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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sermon 08052012 9th Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray, Lord Jesus Christ, there are times where we hear Your parables and stories and think, I am glad I am not a manager, storekeeper, steward or one with lots of possessions.  But then You reveal that the story isn’t for one group or another, but for everyone.  Enable we Your servants to be faithful with what You have entrusted us, because one day we will be asked to give an account of what we have done with the little or the much You have given  us.  Yes, You offer us the free Gospel in and through Your death on the Cross of Calvary, but enable us to not serve wealth and worship You as the saints of Emmanuel gathered here this morning.  AMEN.

One of the joys of pastoral ministry is visiting members in their places of business.  I have enjoyed riding combines during wheat and corn harvest, checking cows in Thomas County or on the ranch and even chatting with a member in the middle of a garage at one of the local auto dealerships.  I have also sat at kitchen tables or in living rooms of many families and heard the tales of the times.  If you would like for me to visit you, put a note on the attendance card and I will make it happen.  But this week, I took the opportunity to visit a place I had not been to previously.  I visited an accountants office and it struck me how our Gospel this morning was so applicable.

From our Gospel this morning we hear about a manger who worked for a rich man.  This was someone who had to give an account for everything he did.  And the rich man was apparently told that his manager was ‘squandering his possessions’.  It is not told how the manager or steward is ‘squandering’, but the rich man must believe and take as creditable the allegations against his manager.  It is clear what the outcome will be for the manager from what the rich man tells the steward, ‘for you can no longer be manager.’  Basically, ‘you are fired’.  This position of authority and responsibility is being taken away from him.  But before I let you go, the rich man says, ‘Give an accounting of your management’.

Knowing he is in deep trouble, because the stories are probably true and he has not been wise with the rich mans possessions, the steward or manager realizes he has a problem.  There wasn’t any government agency looking over his shoulder, nor a certified organization he was a part of as a ‘steward’.  So the steward reasons, he is to weak to work for a true living and to ashamed to beg probably because of his previous life style and ‘power’ he leveraged as manager.  So he begins to call the debtors of the rich man in and ‘shrewdly’ cut the bills of all the debtors, whether it was oil, wheat or other commodity.  Yet, Jesus says it correctly, “for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”  The manager was trying to win favor, not only with his boss, but also with the people he had dealt wrongly with, so when he would be put out of his position, the people might have pity on him.  But Jesus uses a word that we need to understand clearly.  The decisions we make with what we have today will have ‘eternal’ consequences.

This is why Jesus then continues saying, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”  We have a human and a divine responsibility to be faithful with what we have been given.  This not only means our own personal property, but also the responsibilities of others we are entrusted with.  I know the farmers here at Emmanuel understand this clearly.  When they enter into a contract with their landowner to grow crops, care for the land and be the steward of what was entrusted to them, the farmer is clearly responsible as steward of the property entrusted to his care. 

We as Christians also have a responsibility to be faithful with what we have been entrusted.  Jesus continues saying, “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?  And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”  That is a very profound saying.  Jesus clearly says if you can’t be trusted with others property, wealth or riches, how can you be entrusted with the ‘true riches’?  For landowners, it could mean more land to rent, more responsibility and more trust that could in fact mean greater prestige and greater responsibility, but also a larger pay check at harvest or when paid their wages or what was agreed upon.  However, the true riches Jesus speaks of in the parable are not specified, but clearly the riches are alluded to in the next sentence.  “You cannot serve God and wealth.”  The true riches are what God will give us as a reward.  Remember I mentioned the word ‘eternal’, our ‘eternal reward’ is what we need to be concerned with.

But it does not end with our possessions or things that can pass away.  Jesus says, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”  Truly our wealth is something that can be here today and gone tomorrow.  I have heard stories of wheat harvests that with combines on the field were hailed out because of a freak hailstorm, or like this year a very dry year that causes both the dry land and irrigated corn harvest to vanish with each passing day without rain or lessening of the oppressive heat.  This begs the question, where do we place our treasure and emphasis on the things of this world or on the things in heaven?  On the things that are temporal like corn and wheat, land and house?  Or on the treasure that will not pass away, like eternal life?

Truly the steward in our story attempted to serve himself, was caught and then tried to protect himself.  Are we no different?  Have we served ourselves in the societal mindset of gaining wealth at the cost of the eternal treasure in heaven?  In some regards I think we have.  And I am again, like last week saying with Paul, “I am the greatest among sinners” in this regard.  As a Pastor, this is difficult to confess, but I have placed earthly reward, acclaim and ego above God’s divine plan and purpose.  And this does have eternal consequences.  For Jesus words ring true in my ears, “You cannot serve God and wealth”.

Are any of us here today any different?  I would venture to say, we are all under this judgment, because of our fallen sinful nature given to us by our parents, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  What then can we do?  By ourselves we can do nothing.  Paul says it clearly, “for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.”  We are unable to save or redeem ourselves.  Thus, even the steward who tried to ‘cut’ the losses for the rich man, could not regain his reputation, nor his office.  We are no different.

But, Paul in the very next verse of Romans (3:23-24) champions the cause saying, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus”.  Jesus Christ through His sacrificial life, death and resurrection offers each of us eternal life.  Though we cannot follow the law and our works condemn us, when we rely upon the free gift of Grace offered by Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary, our treasure no longer is on this earth, but is in heaven.  When we do our work, our business and our actions for the glory of God as our focus, we begin to understand that redemption is found, not in our individual actions, but in what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.

Consider if you will, in the movie “Avengers” Captain America asks a question of Tony Stark when they are in the lab with Bruce Banner and Black Widow.  Could he make the sacrifice play?  Would Tony Stark be able to do something for others no matter the cost to himself?
Jesus Christ did exactly that when He was nailed to the Cross.  Jesus Christ offered Himself as the living sacrifice in order to offer all of mankind the greatest gift of eternal life.  In that one moment upon the Cross, Jesus Christ accounted for all time and all place the entirety of the sins of mankind.  Jesus Christ did this freely and offers each of us today who believe in Him and His sacrificial death on Calvary eternal life.  Jesus Christ did this not just for the steward he told the story of, the rich man or only for the Jews He was trying to teach.  Jesus Christ accounted for the sins of the entire world of all time and all place, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, our Savior and our perfect atonement.  AMEN.
//trial script