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.
There is a fundamental conflict in our existence. It was present before Jesus, but in Jesus it has come in its fullness. And that conflict is the one the Elijah fought against the prophets of Baal and against himself. What is more important, what we see, or what has been given us in the Word? It is not that God has not given signs of himself. Elijah saw the fire from heaven. The people ate the bread in the wilderness. But those signs do not sustain forever. We file them away, or can’t process them correctly. Jesus gives to us the Bread of Heaven, the Word, himself. And this sustains on our 40 days and 40 nights here on our journey to the mountain of God, on our way to the Father.
I didn’t do my normal word cloud for this, instead above is the Icon of Mary Magdalene. She was one of the Mary’s that went to the tomb to spice the body. The icon captures both of those things. In her left is the jar of spice, but in her right is that bright red egg. That egg is a very ancient symbol of the resurrection. That bright red is the blood that bought this day.
The sermon focuses on the uniqueness of Mark. It ends with Mary running from the tomb afraid. It is an existential question. We know what happened with Mary. She took courage and told the others. Mark’s point is a question to us. We’ve seen the empty tomb. We’ve heard the resurrection. It demands we live in hope. Do we take courage? Or do we stay in fear? This Morning is different. Choose to live.
The parable at the core of today’s gospel can be highly moralistic. It is something we need to hear, but the parable itself gains it gospel grounding in the life of Jesus. The man at the start gives Jesus the opportunity to talk about life. What the life of Jesus, his questioner’s life and the parable invite us to do is correctly order things perishable and things imperishable in our lives.
When we have those thing properly ordered, then many situations and stations in life become much easier to judge the moral response.
Musical Note: I left in the hymn of the day Lutheran Service Book #732, All Depends on Our Possessing. I think it is one of the sweetest hymn tunes in the hymnal. Nothing flashy, but I’m still humming it. Not an earworm, but it strikes that right blend of melancholy and hope that is perfectly paired with the text. The text comes from the 17th Century Nurnberg church. The attribution is haus-kirche which would be house church, so it probably originated as a pietistic folk song shared among the various meetings much like campfire songs in the 1970s. But this text was caught by Catherine Winkworth, translator extraordinaire. What makes her translations so compelling is that unlike most American German to English translations which are more concerned about an exact translation, Winkworth cares first about the English. It doesn’t hurt that she has some evident skill at poetry. Technically she’s the translator, but most of her hymn translations are relatively free creations that manage to bring German hymns into a pleasant English expression.
We are in the middle of VBS this week, so I’m running behind. Short post for a sermon I really liked.
We continue reading Ephesians. This time Paul links the Hebrew Wisdom tradition into the gospel. We walk differently because we walk in hope. We walk in hope because our time horizon is not shortening. Christ had given us eternal life. Stealing from the popular books, do you have a poor dad/foolish mentality about this life, or a rich dad/wisdom mentality? It will change your walk….