Archive for the ‘November 8’ Category

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 27, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Judah and Tamar--School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Troublemakers

NOVEMBER 7 and 8, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (Thursday)

Genesis 38:1-26 (Friday)

Psalm 17:1-9 (Both Days)

Acts 22:22-23:11 (Thursday)

Acts 24:10-23 (Friday)

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Let my vindication come forth from your presence,

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

–Psalm 17:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Genesis 38 serves several functions.  One is to mark the passage of time between Genesis 37 and 39.  Another is to make people squirm.  What should one make of a story in which Tamar, the heroine, the wronged woman denied what was due her according to levirate marriage (described in Deuteronomy 25), had to resort to posing as a pagan temple prostitute to seduce her father-in-law to get the child(ren) she deserved, according to social customs meant to protect childless widows?  Due to problems with her first husband’s brothers the duty fell to Judah, her father-in-law.

I remember that, in 1996, at Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley in Appling County, Georgia, an adult Sunday School class read the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  One Sunday that summer the time came to ponder Chapter 38.  The leader of the class skipped to Genesis 39, for he found the contents to be too hot a potato, so to speak.

The story of Judah and Tamar continues to make many readers of the Hebrew Bible uncomfortable.  Tamar remains a troublemaker of sorts, long after her death.  Perhaps modern readers who struggle with the tale should think less about our comfort levels and more about the lengths to which certain people need to go to secure basic needs.

St. Paul the Apostle got into legal trouble (again) in Acts 21.  The trumped-up charge boiled down to him being a troublemaker, a disturber of the peace.  As Tertullus, the attorney for chief priest Ananias and Temple elders argued before Felix, the governor:

We found this man to be a pest, a fomenter of discord among the Jews all over the world, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  He made an attempt to profane the temple and we arrested him.

–Acts 24:5-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Were not those who plotted and attempted to kill St. Paul the real troublemakers?  He planned or committed no violence toward those with whom he disagreed.  The Apostle knew how to employ strong language, but he avoided resorting to violence after his conversion.

How we deal with alleged troublemakers reveals much about our character.  What, then, does this standard reveal about your character, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/troublemakers/

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Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 27, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Twelve Tribes Map

Above:  The Twelve Tribes of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

Giving Sacramentally of Oneself

NOVEMBER 8, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 36:1-13

Psalm 146

Romans 5:6-11

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Blessed is the man whose help is the God of Jacob:

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

the God who made heaven and earth:

the sea and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever:

who deals justice to those that are oppressed.

–Psalm 146:5-7, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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Numbers 36:1-13 is a sequel to Numbers 27:1-11.  Zelophehad, of the tribe of Manasseh, had five daughters and no sons.  The old man was dead, and his daughter requested and received the right to inherit.

Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no sons!  Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!

–Numbers 27:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The rule became universal among the Hebrews (verse 8).  Yet regulations governing the inheritance of property (such as land) continued to favor males, so, if a daughter of Zelophehad were to marry a man from another tribe, her inheritance would become her husband’s property and remain with his tribe in perpetuity.  The transfer of land from one tribe to another was a major concern, for, as James L. Mays wrote,

each tribe’s share of the Promised Land was the visible reality which constituted its portion in the Lord’s promise and blessing.

The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 4 (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1963), p. 143

The solution to the problem was to restrict the marriage options of the daughters of Zelophehad to men of his tribe.  The rule became universal among the Hebrews.

A second issue involved in the matter of ownership of land in Numbers 36 was the link between people and property.  To give away a possession was, in that culture, to give something sacramental of oneself.

To give something sacramental of oneself was what God did via Jesus.  That the great gift and sacrifice was for people–many of whom, once informed of it, would still not care–was remarkable.  Furthermore, when we move beyond the timeframe of Jesus of Nazareth and consider all the people born since then, the scope of the divine gift and sacrifice increases, as does the scale of the acceptance, rejection, and ignorance of it.  Nevertheless, the divine love evident in Jesus, being a form of grace, is free yet not cheap.  No, it requires much of those who accept it.  Many have paid with their lives.  Such sacrifices continue.  The fact that people create and maintain circumstances in which martyrdom becomes the most faithful response to grace is unfortunate.

Most Christians, however, will not have to face the option of martyrdom.  We who are so fortunate must make other sacrifices, however.  They will depend on circumstances, such as who, when , and where we are.  To love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves can require much of us.  Sometimes it might cause us to become criminals.  I think, for example, of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made helping a slave get to freedom illegal.  Those who risked a prison term to help slaves become free people were brave.  I think also of all those (including many Christians and Muslims) who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust.  Nazis captured many of these brave rescuers who violated the law to protect their neighbors.  Mere decency should never place one in peril, legal or otherwise, but it does that sometimes.

On a mundane level, giving of oneself to others and giving oneself to God requires abandoning certain habits, changing certain attitudes, and thinking more about others and God than about oneself.  Doing those things can prove to be daunting, can they not?  Yet giving something sacramental of oneself requires no less than that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/giving-sacramentally-of-oneself/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after Proper 26, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees James Tissot

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Neglecting Human Needs in the Name of God

NOVEMBER 6, 7, and 8, 2017

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The Collect:

O God, generous and supreme, your loving Son lived among us,

instructing us in the ways of humility and justice.

Continue to ease our burdens, and lead us to serve alongside of him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 5:18-31 (Monday)

Lamentations 2:13-17 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 16:21-33 (Wednesday)

Psalm 5 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (Monday)

Acts 13:1-12 (Tuesday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Wednesday)

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Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

–Psalm 5:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The dominant theme of these days’ readings is that false prophets are bad people whom God will punish.  Related to that theme is another:  following false prophets leads to a bad end.  I have summarized that point, which the lessons state eloquently, so I will not dwell on it.  A side comment germane to the topic is that nobody who taught me in Sunday School when I was a child mentioned the story from Acts 13, in which St. Paul the Apostle blinds Elymas the sorcerer with only the power of words and the Holy Spirit.  I could have sworn also that Jesus said to love one’s enemies and that the Apostle wrote that people should overcome evil with good, so I have some unanswered questions about that story.  Maybe those in charge of my childhood Sunday School classes considered the tale too troublesome, assuming that they knew of it.  Many of my childhood Sunday School teachers seemed to know remarkably little about the Bible and much of what they did “know” was objectively wrong.  But I digress.

I choose to focus instead on Matthew 15:1-9.  Jesus chastises some Pharisees for obsessing over an extra-biblical point of ritual hand-washing–a matter of the theology of cleanliness and uncleanliness, of purity and impurity–while accepting gifts which should go instead to support the aging parents of the donors.  Donating wealth to the Temple for the support of professional religious people could be a pious act or a dodge of one’s obligation to honor one’s parents; motivation made all the difference.  Our Lord and Savior’s driving point remains relevant, for how we treat each other (especially within families) matters to God.  Related to that point is a second:  do not obsess about minor points and imagine that doing so makes one holy while one violates major points.

I, as an Episcopalian, embrace the Anglican Three-Legged Stool:  Scripture, tradition, and reason.  A better mental image is a tricycle, with Scripture as the big wheel.  My theology places tradition in a place of respect, where it belongs.  Thus I reject certain Protestant interpretations of Matthew 15:1-9 as a condemnation of all extra-biblical tradition.  My reasoning extends beyond the fact of my chosen denomination, for I understand that even those who criticize extra-biblical traditions of others for being extra-biblical have their own.  Such criticism reeks of hypocrisy.

No, I situate my criticism of those Pharisees where Jesus did:  neglecting human needs while providing theological cover for the practice.  Those who engage in such behaviors are truly false teachers who harm others.  And God is watching them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/neglecting-human-needs-in-the-name-of-god/

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Devotion for November 8 and 9 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Destruction of Jerusalem by Ercole de' Roberti

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of  Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 (1850), by David Roberts (1796-1864)

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part VII:  Mercy and Repentance

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2019, and SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 20:1-18 (November 8)

Jeremiah 22:1-23 (November 9)

Psalm 51 (Morning–November 8)

Psalm 104 (Morning–November 9)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–November 8)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening–November 9)

Matthew 24:29-51 (November 8)

Matthew 25:1-13 (November 9)

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary I am following provides a table for selecting Psalms for each day.  During Ordinary Time there is a rotation over a period of four weeks.  Then the cycle begins again.  So sometimes the appointed Psalms (or at least some of them) seem not to fit with the main readings.

God is mad in the Jeremiah and Matthew lections.  The Kingdom of Judah will rise.  The current king will go first, however.  When God acts many–evildoers–will have an ample supply of reasons for laments.  When God becomes the king in such a way that people recognize the divine kingship many people will consider this fact bad news, for it will be bad news for them.  But how else is God supposed to clean the slate and to rescue the oppressed righteous when evildoers refuse to change their minds and ways, to cease from oppressing?

The assigned Psalms range from a confession of sin to praises of God for being merciful and bountiful in dispensing blessings.  Actually, all of them fit the main readings well, for:

  1. One should confess sins, especially in the face of judgment;
  2. Confession of sins can lead to repentance, something God encourages in the Bible; and
  3. Judgment and mercy coexist–judgment for some and mercy for others, according to the absence or presence of repentance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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This is post #550 of this weblog.–KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/jeremiah-and-matthew-part-vii-mercy-and-repentance/

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Week of Proper 26: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 26: Friday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  The Pieta, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image Source = Stanislav Traykov

The Christ and the Body

NOVEMBER 8 and 9, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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COMPOSITE FIRST READING

Philippians 3:1b-4:1 (Revised English Bible):

To repeat what I have written to you before is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.  Be on your guard against those dogs, who do nothing but harm and who insist on mutilation–“circumcision” I will not call it; we are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, whose pride is in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the physical.  It is not that I am myself without grounds for such confidence.  If anyone makes claims of that kind, I can make a stronger case for myself:  circumcised on the eighth day, Israelite by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born and bred; in the practice of the law a Pharisee, in zeal for religion a persecutor of the church, by the law’s standard of righteousness without fault.  But all such assets I have written off because of Christ.  More than that, I count everything sheer loss, far outweighed by the gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I did in fact forfeit everything.  I count it so much rubbish, for the sake of gaining Christ and finding myself in union with him, with no righteousness of my own based on the law, nothing but the righteousness which comes from faith in Christ, given by God in response to faith.  My own desire is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings in growing conformity with his death, in hope of somehow attaining the resurrection from the dead.

It is not that I have already achieved this.   I have not yet reached perfection, but I press on, hoping to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus once took hold of me.  My friends, I do not claim to have hold of it yet.  What I do say is this:  forgetting what is behind and straining towards what lies ahead, I press towards the finishing line, to win the heavenly prize to which God has called me in Christ Jesus.

We who are mature should keep to this way of thinking.  If on any point you think differently, this also God will make plain to you.  Only let our conduct be consistent with what we have already attained.

Join together, my friends, in following my example.  You have us for a model; imitate those whose way of life conforms to it.  As I have often told you, and now tell you with tears, there are many whose way of life makes them enemies of the cross of Christ.  They are heading for destruction, they make appetite their god, they take pride in what should bring shame; their minds are set on earthly things.  We, by contrast, are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will transfigure our humble bodies, and give them a form like that of his own glorious body, by that power which enables him to make all things subject to himself.  This, my dear friends, whom I live and long for, my joy and crown, this is what it means to stand firm in the Lord.

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 105:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 122 (New Revised Standard Version):

I was glad when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD!

Our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem–built as a city

that is bound firmly together.

To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the LORD,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks for the name of the LORD.

For there the thrones of judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.

For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

I will seek your good.

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Luke 15:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Another time, the tax-collectors and sinners were all crowding in to listen to Jesus; and the Pharisees and scribes began murmuring their disapproval:

This fellow,

he said,

welcomes sinners and eats with them.

He answered them with this parable:

If one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does he not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is missing until he finds it?  And when he does, he lifts it joyfully on to his shoulders, and goes home to call his friends and neighbours together.  ”Rejoice with me!” he cries.  ”I have found my lost sheep.”  In the same way, I tell you, there will be greater joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.

Or again, if a woman has ten silver coins and loses one of them, does she not light the lamp, sweep out the house, and look in every corner till she finds it?  And when she does, she calls her friends and neighbours together, and says, “Rejoice with me!  I have found the coin that I lost.”  In the same way, I tell you, there is joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Luke 16:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There was a rich man who had a steward, and he received complaints that this man was squandering his property.  So he sent for him, and said, “What is this that I hear about you?  Produce your accounts, for you cannot be steward any longer.”  The steward said to himself, “What am I to do now that my master is going to dismiss me from my post?  I am not strong enough to dig, and I am too proud to beg.  I know what I must do, to make sure that, when I am dismissed, there will be people who will take me into their homes.”  He summoned his master’s debtor’s one by one.  To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?”  He replied, “A hundred jars of olive oil.”  He said, “Here is your account.  Sit down and make it fifty, and be quick about it.”  Then he said to another, “And you, how much do you owe?”  He said, “A hundred measures of wheat,” and was told, “Here is your account; make it eighty.”  And the master applauded the dishonest steward for acting so astutely.  For in dealing with their own kind the children of this world are more astute than the children of light.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 26:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-thursday-year-1/

Week of Proper 26:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/when-i-survey-the-wondrous-cross/

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Paul’s critique of the Judaizers is a recurring theme in his writing, as in the cases of Philippians 3 and the Letter to the Galatians.  Having covered Galatians already (beginning with https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/), I move along.

Others who troubled the church at Philippi were proto-Gnostics.  They taught that material things were evil.  So, according to them, the body, being composed of matter, was evil, so one could indulge a variety of unhealthy appetites without need for apology or repentance. These were those who, according to Philippians 3:19, made “appetite their god” and were headed for destruction.

Paul taught that one need neither mutilate the body through circumcision nor harm it via bad behavior.  No, he said, he wanted to

know Christ in the power of his resurrection, and to share in his sufferings in growing conformity with his death, in hope of somehow attaining the resurrection from the dead.–3:10-11, Revised English Bible

This was not a goal of the proto-Gnostics, who denied that Jesus could have died on the cross, since, according to them, flesh was evil.  So, if Jesus could not die, he could not be resurrected, and theology of atonement was null and void.  They were wrong, of course.

The power of the resurrection is, among other things, the transformation of shame and disgrace into glory, death in renewed life, and suffering into a cause for rejoicing.  It is a great mystery, one well worth exploring.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-christ-and-the-body/

Week of Proper 26: Friday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

True Wealth

NOVEMBER 8, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Romans 15:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, I have no doubt in my own mind that you yourselves are full of goodness and equipped with knowledge of every kind, well able to give advice to one another; nevertheless I have written to refresh your memory, and written somewhat boldly at times, in virtue of the gift I have from God.  His virtue has made me a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles; and in the service of the gospel of God it is my priestly task to offer the Gentiles to him as an acceptable sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit.

In Christ Jesus I have indeed grounds for pride in the service of God.  I will venture to speak only of what Christ has done through me to bring the Gentiles into his allegiance, by word and deed, by the power of signs and portents, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have completed the preaching of the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem as far round as Illyricum.  I have always made a point of taking the gospel to places where the name of Christ has not been heard, not wanting to build on another man’s foundation; as scripture says,

Those who had no news of him shall see,

and those who never heard of him shall understand.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Luke 16:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There was a rich man who had a steward, and he received complaints that this man was squandering his property.  So he sent for him, and said, “What is this that I hear about you?  Produce your accounts, for you cannot be steward any longer.”  The steward said to himself, “What am I to do now that my master is going to dismiss me from my post?  I am not strong enough to dig, and I am too proud to beg.  I know what I must do, to make sure that, when I am dismissed, there will be people who will take me into their homes.”  He summoned his master’s debtor’s one by one.  To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?”  He replied, “A hundred jars of olive oil.”  He said, “Here is your account.  Sit down and make it fifty, and be quick about it.”  Then he said to another, “And you, how much do you owe?”  He said, “A hundred measures of wheat,” and was told, “Here is your account; make it eighty.”  And the master applauded the dishonest steward for acting so astutely.  For in dealing with their own kind the children of this world are more astute than the children of light.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The dishonest/unjust manager/steward worked for an extremely wealthy landlord who charged high rates of interest on rent the tenants owed.  The manager/steward seems to have been abusing his post for personal gain.  So the landlord prepared to fire the manager/steward, who ingratiated himself to the tenants by removing the interest from their debts.  This made the manager/steward friends while making the landlord look better than he was, while bringing the landlord into compliance with Biblical anti-usury laws.  Surely the landlord could not undo the manager/steward’s final actions without looking bad.

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following breaks up Luke 16:1-15 over two days, so verse 9 will fall within a reading for Week of Proper 26:  Saturday, Year 1.  Yet I must bring verse 9 into the devotion at this time:

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

This statement fits neatly into rabbinical statements of the time.  Helping the poor was of great spiritual value, the rabbis taught, and God took note.  Or, as William Barclay summarized it,

True wealth would consist not in what people kept, but in what they gave away.  (The Gospel of Luke, 2001 revision, page 248)

True wealth resides in people, relationships, and intangibles.  The wealth we have in accounts and objects are just means to an end.  And let no one think that money can buy happiness.  Studies I have read indicate that some of the most miserable and stressed out people in the world are the richest ones.  Or, as Ira Gershwin wrote in Porgy and Bess:

Folks with plenty of plenty

have a lock on their door,

afraid somebody is gonna rob ’em

who’s out to get some more.

Paul did not “live well,” as we might think of that concept, after his conversion to Christianity.  He nearly died more than once, faced false and malicious legal charges, spent time in prisons, was shipwrecked once, and ultimately met his death on the orders of the Emperor Nero.  But, as one reads Paul concluding his great Epistle to the Romans, one ought to notice that the man is quite content.  His treasure was spiritual, and he knew that.

That is the treasure that neither rust nor moth can destroy.  May all of us seek and find it, then hold on to it.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/true-wealth/