Year C, SUNDAY 25  

18-24 Sept

 

Luke 16: 1-13                                                                          (Sermon 1: “Who is This?”)

1 Timothy 2: 1-7

Jeremiah 8: 18 to 19:1                                    (Sermon 2: “The Tears of God”)

Psalm 79:1-9

 

PREPARATION

 

On behalf of that Son of God whose shoes I am not worthy to unlace, I welcome you into this most hospitable house. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

And also with you.

 

Shake off your worries, shrug off your sluggishness, prepare to worship with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

This is the day of the risen Lord. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

           

            OR—

 

No person can worship two masters. Either he will hate the first and love the second or he will love the first and hate the second.

 

We cannot serve both God and worldly possessions.

 

It is up to each of us to chose this day whom we will serve.

 

We O God, are the flock of your pasture, will love you and give thanks to you forever.

From generation to generation we will keep repeating your praise.

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

Most wonderful God, help us to delight in you more than farmers do with rain, bankers with profits, and children with parties. Give us the liberty of your Holy Spirit, that here side by side with fellow disciples of Jesus, we may dare to be your children, in your house, and at your feast. In the name of Christ Jesus.

Amen.

 

CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE

 

It is written of old:

“Help us, O God of our salvation for the glory of your name.

Deliver us, and forgive our sins,for your name’s sake.”

 

Let us admit to each other and to God, that we are in need of mercy and renewal.

 

Let us pray together.

 

God of truth and God of grace, we confess that too often we are nondescript Christians,

rarely very wicked and seldom very loving.

We drift along in the stream of Australian life, sharing the general indifference and the common selfishness.

We participate in the popular fashions and delusions, following Christ rather timidly, from afar.

For this our share in community evil, we seek your cathartic mercy, and for our many private faults and static faith we beg your forgiveness.

Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.

Amen!

 

FORGIVENESS

 

Holy Scripture says: “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.”

 

My sisters and brothers, in Christ Jesus we have a Saviour who has shared our nature and known the difficulties we face. He is our mediator before the altar of God. He turns to us and says: “My sister, my brother, your sins are forgiven you. Go in peace.”

 

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

And also with you.

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

            Excited Christians?

 

Dear God,

what would happen if all of us in church

would love Jesus with the same excitement

and offer him the same big effort

as those who love playing sport?

Or the crowds who sit in the stands

and wildly cheer their team?

Wouldn’t that be something!

Wow!

Amen!

 

PSALM 79: 1-9

 

O my God! Pagans have taken over lives,

            they pollute the temple of your Spirit.

Their own bodies are the site of ruin,

            and they treat others like so much meat.

Like birds of prey they circle around,

            like animals in the night seeking carrion.

 

They waste precious life-blood like water,

            and there are few who care for the victims.

Believers are a joke to their neighbours,

            behind our back they laugh at our faith.

How long, God, will you let it go on?

            Why are you so mad at us or something?

 

Why don’t you pour out your anger on them,

            those who have nothing to do with you?

Lay it on the arrogant power freaks

            who can’t say your name without swearing.

For their influence is devouring your children,

            making a wasteland of the human spirit.

 

Do not lay on us the guilt of our forebears,

            come quickly with your compassion.

Meet us where we are right now

            for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God of liberation and healing,

            deliver and forgive us to the glory of your name!

 

                                                                                                            ©  B.D. Prewer 2000 & 2012

 

 

POEM: GOD OF DRONGOS

 

Glory be to the God

            of drongos* and crows,

            wasps and leeches,

who sees something worthwhile

            in unprofitable things

            and wild creatures.

 

Glory be to the Christ

            of tax cheat and sinner

            betrayer and coward,

who even makes a parable

            about the wily plans

            of a sly steward.

 

Glory be to the Lord

            of the small church,

            the two and three,

the God finds some good

            in the piebald faith

            of you and me.

* drongo = an Australian bird; also a slang term for a fool.

                                                                        ©  B.D. Prewer 2000

 

COLLECT

 

Loving God, you are the source of all that is worth living for.

Give us clear goals, lofty values, transparent motives,

and enough love-courage to put our faith into practice

through all the common scenes of life.

 

To you, with your beloved Son in the fellowship of the Spirit,

be all praise this day and always.

Amen!

.

SERMON 1: WHO IS THIS?

 

Luke 16:8

 

The Master commended the unjust steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

 

And…

 

“The boss could not help but applaud the amoral manager for his astuteness. For the children of the secular world look further ahead, when dealing with their own sort, than do the children of light.”

 

Who is this boss who commends an unjust steward, even though the boss himself is a victim of the manager’s shrewd schemes? Where do we find such an amazing Master?

 

Before we think more about that question, let’s try to clear the ground.

 

TRICKY TRANSLATION?

 

Most translations these days say something like this in describing the scheming rogue: “The master commended the ‘dishonest steward’.  

 

But translation is a bit tricky.

 

A literal translation of the Greek text would make it ‘steward of unrighteousness.

 

That to us seems a clumsy expression. Maybe it is the Greek translation of a common Aramaic idiom of Jesus’ time, now lost to us. The old Authorised version put it: and the lord commended the unjust steward.’ I much prefer “unjust” to the word “dishonest.”

 

However, in my attempt at translation, I have opted for the word ‘amoral’. I choose this because it seems close to the attitude of many people of the present, post-modern (so labelled!) era. It is not so much a matter of breaking a moral code but not having a code. It is living without any concern for anyone but themselves. They are not so much immoral as amoral.

 

I reckon that sums up the manager, or steward, in the parable. Anything that seemed good for him was okay.  That, as far as he was concerned, was all that mattered. (Have you seen that ‘bumper sticker?

If it feels good, then do it.)   There was something of the sociopath about this amoral manager.

 

THE MAIN THRUST

 

Lets now return to the key theme;

The main thrust of the parable is clear:  People of faith, look ahead. Be far sighted.

 

Where are we heading?   What lies ahead of us? If we have any inkling at all, the only smart thing to do is to get ready for whatever lies ahead. That includes the spiritual dimension.

 

Be as astute about the practice of your faith, as the amoral manager was. In particular, astutely use whatever worldly possessions you have for the glory of God, in the same astute manner as the unscrupulous manager did for himself.

 

A confession: I have a sneaking admiration for this rogue in the parable. I like the way he sums us the future. If the boss sacks him, if his present comfortable existence is to suddenly end, what is the reality?  What are the options in that reality?

 

He quickly gets to the nitty gritty: I’m too old to dig post holes or gardens, or ditches. (O how my back sympathises with him these days!) and I am too proud to beg.  (fair enough!) This is not some impractical dreamer. He deals with facts. With outcomes.  So he takes the shrewdest way to a more comfortable future:  He uses what is still in his control, to lay the ground for what is to come. This fellow alters the accounts of his boss’s debtors so that they will be grateful and show him hospitality after he gets the sack.

 

You know, I reckon this character would have been at home on that comedy we knew as “Seinfeld”. There is at least a refreshing honesty about amorality. When Seinfeld first appeared, I looked at it once and turned off. Its amorality offended me. Then later, on about its 3rd re-run, I tried it again and found it an insightful  (and much more humorous than I first thought) commentary of much of secular society in  which we live.

 

I do not want to emulate such amorality of ‘the children of this secular world in dealing with their own,’ but I can learn from their frankness when dealing with themselves. We are called by Christ to be realistic, to open our eyes and to look ahead.

 

OUR GOAL IS SUBLIME

 

Of course our goal is very different. Our aims are indeed sublime.

 

It  takes us very high, and extends us very wide. It transcends space and time.

 

Our future is the kingdom of God and its righteousness. It is meeting with and serving with Christ in the manifold activities of life. It is loving our neighbours and even our enemies. It is living the eternal life, the boundless life, here and now, for that is the destiny to which we are turned, tuned and committed. It is providing for spiritual needs and the spiritual needs of those around us.

 

As Jesus went on to say, even make friends of filthy money so that it serves your true purpose and destiny. Don’t despise money. Use it for the glory of God.

 

Jesus seems to be speaking to us: “Open your eyes. See where you are and what lies ahead.  Be as frank with yourself and as clear headed as those astute operators in the secular world.”

 

WHO IS THIS?

 

And the boss applauded the amoral manager for his astuteness. For the children of the secular world look further ahead, when dealing with their own sort, than do the children of light

 

Now I turn back to the question with which I started: Who is this?

 

Who is this master?

The Lord who sees some good in an unjust steward?  Who commends a rogue?

 

It is Christ and his God.

God is the sublime Master who sees something worth commending where cold justice would pass only condemnation.  God is the one who applauds the far sighted rogue.

 

Who is this unjust steward?

We are the unjust stewards. We are rightly counted among the unjust, the unrighteous, the unprofitable, and yes, at times the amoral!

 

My friends, if God does not commend the unjust (amoral/dishonest/unscrupulous) disciple, then there is not much hope for us. If God does not see some good in us, then let us pack up and go back downhill to faithlessness.

 

If the God of Jesus does not see in us something worth his affirmation, then we might as well surrender all hope. Cease coming to church and forever give up gathering at the Lord’s Table.

 

But, a wonderful “but” this time,

but if God does think there is something worthwhile in us (and you have Christ’s word that there is!) then come, eat and drink and be thankful.

 

 

SERMON 2: THE TEARS OF GOD?

 

Jeremiah 18: 18    and 19:1

 

 

“My grief is past healing, my heart is sick within me”

                                                                                                                                                            Jeremiah 18: 18

 

“O that my head were waters, and my eyes a  fountain of tears,

  That I might weep day and night, for the slain of the daughters of my people.”

                                                                                                                                                                        Jeremiah 19:1

 

The God of the Bible is not the God of theoreticians.

God does not live in ivory, intellectual towers. This is not a God who launched the “big bang” at the beginning of creation , and then sat back and let it all go its own way.

 

The God of Sarah and Abraham,

Moses, Ruth, Jeremiah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph and Jesus the Messiah, is a God who stays emotionally involved with his creation. God can laugh and God can cry, get frustrated loose patience, become angry and feel compassion.

 

THE GOD WHO IS A PERSONAL PRESENCE

 

“My grief is past healing, my heart is sick within me”

                                                                                                                                                            Jeremiah 18: 18

 

“O that my head were waters, and my eyes a  fountain of tears,

  That I might weep day and night, for the slain of the daughters of my people.”

                                                                                                                                                                        Jeremiah 19:1

 

Please, don’t write this off as merely a regrettable anthropomorphism.

That is, it is not a mere projecting of our human feelings and failings on to God. Without doubt, at times this does happen in parts of the Bible. Yet in the main, something far more important and wonderful is at stake. The people whose faith is reflected in the Bible believed in a personal omnipresent God. Our ‘personhood” derives from our Creator.

 

Personal God. An amazing, loving Presence!

Not just some far distant First Cause, not some elementary Principle, not some unconscious evolutionary Drive, not some perfectly unruffled Being far removed from the stuff of daily life. But a real Person. A Presence who is more beautiful than we can imagine.. A Person of feelings as well as thought.  A Person whose personhood is infinitely more wonderful and mysterious than ours, yet is not alien from ours.

 

The Bible God is not made in our own likeness; no way!

We are made in God’s likeness.. Not a bodily likeness, but a spiritual one. We are (our real selves, that is) tiny, flawed, distorted reflections of that most wonderful Presence. The source of our self consciousness, that which makes us a living “soul”, is the ultimate, intimate Person, God. A God who is always involved. The creating and redeeming Presence.

 

A God who like the God of Jeremiah sheds tears.

 

INVOLVEMENT:  COGENT PHILOSOPHY AND GOOD SCIENCE

 

“O that my head were waters, and my eyes a  fountain of tears,

  That I might weep day and night, for the slain of the daughters of my people.”

                                                                                                                                                                        Jeremiah 19:1

 

This kind of God, who is utterly involved, is neither illogical nor unscientific.

 

The influential thinker A. N. Whitehead

built a cogent philosophy around a God who is completely involved in the process of creation. Some of us may think he pushed the concept too far, but he was a wonderful counterbalance to the insipient nihilism which hides behind many other thinkers.

 

Moreover, from the view point of science,

the study of quantum physics has opened up to us another way of seeing God involved in the very essence of things.

 

 “Scientists specialising in quantum physics are aware that at the subatomic level, the universe seems more like a thought than like matter. They also know that their expectations, their thoughts, can effect the outcome of some experiments with elemental particles like electrons and protons. They understand that the universe is not as mechanistic as they once believed, and they have begun to suspect that it exists as an act of will, that this willpower — the awesomely creative consciousness of the playful Presence — is the organising force within the physical universe.”  (D Koontz)

 

This is a God who is thoroughly involved.

The God who laughs and sheds tears is not at odds with the basic structure of this universe. Faith does not depend on the validation of either current science or some philosophers,  but it is not unwelcome when it happens. This is what we should expect the clearest thinking and the deepest research to encounter. The Presence!

 

INVOLVEMENT: BOTH TEARS AND LAUGHTER

 

True involvement always puts a person at risk.

By involvement there will be much joy but also considerable pain.

 

In training counsellors, the advice is often given:

“Don’t get emotionally involved.” That advice has extensive wisdom in it. To be an adept counsellor one needs to keep a clear head, and not get one’s own feelings mixed up with the client’s.

 

However as a pastor to a congregation,

I have found that the advice is not always possible, or desirable, to implement. So often pastors are dealing with friends whom Christ has given us. We are involved, deeply so. A critical road accident to a young mother, the abuse of a precious child, or the drawn out illness and death of a dear member, these do deeply affect us. A pastor often feels grief and anguish, frustration and anger, compassion and joy. He is involved.

 

How can it be otherwise when we follow a Christ who gives his all?

Who says: “This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood, shed for you.” A Christ who more truly reflects the likeness of God than any of the rest of us.

 

Our God is truly an involved God.

“My grief is past healing, my heart is sick within me”

O that my head were waters, and my eyes a  fountain of tears,

That I might weep day and night, for the slain of the daughters of my people.”

 

This is wonderful, just as long as we balance the tears with the joy of God.

 

To be involved is not all tears and crosses.

There is the joy of God in the beauties of creation, such as we see reflected in many Psalms. The joy God in the most lovely and most loving Child, Jesus, as he  arises from the waters of baptism: “You are my beloved son, you are an utter joy to me.” The joy of God and the angels over one rebel who repents. And of course the cosmic laughter of God on Easter day, when the joy in heaven was a tumult of “wonder love and praise”.

 

CONCLUSION: MORE ABOUT THE PRESENCE

 

In conclusion

I can do no better that the quote again from the writer of “thrillers,” Dean Koontz

 

He is a writer who seems to often get on my “wave length.” In the context of a novel, Koontz expresses far better than I could, aspects of the faith that I treasure and try to proclaim, Here is a quote referring to a remarkable, 9 year old boy named Curtis, experiencing the woodlands in a new way:

 

 “He receives the truth that is simultaneously a revelation and a mystery, both a euphoric exaltation and a profound humbling. The boy recognises the Presence everywhere around him, not confined to one bosk of ferns or one pool of shadows, but resonant in all things. He feels what otherwise he has only known through faith and common sense, feels for one sweet devastating moment what only the innocent feel: the exquisite rightness of creation, from shore to shore across the sea of stars, a clear ringing in the heart that chases out all fears and every anger, a sense of belonging, purpose, hope, an awareness of being loved.”

 

Our God is always involved.

The holy Presence. The wonderful, holy Presence sharing our laughter and our tears, and promising an even greater joy that is to come.

 

 

CREED

 

Against all confusion, disease, wickedness, and desolation,

we believe in you, God of grace and glory.

 

We believe in your purpose for us,

            persisting and making sense of all our days.

We believe in your providence,

            preceding and succeeding all pain and misfortune.

We believe in your saving grace,

            forgiving our sins and delivering us from evil.

We believe in your friendship,

            intimately with us today, yesterday and forever.

We believe in your life,

            underlying our birth and transcending our death.

 

Through the love of Christ, in the fellowship of the Spirit,

we believe in you, God of grace and glory.

 

INTERCESSIONS

 

We lift up to God the cares of burdens of those around us in this life, in the sure and certain hope that

our prayers are never in vain.

Let us pray.

 

Loving God, we come to you praying for this world for which Christ came, died and rose again.

Lord in your mercy;

Hear our prayer.

 

For those in government, and all behind the scenes who influence them. May there be a revulsion against injustice, hatred and war, and a turning towards reconciliation and compassion.

Lord in your mercy;

Hear our prayer.

 

For the victims of the current greed and mismanagement of the world’s resources. May there be a better day for the hungry, homeless, unemployed, refugees, oppressed, and those who are condemned to grinding toil with scant reward.

Lord in your mercy;

Hear our prayer.

 

For the people who try to alleviate the suffering of humanity. May your Spirit be with humanitarian agencies, church outreach and social justice bodies, and those arms of government that seek to rectify wrongs and heal the hurts of citizens.

Lord in your mercy;

Hear our prayer.

 

For those who are looking for spiritual answers and find a bewildering array of churches and other religions. May you aid them in their search, expose religious errors, and bless everything that is true and good in the life of believers.

Lord in your mercy;

Hear our prayer.

 

For any among our friends and loved ones who are finding it hard to cope at the moment. Loving God, in weakness be their strength, in darkness their light, in suffering their healing, in anxiety their peace, in fear their courage, in dying their hope, and in sorrow their comfort.

Lord in your mercy;

Hear our prayer.

 

And now to you our God, who are able to do more than we can ever ask or conceive, we commit ourselves, our church, and all those who seek first the kingdom of God. May your will be done and your name loved and hallowed, today and always.  Through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen!

 

SENDING OUT

 

May God give you wisdom to know-

            when to speak and when to be silent,

            when to offer help and when to hold back,

            when to ask for help and when to go it alone,

            when to comfort and when to challenge,

            when to pray and when to get busy.

Amen!

 

The grace of our Saviour Christ, 

the love of our faithful God,

and the joy of our Friend the Holy Spirit,

will be

with you now and always.

Amen!