September 18, 2007

Looking Ahead to September 23, 2007 -- 17th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Amos 8:4-7
  • Psalm 113 (see insert)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 16:1-13

The Hymns this Sunday are:

  • 236 Now Thank We All Our God
  • 356 Seek Ye First
  • 603 In Loving Partnership We Come
  • 312 Praise with Joy the World’s Creator

The Sermon title is Dishonest Stewardship.

Early Thoughts: What makes for a good steward? How many masters do we try and serve?

These are two of the questions raised by the Gospel passage this week. Jesus tells this rather strange story where the protagonist is certainly not a laudable character. We certainly would have trouble using him as a model for how we should act as stewards in God's kingdom.

And that brings us to the first question. What does make a good steward? Is the good steward the one who tries to make sure everyone gets whats coming to them? Whose interest is the steward supposed to watch -- the steward's or the master's? What behaviour should be praised and rewarded?

The people of God are stewards, all of us are stewards. We have all been given the task of working with/looking after part of the "Master's" wealth. What principles guide our stewardship? The challenge is to find the way to care for ourselves and our loved ones without caring only about ourselves and our loved ones. This seems to be where the steward in our story stepped out of line (and yet somehow was praised for it). It seems that maybe this parable is best understood by seeing it as a warning. Parables always have a twist. The twist here is at the end when Jesus talks about being faithful or dishonest. And that of course leads directly to our second (and more important) question. How many masters do we try and serve?

Jesus points out that it is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to serve two masters. As stewards therefore we need to make a choice. Do we serve the interests of our Maker or the interests of our own gain? What we do with our resources, especially our money answers that question far more clearly than anything we might say or profess.

Here at Riverview, as in many churches, we try to avoid talking about money using hard terms like these. It is always easier to talk in broad terms about stewardship and making the world better. And of course talking about the need to give on a Sunday morning is literally preaching to the choir, talking to those who already believe that it is important to give. Still there comes a time to ask what master we are serving. There is the time to talk about the realities of finances and the church and giving levels. And the question of honesty comes in here too. Many times we tell ourselves that "I can't do/give anymore!" But sometimes that isn't true, sometimes it is true. Honest stewardship means we have to look carefully at how much we can do, at how much we are doing, and what the difference is. Oh and sometimes the equation means we do/give more and sometimes it may mean doing/giving less or in new and different ways.

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