Christian reflecting upon Abraham. While we are now looking for our “permanent” home, none of our homes here are permanent. Every move is an intimation of our final move to the promised land. Every liminal time of living on hope is an image of the Christian life of seeing that promised land from a distance while being sojourners here. Every move is an act of faith, that God is the same God everywhere, and there is no other. And He keeps his promises.
The Apostle Paul says “he forgets what lies behind and strains forward to what lies ahead.” Although if you read the rest of Paul, I don’t think the man forgot anything. It’s a spiritual statement. If one holds onto things past too tightly, the warning is Lot’s wife, turned into that bitter pillar of salt. That does not mean that one can’t take the good things. Paul soon follows that statement with “only let us hold true to what we have attained.” You get to keep the good stuff. Your life is hidden with Christ. Things that are built here alone are all destined for the fire. But the good stuff is treasure in heaven. The good stuff is what has formed our souls on our journey.
It has been a crazy week personally. In the midst of taking a call to another congregation and moving across the country my father-in-law passed away. He was a very dear man and a wonderful Christian witness. This was my attempt to do right by him. (The Black and Gold colors are for his beloved Pittsburgh teams.)
This was my final sermon at the call at St. Mark’s Lutheran in West Henrietta, NY. A wonderful church. A great part of the body of Christ. We were there for just over 14 years. Leaving was a hard decision, but I believe the right one. Both for the call I am heading towards, and for the good of St. Mark’s. Some problems are bigger than just one congregation, and nothing happens on those problems in the LCMS until there is a vacancy. But that is not the sermon. The lectionary texts of the day (proper 13, year C, Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2: 18-26 and Luke 12:13-21) were tough texts for the purpose of a final sermon, but worth pondering. They challenge you about how you take stock. The way the Kingdom of God takes stock is completely different. In reality it doesn’t. Because the needful things are assured in Christ. The work we have to do is from the hand of God, and to recognize it as such is an enjoyable toil.
Ok, I start off with something a bit hokey – Tony Stark/Iron Man – but this is about Fathers and Sons. (And yes it includes daughters, but the language we are given in Father.) The Lord’s prayer in Luke is a revelation of the Father of Jesus Christ. The Father of Jesus Christ is good, compared to all of us earthly fathers who are by nature sinful. This sermon is a meditation on what that means. The biggest hurdle is what Luther’s catechism emphasizes about it – believe it. The Father of Jesus Christ has been made Our Father in Christ, and he gives us good gifts.