Saint James the Greater
Church of God
A Service Of The Word and
Celebration of the Lord’s Table
Weekly Shabbat (Service) Home Gathering
(Condensed online version)
Pastor: Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel. Hosanna in the highest.
Pastor: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you
Assembly: And also, with you
Pastor: The risen Christ is with us
Assembly: Praise the Lord
Pastor: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ the Lord.
PROCLAMATION AND RESPONSE
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Pastor: Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, that, as the Scriptures are read and your word proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
FIRST READING Amos 8: 4-7
A reading from the book of the prophet Amos
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! "When will the new moon be over," you ask, "that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!" The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!.
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Assembly: Thanks be to God.
SECOND READING 1 Timothy 2: 1-8
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy in Ephesus
Beloved: First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all. This was the testimony at the proper time. For this I was appointed preacher and apostle — I am speaking the truth, I am not lying —, teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Assembly: Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL Luke 16: 1-13
Minister: The Lord be with you.
Assembly: And with your spirit.
Minister: A reading from the holy Gospel according to Saint Luke
Assembly: Glory to you, O Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples, "A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said,
'What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.' The steward said to himself, 'What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.' He called in his master's debtors one by one. To the first he said, 'How much do you owe my master?' He replied, 'One hundred measures of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.' Then to another the steward said, 'And you, how much do you owe?' He replied, 'One hundred kors of wheat.' The steward said to him, 'Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.' And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. "For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon."
Minister: The Gospel of the Lord.
Assembly: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ
“WHERE ARE OUR PRIORITIES?”
As you might have noticed, we have been hearing a lot of parables from Luke in the last few months; this is Year C in the revised common lectionary. . . the year of Luke. And Luke seemed to concentrate on Jesus and his parables as teaching tools for his disciples and anyone who interacted with Him. Jesus used parables to convey a moral truth, a lesson for the hearer on how to live their lives. We started out with some gentle parables (the Parable of the Sower of seeds in Luke 8, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10) and have progressed to today’s Parable of the Unjust Steward that has a lot more substance. I often wonder if the tone of the parables become more complicated because Jesus is tired of having to answer the same questions all the time.
In today’s gospel, we just heard: Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ (Luke 16:1-2)
The manager’s gig was up – he had been caught stealing from the rich man. He was being rightfully fired for cause: theft. Yet, a few lines later we hear this: And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16: 8) Did we just hear that the rich man commended the manager who had ‘cooked the books’ and cheated him?
You have got to be kidding!! That doesn’t make sense! If someone cheated you, would YOU praise their shrewdness? I don’t think so! Of all the parables in Luke, this is probably one of the most difficult parables to try to understand and, certainly, to explain to you. Most preachers try to stay as far away as possible from preaching on this. But here I go.
It’s an interesting story; here’s a con artist, caught cheating his master, shown to be guilty by his silence (he says absolutely nothing when he is accused by the rich man and summarily fired). Yet he ends up being commended for his smart thinking. At first, we might think Jesus is condoning the theft by the manager. In fact, Jesus says for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. (Luke 16:8) in other words, the dishonest manager was more shrewd than Jesus’ own followers. This man, doing his evil deeds, was far more dedicated to his self-preservation than Jesus’ disciples were in spreading the good new of the gospel.
So what’s the point of the story?
In my opinion, the point of the story is that it is NOT OK to be a con artist, even if you get away with it in the end. Nor does it teach us to manipulate events for our own benefit, as it seems to. As much as that may have been the dishonest manager’s method, Jesus isn’t suggesting that it’s OK for us to manipulate or cheat, even if it is appears to be in the service of God’s kingdom. The people who use this parable to justify underhanded or dishonest methods are simply misrepresenting it for their own purposes. The end NEVER justifies the means.
Let me repeat that: The end NEVER, NEVER, NEVER justifies the means.
If the parable is not about justifying dishonest behavior and the end justifying the means, what is the deeper meaning of the parable?
What the parable is also about is money, the power it brings, and how to use it in our lives. It’s about understanding that there can honest and dishonest uses of money and power.
Even in Jesus’ day there was this idea that money was an evil thing; some people thought if you got involved with money you would be tainted, would have committed a serious, maybe, mortal sin. In Matthew 19:24, Jesus himself said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.But he didn’t say it was impossible. Just having riches doesn’t preclude you from salvation. What matters in the end is how wisely you use money and the power it brings. In other words, don’t be put off by the thought that there’s something wrong with wealth, as though wealth is a hindrance to entering God’s kingdom. Rather, make sure that what wealth you have is used for godly purposes. Make sure that your use of your wealth results in your making friends that will last for an eternity, that is, children of the Kingdom of God. God is about relationships and interactions with others.
All of us live in this blessed and, frankly, rich country. We enjoy independence, freedom, and material goods far beyond those of most people in the world. Jesus is warning us to make sure we use our wealth well, to bring people into the Kingdom of God.
Despite the way the manager behaved, life’s purpose is not solely about making our own individual and family’s lives more comfortable. Many people look at their wealth and think it exists for their use only. Whether it is inherited or worked hard for, a sense of fear of the future or the overwhelming need to look after ourselves or our family, encourages us to hoard our wealth for fear of loss. But that isn’t at all what Jesus is talking about here. He’s talking about using our wealth for others; not just our family, but for those we many not know, for causes we did not start, to benefit people not directly connected with us. This parable encourages us to look at life as not just caring for #1, but to use all the resources we have to bring this world into the Kingdom of God. Life is NOT about accumulating wealth. Rather it’s to make sure that the wealth we have is used properly. Life is about looking beyond ourselves to the needs of others and to causes and actions that bring people to the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is many things; but if we learn anything from the teachings of Jesus, we learn the Kingdom of God is one where no one is hungry, no one is homeless, no one is suffering or sad. The Kingdom of God is one in which there is no war, no greed, no cruelty. All are included in the Kingdom of God; there is eternal compassion, forgiveness and mercy, and most of all there is joy. Jesus taught is to pray: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10) And this is the work of a Christian, to use his or her money, time, knowledge and energy to bring this kingdom closer to earth.
So, what are you living for at this moment?
This parable is not only about money, it’s also about having a long term vision. It’s about expanding our horizon, getting the big picture of life. It’s about understanding where we’re going, long term, so we can know how to live our lives here and now. Think about what the manager did. He realized what life will be like when he was fired and he did something about it. He personally sacrificed some things so he could do right by his master and his friends. He took the opportunity he had while the opportunity was there, to create for himself a secure future. How are we to apply this strange parable to our own lives? Life is about the grace and forgiveness of God given so freely and so unearned.
You will hear in the communion anthem: There is a wideness in God’s mercy,. . . there’s a kindness in His justice, . . . the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind. And another point Jesus is making with this parable is, if the crooked people of this world go to so much trouble and effort to be wicked, to be dishonest, to cheat, and to be so selfish — why can’t his disciples and us put as much or even more effort into being His followers, the “sons and daughter of the light”. We are here to plan for eternity; we are here to bring people into God’s kingdom. And one way of doing that is to use our money, our wealth, and our time to support God’s work. We mustn’t fall into the trap of being ashamed of our wealth or, at the other extreme of thinking that we don’t have enough to spare for God’s work. Rather we should rejoice that God has made it possible for us to give our resources to support his work, to make friends for eternity.
Have you thought about the fact that when you spend time working with our youth you’re making friends for eternity? Have you thought that when you put your money in the plate each week, that you’re helping to support a witness on Worthington’s Village Green for the Kingdom of God? Has it occurred to you that when you put hours of time and energy into our Vestry, our Choir, any of our committees, or prepare food for the homeless you are making friends for the Kingdom of God? When you support with your money, political candidates that believe in the service and love of others, do you realize you are working to bring God’s kingdom on earth? Do you know when you stop to help a child, to help someone in need, listen to someone who needs an ear, or take a stand in a public gathering for the principles of Jesus, that you are using your wealth to win people for the Kingdom of God?
Jesus concludes with a sharp statement as a way to sum up what he had been trying to say all along: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13) Jesus doesn’t want half-hearted discipleship; He wants total discipleship on our part. Can you put forth the effort to serve Jesus?
That is what he is asking in the parable, “where is your effort?”, “where are your priorities”? Are your priorities in things that will fade away,
Or is your priority to build the Kingdom of God here on earth and for eternity?
Amen. Rev. Deniray Muelle
RESPONSE TO THE WORD
Pastor: At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say:
Assembly: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Pastor: Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Assembly: For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
Pastor: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.
Assembly: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
ACT OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
Assembly: My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen. (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION
Pastor: Eternal God, We give you thanks for this Holy mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
FINAL BLESSING AND DISMISSAL
Pastor: The Lord be with you.
Assembly: And with your spirit.
Pastor: The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
Pastor: Go in peace.
Assembly: Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia.