Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org


Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

September 1:

Call:    1Timothy 2: 1-7
Text:    Luke 16: 1-13
Prophet: Jeremiah 8: 18-22

Wait 'til you hear this!

You have to hear it.
You have to hear what Luke reports that Jesus said!
   I'll bet you won't believe your ears.

In chapter 16 of his gospel, Luke relates that Jesus told this story:
   [16: 1-8]

I told you that you had to hear it.
I told you that, knowing fully well
that you would scrunch up your faces
and ask skeptically,
and follow that one word exclamatory question with,
   "Are you sure that you read that right, Jim?"
   "Are you sure that Luke claims that Jesus said that?"

After all,
   It is indeed hard to accept that Jesus commended
      Praised, lauded, and even sanctioned
the dishonest servant for engaging in additional dishonest activities
         To provide security for himself
         After his firing.

Does that sound like the Jesus you know?

And because it does not, we find ourselves
reexamining the story   and seeking a way to get around that.

But when we do,
We run head on into verse 9 which may be the most amazing sentence in our scriptures:
   "And I tell you, make friends for yourself
      by means of dishonest wealth
      so that when it is gone,
         they may welcome you into the eternal homes."

I struggled all week.
   I read the scripture in four different versions of the Bible
      And more than once in some.
   I read more than one commentary on it
      And I spent time thinking and praying about it.

And each time
I found this Jesus story,     hard to take
   And I kept asking,   "What?   What  and What?"

You see,
I have great trouble reconciling this story with the Jesus
      Whom I love, follow, and admire.

I have tremendous trouble reconciling this with the Jesus
   Who taught love - even to ones enemies

I find myself incapable of reconciling this with the Jesus
   Who claims that He came to testify to the truth.

I cannot reconcile this with either
   The Ten Commandments or anything Paul ever wrote
Biblical scholars whose comments I have read seem to have reached a general agreement
By interpreting it as being Christ saying,
   That he wants Christians to attempt to attain goodness
   With the same eagerness and ingenuity
      As the steward did
in his attempt to attain money and comfort.

I fully acknowledge
   That many - all right most - scholars know more than I do

I fully acknowledge
   That many of them can read both Greek and Aramaic
   And that I can read or understand neither of those languages.

But despite that
And despite the fact that
Their thoughts present a worthwhile message
      For we should be eager to attain goodness
   And   We should use our God-given ingenuity to attain it.
   And I am certain that Christ would like us to.

I have not been satisfied by their conclusion.

For I find it hard to accept that Jesus told a story
   In which he seems to commend a man's dishonesty
      to celebrate his shrewdness
   and   to use that man as an example of Christian discipleship
      at least not w/o adding an interpretive comment like,
      "And you should use the same eagerness and ingenuity
         to attain goodness."

Instead He seems to command his disciples
   to make friends by means of dishonest wealth
      in order to provide for their own selves.
Our text follows what we have heard with four more verses.

I find applying this quartet to the story
   To be disjointed, disconnected, and even disruptive
   If we interpret the story the way I understand the scholars do.

I have too much respect for Christ - and Luke.
And I do not think that it is mere coincidence
That the four following verses
are more familiar and more meaningful than the story.

I think you will agree:    [16: 10-13]

 "Faithful in little    equals faithful in much"
"Dishonesty in little   equals dishonesty in much."

These are great words
   And they precede the powerful question that he suggests we ask ourselves,
   "If you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth
   Who will entrust to you the new riches?"

I believe that question is the first part of the combination to unlock what Christ is saying.

For it is followed by the also familiar and meaningful words
   "No slave can serve two masters."
   "You cannot serve God and wealth."

These words are the lesson and the story simply sets them up
   By giving us an example of how we elect to serve wealth
      of how we chose human values
            of how we waste our time, our energy, and our ingenuity.
I think looking at our require us to read the parable
   As if the words,
"if you want to live by human values and desires instead of those that I have taught you" in verse 9.

This is how the text would then read:
[READ:   16: 1-8
      16:9 with those words added after "And I tell you."
      16: 10-13]

I have already admitted to you
   That, as familiar as I am with the Bible
I am not a Biblical scholar
Seminaries are not constantly calling
   To ask me to teach
Or to seek my opinion

But as a long time Methodist
I have learned to interpret and understand scripture
   Through John Wesley's quadrilateral.
   Which suggests that our understanding of scripture
is brought to life by four things
      Scripture   Reason   Tradition   and Experience.

And so when this parable
   And even the scholars' interpretations didn't make sense

I turned to the "WQ."

Although conceding the tradition aspect to be
the scholars' conclusion I mentioned

when I applied scripture, reason, and experience, I found
that in scripture  Jesus preaches, teaches, and lives lessons of
Love - Not wealth
      Honesty and truth - Not dishonesty and falsehood

And both my reason and my experience with Christ tell me
That if the message in the story was what the scholars claim
   The contrast with those teachings is so great
That Jesus would have stated that

Rather than present us with
a brief discourse on
honesty and dishonesty in little and big measures
and remind us
that one cannot serve both God and another master.

As we draw on reason, scripture and experience,
I think we have to answer the question in the message title,
   With the conclusion that
the story was an example used in a lesson
Rather than the lesson itself

And the example was a contrast to Christ's teachings
      In which Christ says,
      You might as well be like the dishonest servant if you are going to choose human values over God
         For as he does make clear
         We cannot serve both

That approach and that lesson
   Don't make us respond with the question, "What?"
But rather with
   A bowing of our heads
   And a rededication to serving only the one master.

And we will have found the balm - in Gilead and in Potsdam
   By living for Jesus.