Good News, Bad News, Generosity and Mercy
By Hilary Wenzel, August 22, 2022
I’m going to begin with a little prayer:.....Thank you God for your love, and for the comfort and support of this Church Family, for giving me the courage to speak here today. Amen.
First, I have a few words about what I learned getting ready to talk today.
Then I’m going to focus on the parable story verses.
Then I’ll finish with how I think this can apply to my own life, and perhaps to the life of our church and world. Eric helped me think of it as the I, We, All approach.
I call my theme “Bad News, Good News, Generosity and Mercy.”.
So, my process… I chose my date and looked at the Lectionary passage choices from the OT Psalms and Prophets and the NT Gospels and Letters.
The Parable story approach seemed the most familiar approach.
Now, I’ve learned from some Bible Studies that Jesus often taught about the nature of God and God’s kingdom through stories… Stories that are grounded in time and place but relatable to any age anywhere…. People are people after all.
And he often compared the human world with God’s world by flipping our usual world view on its head…. He sure did that in this story when the master commended his dishonest manager for his quick thinking, in Luke 16:1-8.
I loved the plot drama of this story.
A rich landowner finds out that his manager is using his property dishonestly… So he fires him on the spot, telling him to turn over his books and get out.
The rich man must have believed whoever reported this…, maybe someone of equal or greater status. Or maybe he already suspected , but tolerated it until it became public. And the manager didn’t plead his case, which implied that he knew he was caught and didn’t deserve leniency.
A manager was a position of Trust….Maybe it even had a code of conduct, like professions today for law, health care, banking and teaching. In a rich family business of Jesus’ time it was also a position of some influence….
but influence based only on the trust, character and reputation of the owner.
Cast out, without a good reference, the dishonest manager was desperate. He was also a man who lived by his wits, not by honest sweat or charity. He quickly came up with a plan, maybe an old trick. He got the owner’s land renters to privately sign a reduced bill while they still thought he was acting as the owner’s agent. Then he turned the accounts back over to the owner. He knew the false accounts could be discovered. He took a huge risk with this gamble. It was a real long shot, but he trusted that his master’s character was essentially good and generous.
And, his master commended him for his shrewd, quick action!
To “commend,” from Latin and Old English, means to praise formally or officially or to recommend. The outcast manager improved his neighbors’ lives in the name of his generous master. He put his life in his master’s hands when he handed him the account book. And his master rewarded his trust with mercy.
The master’s response might not be what the legalistic Pharisees who were listening expected to hear.
But, Oh what it must have felt like to his manager!...
Just close your eyes for a minute and imagine being in his shoes….weak with relief and overflowing with gratitude!
And I think.. Jesus fininshes the surprise ending of the parable.. by suggesting his disciples should act quickly with the same trust in God.. that worldly folk use with each other.
Now there’s more in Luke that Jesus says following this story, but this is what I could wrestle with.
Can you and I relate to this story?
Here are some questions I ask myself.
Am I / are we children of light?... I believe I am…, and we are…, and we are all works in progress.
How do I respond to bad news?... do I attack?...do I resist?...do I bargain?...do I give up?
What is the owner’s / my master’s property? For me, it’s the natural world that includes me… and all of us… and all our relationships…, and it includes the time we are given as well as the resources we have at hand…..Rachel Carson said
“In Nature, Nothing Exists Alone.”
How do I / we squander that property?... “Squander” means to use or waste foolishly.”
How do I take for granted what I think and use and do each day?.... What am I spending energy and time in pursuit of?.... Do I feel that surprised sense of relief and gratitude during the day?.... Do I take time to enjoy and celebrate?.... Do I sleep soundly and securely at night?
What can I / we do to pass that feeling on to others….to let them know its source…to connect them to it?
I think we begin by gambling on the good and generous nature of our master….by offering our book of life….and trusting in God’s loving mercy.