A Home for Your Family with a Heart for God’s World
What a puzzle! Why does Jesus tell this story? A manager of loans realizes he is about to be fired, so he calls in each person who owes his master money and slashes their debt in hopes that he can call in the favors when he is jobless.
Like all parables, the meaning isn’t clear. We have to ponder it, turn it and look from all angles.
One possible interpretation is that the master had imposed interest on the loans. N.T. Wright suggests that “It looks as though the master in the story had himself been acting in a somewhat underhand[ed] manner. Jews were forbidden to lend money at interest, but many people got round this by lending in kind, with oil and wheat being easy commodities for this purpose.” If the master was charging interest, it is possible that the manager adjusted the bills back to the principal only, which was all that they should have been. The debtors would be thrilled – and would be likely to follow the social rule of balanced reciprocity – if I get a benefit, I am obliged to offer you a benefit in return. Meanwhile, the rich master can’t say anything or accuse the manager of anything because he would just be admitting that he was a predatory lender. Ah, how shrewd, admires the master.
“I tell you,” says Jesus, “Use worldly wealth to make friends, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” I knew a couple who were always teasing each other about money. He was a very successful doctor, who still wore a leisure suit because it wasn’t worn out. She was frugal, but a bit more stylish. He was always teasing that she was spending all of his money. One day he said, “I told her I want her to bury me with my money.” “And I told him I’d write him a check,” she quipped. The reality is we can’t take it with us. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan in the 4th Century, commented on a rich fool who was always building bigger and bigger barns to store all of his stuff, “The bosoms of the poor, the houses of the widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever.” Like the manager, our work here will come to an end, and we will be without resources. And when that time comes, we will be asked to account for how we used our resources in this life. The righteous will ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ And “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
It seems to me that the main message of the parable is not about loans or interest. A man realizes he is about to be fired, so he does some favors in hopes that he can call in the favors when he is jobless. Those who are shrewd are aware of what is ahead of them and act accordingly. Those who look ahead and plan ahead are commended. Because your life tomorrow will be shaped by your life today.
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is “Where am I going, and what do I need to do today to get there?” Not because we can earn our way into heaven, or even that that is our goal. We are not living on earth to get to heaven. We are living on earth to make it like heaven here.
We are here as stewards, to care for the earth and to love one another. Will we squander the master’s property and be fired or will our management be fruitful?
“Where am I going, and what do I need to do today to get there?” The prophet Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
As a church, we seek to live into the name the “Farmington family” to truly live as brothers and sisters in Christ, to know one another’s joys and sorrows, to celebrate together and struggle together, and mourn together. And because we live as family, this is a place that feels like home; not our home, though…God’s home.
There are exciting things happening to make this a place where God’s children can feel at home in God’s house. We have a new kitchen with a dish washer and new stove and a warmer. We used the warmer for the first time for the Spaghetti Dinner to help our neighbors who experienced flooding last June. We are now using the dishwasher to limit our use of Styrofoam cups and paper plates, reducing our impact on God’s world. We have repaired and resurfaced our parking lot this year, which not only needed to be done to prevent more expensive reconstruction but also to provide a more even surface, improving safety, and a better first impression to our guests. In the coming year, we hope to recarpet the Sanctuary, replace the broken partitions in the Fellowship Hall, complete the replacement of exterior doors, and possibly begin to replace our single-pane windows with more efficient, better functioning windows.
We won’t just stay here and look through our windows, though. We will continue to be a congregation that understands that the church is not a building. We will continue to allow our hearts to be broken for the things that break God’s heart. Last month, we received notification that we have been certified as a Hunger Action Congregation. We are one of 78 Presbyterian congregations to earn that certification, in the whole denomination. This year, we will continue to care for our homeless neighbors, to respond to crises in our community, to support our missionary in Asia both financially and with our prayers. You may not be aware that every Wednesday morning I talk with her for about half an hour. This weekend, she has travelled to South Korea to be seen by a doctor because an x-ray taken because of an accident and possible broken rib revealed a spot in her lung. Please pray that as she receives better medical care, she is able to be treated and return to the mission field. And May 26th to June 2nd we will make our 7th trip to Mexico to build cisterns to provide water year-round for families in rural villages. In addition, we have been working over the last 2 years to be more ecologically conscious as a congregation, and we are preparing to apply to be recognized as an Earth Care Congregation.
Those who are commended for their shrewdness ask “Where am I going, and what do I need to do today to get there?” Farmington Presbyterian is a Home for Us and Our Families, we will experience that as we Potluck together today, with a Heart for God’s World, doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly with our God.