Proper 20, Year C: Luke 16:1-13: Love God Not Money

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 20, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

This week’s lesson is all about the money, or specifically the love of money and of course the love of what money can buy.  

Again Jesus is telling a parable. I love how much Jesus liked to teach with stories.  He was obviously never a boring teacher. He told them about a rich man who had a bad manager working for him. The rich boss finds out the manager isn’t doing a very good job, so he says he’s going to fire him. The manager decides he’d better do something to get the rest of his town to like him so when he’s out of a job they might be good to him. So what he does is call in people who owe his boss money and tell them to change the amount owed so that they pay less. Then those people are happy with him, but his boss isn’t paid all he’s owed. He’s pulling a trick that loses the boss money but pleases the rest of the town.  

Now here’s the tricky part. Jesus says the rich boss praised the manager for being clever, though he hadn’t been honest. Then he says that’s what the people of this world are like, and that they are smarter than God’s people. It sounds like Jesus is praising dishonesty, but I don’t think that’s what he means. He goes on to say that if you can be trusted with a little, you will be trusted with a lot, but if you can’t even be trusted with a little thing, then how could you be trusted with a lot? If you can’t take care of someone else’s property, how will you be able to have property of your own? Then comes a very famous line, “No servant can serve two masters at the same time. He will hate one of them and love the other. Or he will be faithful to one and dislike the other.  You can’t serve God and Money at the same time.” You may have heard you can’t serve God and “Mammon” but modern versions just make it money.  (See more about Mammon here.) This, I think, is the crux of the story. And when we love money and material things so much that our focus is on them and not on the things of God, then we can’t properly love God and follow Christ.  

Proper 19, Year C: Luke 15:1-10: Lost and Found

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 19, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

Jesus is criticized by religious leaders for teaching sinners and tax collectors.

So Jesus responds with a couple stories. First, he asks them to imagine you are someone who has 100 sheep and one is lost. The owner of the sheep goes and searches for it, leaving the other 99 in the field. When he finds it, he rejoices with his friends. Jesus says there is more joy for one lost sinner than 99 good people who don’t need to change.

Second, a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. She looks carefully until she finds it, and then she asks people to celebrate with her that she found it. Jesus says God is also happy when one sinner repents.

Again we must consider if we are living and loving like Jesus. Are we judging our fellow church members or fellow citizens of our towns and cities? Are we extending hospitality and mercy to those who need it most, to those who are hard to love as well as those who are easy to love and easy to look at? Look at your life and church today and see if you are reaching out and including people or judging and excluding people.

We can also consider the mercy extended to ourselves. We all have our moments (or years) of lostness, of failing and flailing. But God reaches out to us with love and forgiveness at all times. And we are all the same at God’s table–whether we are frequently lost or always on hand and serving. Thank God for his mercy.

Proper 18, Year C: Luke 14:25-33: Commitment to Jesus

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 18, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

Jesus says to the people traveling with them that they must hate their family and their lives–this seems like a strong hyperbole to make a point. They must love him more than their family, more than their lives. He says they must carry their crosses to follow him.

He also talks about planning before beginning a project. Basically they must examine their lives and how they will give up everything to follow him.

Following Jesus is not something one does lightly or easily. It takes commitment and sacrifice. To love as radically as Jesus will change your life and you have to be ready for it.

Proper 16, Year C: Luke 13:10-17: Hypocrisy vs. Healing

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 16, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

Jesus is teaching in the synagogue when he sees a woman who has been crippled for 18 years and can’t stand up straight. He lays hands on her and tells her she’s now free of her sickness. She praises God.

Of course, the powers-that-be aren’t happy about this. They complain that he’s healing on the Sabbath Day. He tells people to show up on some other day to be healed.

Jesus declares the leaders hypocrites. He says they untie their animals and take them to drink water even on the Sabbath. He says it’s not wrong to heal someone on the Sabbath. The leaders are shamed and the people are happy.

Again, as in the last story, Jesus is not all about the warm fuzzies. He doesn’t agree with rules for rules’ sake. He helps someone in need and thumbs his nose at hypocritical leaders. May we be like Jesus. Help those who need help and call out those who do harm.

Proper 14, Year C: Luke 12:32-40: Treasures

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 14, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

Jesus gives advice to his followers. He tells them to sell what they have and give to those in need. It’s the only way to store treasures in heaven–the kind of treasure that can’t be stolen or destroyed. “Your heart will be where your treasure is.”

He tells them to be ready, dressed and with lights shining, like servants waiting for their master to return home from a wedding party. Such ready servants will be rewarded.

He tells them to be ready for the Son of Man to come.

So often we focus on what we have and what we want in the future–on material things and acquisitions–on showing off to others with our clothes or our homes. But Jesus tells us our focus should be on love and generosity–on getting rid of our own things and helping others. How can we be generous? What are you cherishing today that is fleeting and meaningless?

Proper 13, Year C: Luke 12:13-21: Love Over Greed

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 13, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

A man says to Jesus that his father has died and he wants Jesus to tell his brother to share with him. Like Martha in on earlier passage, it seems pretty audacious to tell Jesus what to say.

Jesus rebukes him for asking Jesus to judge such a thing and tells him to guard against greed.

Then Jesus tells a parable of a rich man, who had such a good harvest on his land that he wondered where to put all his crops. He decides to replace his barns with bigger barns. He declares he will eat, drink, and be merry, excited about his riches.

But God says that the man will die tonight–what good will all those things be to him now?

Jesus says, “This is how it will be for anyone who saves things only for himself. To God that person is not rich.”

This is a strong message even today. Greed is such a huge part of the world as income inequality only gets worse and worse. But the kingdom of God is not about greed and acquiring more for oneself. It is about loving others and sacrificing for others. I pray that we can make this world the kingdom of God. We have to do better.

Proper 12, Year C: Luke 11:1-13: How to Pray

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 12, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

In this passage, Jesus is asked to teach his followers how to pray. He gives them the famous Lord’s Prayer as an example:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy Name,
    thy kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those
        who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
    and the power, and the glory,
    for ever and ever. Amen.

from The Book of Common Prayer

Growing up I learned so many lessons about prayer and “quiet time”. Some were helpful but some were overly complicated. And yet here it is–the advice from Jesus–a beautiful prayer that we use today, but also an example to follow for prayer in general. Don’t be afraid to ask, but also be aware of who you’re asking. And be aware of your own role in forgiveness. Again Jesus’ focus is all on love.

Proper 11, Year C: Luke 10:38-42: Martha and Mary

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 11, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

In this passage, Jesus is staying in the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy taking care of everything–fussing around the house (oh sometimes I am such a Martha myself–I do like to fuss around and check off my to-do list, though I’m probably less efficient). Meanwhile Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him teach.

Martha got fed up (I can really relate to this, too) and complained that she was doing all the work while Mary sat there. She told Jesus to make her help out. Can you imagine the audacity?

Jesus tells her she’s worried about too many things, but Mary has made the right choice in what is important.

This is such a hard teaching for me. If women still often have the onus of the housework even today, imagine how much more was on them back in that day. And stuff does have to get done. Every day I have stuff I have to get done–in my case it’s usually my mother stuff that I have to do. Not only do I have the usual mom duties, but oen of my kids has a syndrome and more needs than the usual kid stuff. He gets medications four times a day, for instance. I have to get stuff done or the consequences could be very bad. But even so, how often do I fuss around getting less necessary stuff done, when I could be focused on the spiritual or even on the loving part of mothering rather than the fussing part? So often.

So I can see the story that way–an indictment of my Martha side. But I can also examine something else that is happening here. Martha is embracing the cultural norms of the day–women doing the housework while the men sit and talk. Mary is being more like the male disciples we usually hear about–learning from a great teacher. And Jesus doesn’t rebuke her for that choice but instead celebrates it. Often growing up it seemed like the church was all about patriarchy–women had their place and it was in subjection to men. But Jesus didn’t often promote that. He was radical in lifting up women in so many ways.

Yes, I can be convicted as someone who spends far too much time fussing with my to do list rather than dwelling in the presence of Christ, but I can also feel the liberation of a Christ who lifts us up in love and equality.

Proper 10, Year C: Luke 10:25-37: Won’t You Be my Neighbor?

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 10, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

A man asks Jesus what it takes to have eternal life. Jesus turns the question back on him (a great skill Jesus had) and asks what was in the law. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ Also, ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.'”

Jesus says, yep, that’s it, but the man asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

Most of us know the parable of the Good Samaritan that follows. A man is robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. Two different religious leaders–supposedly holy men–came by and ignore the poor man on the side of the road. Then a Samaritan (viewed by Jesus’ culture at that time as a lowly unholy person) came by and stopped to help. He went out of his way to nurse the man and then took him to an inn, leaving money for his care and promising to return to pay more if needed.

Then Jesus asks the man who was a neighbor to the hurt man. The answer was clear. Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”

I love this story because it’s so clear and beautiful. It’s a distillation of the gospel, one that Fred Rogers lived by his whole life–teaching generations of children how to be good neighbors. Whenever I’m confronted by a difficult choice of life, of theology, of politics, of anything, I consider the side of love. If I err, I want to err on the side of love, to be a good neighbor.

Proper 9, Year C: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20: Bring the Good News

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 9, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

In today’s passage, Jesus sends out 72 followers in groups of two. He sent them to towns and villages to bring in a harvest of people (much like his fishing for people). He sends them out without money or luggage, so that they must rely on the hospitality of those to whom they are bringing good news. If they are not welcomed and given hospitality, they are to leave, shaking the dust of the town off their feet as they go.

They are the emissaries of Jesus, speaking in his name and whoever accepts them accepts Jesus and his teachings. They meet with success and are happy when they return to Jesus.

So are we also sent out, all of us, not just the ordained among us. We all know Jesus had his core group of 12 followers, but he didn’t only send 12, but many more. Too often we rely on clergy to do the hard work of the kingdom of God, but we are all called and sent to bring the good news, to change the world around us.