2020-11-15 - Second last Sunday of the church year - Pfarrerin Nicole Otte-Kempf

( Sermon Luke 16: 1 – 9 ) [ German Sermon ] [ Announcements (German)679.98 KB ]


At the end of my studies, I did an internship at TLF here in Pretoria. I got the impression that the desperate needs were being seen and that something had to be done about it straight away. Without indecision or endless discussions, it was delightful to witness how immediate action was taken, without waiting for another to start the process.
And I feel this same attitude is validated in today’s text:


1 Jesus said to his disciples, "There was once a rich man who had a servant who managed his property. The rich man was told that the manager was wasting his master's money,

2 so he called him in and said, "What is this I hear about you? Turn in a complete account of your handling of my property, because you cannot be my manager any longer.'

3 The servant said to himself, "My master is going to dismiss me from my job. What shall I do? I am not strong enough to dig ditches, and I am ashamed to beg.

4 Now I know what I will do! Then when my job is gone, I shall have friends who will welcome me in their homes.'

5 So he called in all the people who were in debt to his master. He asked the first one, "How much do you owe my master?'

6 "One hundred barrels of olive oil,' he answered. "Here is your account,' the manager told him; "sit down and write fifty.'

7 Then he asked another one, "And you - how much do you owe?' "A thousand bushels of wheat,' he answered. "Here is your account,' the manager told him; "write eight hundred.'

8 As a result the master of this dishonest manager praised him for doing such a shrewd thing; because the people of this world are much more shrewd in handling their affairs than the people who belong to the light."

9 And Jesus went on to say, "And so I tell you: make friends for yourselves with worldly wealth, so that when it gives out, you will be welcomed in the eternal home.

 


Dear Congregation,

A rich man had a manager and this manager failed all expectations placed on him. It involved inexcusable offences. He was not only unwise with possessions of another, but squandered them quite openly. Whether these accusations were true remain to be seen.

But the manager suspects that this story will not end well for him. And now he has to give an account. What to do? He has little time left. It only takes a moment and he knows exactly what to do. He has a few options: honest hard work, accepting his dismissal or to go begging. But THAT is out of the question. He prefers being openly dishonest. He takes care of himself first and makes sure that the debtors of his boss, owe him something too. Was he thinking of helping the debtor too?

In any case, nobody but those involved will ever know about this fraud. But no one will forget it either. A hundred barrels of oil decreased to 50. A thousand bushels of wheat turn into 800. And later a single look between them will be enough to remind them of what he has done for them. They will always remain indebted to him. Yes, it’s quite clever. One favor in exchange for another. One hand washes the other. This is sadly also the case in politics. Haggling over items. Money is pushed back and forth. And let’s be completely honest with ourselves: are we, even on a small scale, entirely free from it? If we could benefit from a given situation for our children, family in general or ourselves, who likes to say no to that? And yet somehow, we find nothing wrong with that.

But the manager in his story is an example to us. Does Jesus praise the manager for his behavior, or his boss for praising his shrewd ways? It was wise of the manager to protect himself in this way. This is something to think about. What makes him so wise? The way he thinks on his feet. He has a saving idea and goes for it. That calls for decisiveness. You have to know what you want and shake off any doubt. Jesus praises the manager for that. For the children of this world are wiser among their own kind, than the children of the light. Children of the Light should in essence go to school with the children of the world. I understand it in this context: As with the children of the world and their sinister business, so also the disciples, in their divine task, should shake of all indecision and sluggishness. In its place wakefulness, sobriety, determination, inventive thinking and action should take place.

Especially in this pandemic, with all its consequences that are not yet foreseeable, it is important for every government, but also for every church community, to act wisely.

Sometimes, it seems, we hesitate too long to do what is good and what is appropriate for the situation. Far too often we personally put our own light under the bushel instead of illuminating the world around us with it, as is our task. Yes, as it is the task of the church. Yes, one could say: we do not use what has been entrusted to us as we should, for the good of the people around us.

Make friends with the unjust Mammon.

These are Jesus’ words towards the end.

Now it is often the case, that it is the most difficult topic of discussion on the agenda at every church meeting. But whoever has a vision for the monetary tasks of the church must inevitably deal with it: how much money do we need, do we have it, how can we get it and what can we give.

Jesus says: make friends with the unjust Mammon. Basically saying: let HIM serve you. Use HIM for something meaningful. Money is a means of payment and not an Idol. If you do have money, use it for something wholesome, valuable and instrumental. But our heart does not belong to money, rather to God. And our earthly possessions should contribute towards what’s to come. Do not let yourself be captured by the unjust Mammon but go about transient things with and open mind and sovereignty.

Dear congregation, what we are seeing and experiencing now is not all there is. As Bonhoeffer put it, we are only in the penultimate stage. We are awaiting the return of Christ. And with this, also God’s judgment and as verse of the week reminds us: ” For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him.” That can be a terrifying thought. The final account is yet to be settled….

Our time on earth is limited. We shouldn’t always postpone everything until tomorrow. We should take action, instead of endless discussions. At some stage we will have to take responsibility of every action taken or NOT taken. That makes our life here on earth a valuable one.

For me, however, God’s judgment is inseparable from God’s grace. I don’t know how Judgment day will be, but I believe that He, who is our Judge, is also our savior. And around this hope I would like to shape my life, filled with courage and humility.


Amen.


 

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