Sunday, August 27, 2023

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity - Mk 7:31-37


Trinity 12

                                                                            Mk 7:31-37



          It is estimated that the demand for speech-language pathologists will grow by 21% through the year 2031.  The growth in demand for this training has been caused by several factors. First, there are now more people over the age of 65 than ever before.  They are encountering medical conditions such as stroke and dementia that result in speech and language problems.

          At the same time there is now early identification and diagnosis of speech and language disorders in children.  We have learned that early treatment can make a world of difference.  On this I can speak from personal experience, since two of my own children had early help from speech pathologists.  What is more the federal government has mandated that children with disabilities receive special education services that they need.

          While the demand has grown, the ability of schools to produce more speech pathologists is limited.  For starters, not everyone has the interest and disposition to work in this field.  There is a limited supply of future students. And those in this profession require extensive training.  They must have a master’s degree to work in this field.

          By all accounts, there will continue to be shortage in the immediate future.  That’s bad news in general for our society.  However, it is good news for those like my daughter Abigial who plan on entering this field.  By all accounts, she will never have to worry about finding a job.

          Perhaps a speech pathologist could have assisted the man in our text this morning.  We learn that he was deaf and had some kind of speech issue.  Yet living in the first century world he had no hope for assistance.  He had no hope until the touch of Jesus Christ brought healing. 

          The Lord Jesus had returned from the area of Tyre and Sidon which was north of Galilee on the Mediterranean Sea.  Now he was back at the Sea of Galilee on its west side.  He was in the region called the Decapolis.  Named after the ten cities that had been founded in this region, it had a large Gentile population.

          We learn that people brought a man to Jesus who was deaf and had some kind of speech issue, as they implored Jesus to lay his hand on him.  It is hard to tell whether the man had always been deaf and was therefore unable to speak at all, or whether he has lost his hearing and now experienced some kind of speech impediment.  What is clear is that this profoundly affected his life, and those who brought him saw in Jesus the hope for healing and relief.

          They brought the man because the reports about Jesus had spread far and wide.  This had happened in spite of the fact that Jesus often told those whom he healed not to tell others about what had happened.  Our Lord did this because he wanted to define his own ministry for people.  He didn’t want them drawing false conclusions based on the miracles alone.

          Those who brought the man asked Jesus to lay his hand upon him. They wanted our Lord to touch the man because they believed his touch brought healing.  They were right because Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.  He was the incarnate Son of God. Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, he was God in this world.

          They asked Jesus to touch the man, and we learn in our text that the man certainly received the full treatment.  Our Lord took him aside from the crowd privately. Then he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. He looked up to heaven and groaned saying “Ephphatha,” which means be opened.

          Jesus groaned before he healed the man.  He did this because he was in the presence of what sin has done to the world. He groaned because this is not what God wanted.  God had made a creation that was very good.  It was a world without sin in which Adam and Eve lived in perfect fellowship with God and with one another.  It was a world in which there was no pain, sickness, or death.

          However, the Fall of Adam and Eve changed all that.  Sin entered into the world and it brought death.  It brought illness and disabilities that cause suffering. And the impact of sin went far beyond the physical.  It changed us as we lost the image of God.  Rather than living perfectly according to God’s will we are now filled with sin that is just waiting to get out. Earlier in this chapter Jesus said, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

          After touching the man, Jesus said “Ephphatha” – “be opened.”  Immediately the man’s ears were opened and his tongue was released.  He could hear and speak plainly.  Jesus had healed the man.  Once again Jesus charged them to tell know one.  But the more he did so, the more they proclaimed it. They were astonished saying, “He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

          The statement by the crowd echoes what the Old Testament said God’s end time salvation would look like. This connection is made clear by the way the man’s speech condition is described.  It is a rare word that only occurs here and in the Greek translation of Isaiah chapter 35.  There the prophet says, Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

          The prophet speaks about restoration for Israel. Yet this action pointed forward to something even greater.  God would come to save his people.  He would bring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.  He would bring healing to the lame and speech to the mute. 

          Jesus Christ was the presence of God’s end time salvation. He was God coming to save us.  Our Lord began his ministry by declaring, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  In Jesus Christ the kingdom of God – the reign of God – had entered into the world.  He was God present to conquer sin and all that it has caused.

          Jesus groaned as he encountered the evidence of sin’s presence.  Again and again we are told in the Gospels that Jesus had compassion upon those whom he met.  Our Lord was moved by the plight of those who suffered.  But Jesus had come to do more than just be moved by the presence of sin and suffering.  He had come to overcome it.  In the healing in our text we see the reign of God at work to conquer the presence of sin.  Jesus makes the deaf hear and mute speak.

          The miracles of Jesus point to the single greatest miracle of his ministry.  They point to the defining event by which he has conquered sin and death.  Jesus came to conquer sin by his death on the cross.  He came to win forgiveness for us by sacrificing himself.  Our Lord says in this Gospel, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

          Sin is not some abstract entity.  Our every sin is sin against God. David confessed, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”  Sin evokes God’s wrath and righteous judgment against the sinner.  This is how the holy God reacts to sin. There can be no other outcome.

          There can be no other outcome.  But God wanted a different outcome for us.  And so he sent his Son to suffer and die in our place.  The One who had no sin took our place.  He took our sin as if it was his own and received the judgment that should have been ours.  Because Christ has done this for us, we now have forgiveness before God. 

          In our text Jesus heals the man. The people exclaim, “He has done all things well.  He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”  Jesus brings physical restoration to the man as he removes sin’s affliction.  This action by Christ shows us that he did not come only to bring forgiveness.  He came to bring complete healing from all that sin has done.  He came to restore us – body and soul.

          Jesus Christ died in our place as he received God’s judgment.  He was buried in a tomb.  But on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead.  His resurrection is the beginning of the resurrection of the Last Day.  His resurrection will be your resurrection when he returns in glory.

          This means that in Jesus Christ God has begun the healing that we need from all that sin has caused physically.  We struggle with diabetes, heart problems, eye problems, and back issues.  The promise of the Gospel – of the kingdom of God – is that in Jesus’ resurrection God has started the healing that will be ours.  We will receive a healing that overcomes death itself. 

          We will receive that full and complete healing when Christ returns on the Last Day. Paul told the Philippians, “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  Jesus will heal you completely when he transforms your body to be like his resurrected body.

          We look for that day with eager expectation.  And we live in the present as those whose ears have been opened and whose tongues have been loosed. Our ears are open because the Holy Spirit has called us to faith.  We are able to hear the Gospel promise and what it means for us.  We live in the assurance that we are forgiven before God. We know that death cannot separate us from his love, and that the victory of the resurrection will be ours.

          Our tongues have been loosed by the Spirit to speak in faith.  We respond with praise and thanksgiving to God because of what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.  We call upon God in every trouble knowing that his love for us in Jesus Christ is certain and sure.  We speak about the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to others so that their ears may be opened too.  And we look forward to the Last Day – the day of complete healing. We look forward to the time when we will greet the returning Lord as we say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”








Sunday, August 20, 2023

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity - Gen 4:1-15


Trinity 11

                                                                                      Gen 4:1-15



          Eppie and Pauline Friedman were twins who were born in Iowa in 1918.  Like so many twins, they shared a unique bond with one another and grew up doing everything together.  The two were inseparable. In fact, they had a double wedding ceremony as they both wore the same dress.

          Despite this close relationship, troubles arose in 1954.  That year, Eppie took over the advice column, “Ask Ann Landers” at the Chicago Sun-Times.  Three months later, Pauline started her own advice column “Dear Abby” at the San Fransisco Chronicle.

          Eppie saw this move as a hostile gesture. The two became bitter professional rivals.  “Dear Abby” became the world’s most widely syndicated newspaper column with 110 million readers.  “Ask Ann Landers” was close behind with 90 million readers.  The competing columns created a division between the sisters.  It is reported that Pauline offered “Dear Abby” at a reduced rate to their hometown’s Sioux City Journal if the paper did not run “Ask Ann Landers.” The feud continued through most of the rest of their life, and even poisoned the relationship between their children.

          In our Old Testament lesson today we hear about the original sibling rivalry as Cain kills Abel.  We don’t know about the relationship between the two brothers as they grew up. But we learn that Cain’s jealousy about his brother caused him to commit fratricide. In Cain we see how sin operates in our lives. And our text leads to recognize that the blood of Jesus gives us forgiveness.

          Adam and Eve were created in God’s image.  They knew God as God wants to be known, and lived perfectly according to God’s will.  They lived in the Garden of Eden where God abundantly provided for their every need.

          God had told Adam and Eve that they could eat of every tree of the garden, except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By not eating of this tree, the pair showed that they feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things.

          However, the devil tempted Eve with the thought that God was holding out on them.  They could be more – they could be like God – if they would just eat of the forbidden tree.  Both Eve and Adam ate of the tree, and in doing so they brought sin into the world.  In their sin they lost the image of God, and everything changed for humanity.

          We see the presence of sin immediately in their children. Adam and Eve go from being the perfect couple, to the first dysfunctional family.  They had two sons, Cain and Abel. We learn that Cain was a farmer, while Abel kept sheep. 

In the course of time, both brothers brought an offering to the Lord.  Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground.  Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. We are told that the Lord had regard for Abel’s offering, but not for Cain’s.

We aren’t told why this was the case.  However, the very different description of the two offerings probably provides us with the answer. Abel brought the firstborn of this flock and offered their fat portions.  He brought the first and the best. However, we are only told that Cain brought an offering of his harvest.

The reference to the offerings of Cain and Able leads us to ponder our own offering. What does our offering say about the place God has in our life? Do we only return to God the leftovers?  Is our offering simply a matter of going through motions like Cain?  Or do we give with the same attitude as Abel?  We learn from Abel that our offering to God needs to be a priority in our life.  We need to continue to consider whether it truly represents a response to the blessings God had given to us.

The Lord did not have regard for Cain’s offering.  We learn that Cain was very angry about this and his face fell.  God said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  He warned Cain about the sin that was present in his life.

          The Lord’s words to Cain teach us about the danger of sin in our lives.  Sin does not remain still. Where it is allowed to remain, it grows and infects more.  James tells us, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” 

          God told Cain that he needed to rule over the sin in his life.  He needed to struggle against it.  This is what we do as the baptized children of God. The Spirit who has given us new life in baptism is the One who enables this struggle.  Paul told the Romans, “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

          Cain didn’t put to death the deeds of the body.  Instead, he remained in his anger. And that anger caused hatred to grow from feeling into action.  Our text tells us that when Cain was in the field with Abel, he rose up against and his brother and killed him.

          In words that are reminiscent of when God came to Adam and Eve after their sin, God spoke to Cain. God asked where Abel was.  Cain’s snarky response was to say, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” Then God said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.”  God said that Cain’s punishment was that the ground was now cursed for him.  It would not produce for Cain, and instead he would have to wander the land.

          Sin entered into the world through Adam and Eve.  Immediately we then learn in their son how anger and hate led to murder.  God’s word teaches us that in his eyes, these are sins that make us guilty of murder.  Jesus said that everyone who is angry with his brother is liable to judgment.  John tells us, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

          Our anger and hate bring God’s judgment.  So does our lust, and jealousy, and coveting.  These sins cry out for God’s judgment just as Abel’s blood cried out to God.  But because of his love for us God does not give us judgment.  Instead, he gives us forgiveness.  He does this because of Jesus’ blood.

In the Old Testament, God said that life was in the blood and that was why the blood of an animal would be used in the sacrifices at the tabernacle.  Those sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus Christ.  He shed his blood as he gave his life in your place.  Peter says, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

God has judged your sin.  He did it in Jesus Christ when he died on the cross.  Jesus shed his blood in death to win you forgiveness.  John tells us that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” The sacrifice of Christ in your place allows you to be a saint – a holy one in God’s eyes.

Sin brings death.  No sooner has sin entered into the world than we hear about the death of Abel.  Since the Fall, sin has brought death to all people.  In the next chapter Moses gives us a list of the descendants of Adam.  First off we hear that Adam, “fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”  Having lost the image of God, Adam fathers a child in his own image. And then death rings out as the genealogy repeats about each descendant “and he died.”

Jesus did not die because of his own sin. He had none.  He died for ours.  But he passed through death in order to defeat it forever.  Christ died for our sins, but he did not stay dead.  Instead, he was the second Adam who came to restore the life that should be ours.  He did this as he rose from the dead on Easter.  Paul tells us, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

The blood of Jesus has won forgiveness.  It does for each one of us.  So that we may know this, Jesus has given us the Sacrament of the Altar.  Here he places his blood shed on the cross into your mouth.  He gives to you as an individual the very price he paid to take away your sins. Because of the Sacrament, you know that this forgiveness is for you.

Jesus gave himself into death on the cross for us.  He shed his blood to win us forgiveness. Now his Spirit causes us to live in this forgiveness as we share his love with others.  John wrote, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”  The sacrificial love of Christ becomes the reason that we sacrifice in order to help others.  As John went on to say, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

In our text today we hear about how Cain killed Abel. We see what sin did in our world from the start. We find here a warning that we cannot allow sin to fester and grow in our life.  In repentance we seek to put it to death by the work of the Spirit.  And we live in the assurance that because of Jesus blood we have forgiveness before our Father in heaven.


Sunday, August 13, 2023

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity - Lk 19:41-48


Trinity 10

                                                                                       Lk 19:41-48



          This summer Ukraine launched a much anticipated counter offensive as it seeks to free land that the Russians have captured in their invasion. NATO countries have provided equipment and training as the Ukraine formed new armored brigades that are to be the main striking force in this effort.

          However, thus far, the progress of the counter offensive has been very slow.  In part this is due to the inexperience of some of these newly formed brigades.  However, the main reason has been the huge defense system that the Russians have prepared.  Minefields that extend for miles in depth protect anti-tank obstacles, trenches, and bunkers.  All of this is supported with artillery and attack helicopters.

          If United States forces were facing this, we would apply the massive use of airpower to destroy these defenses and allow armored forces to punch through.  However, the Ukrainians do not have the aircraft to do this.  So they have found themselves having to work their way forward in a slow and very bloody process.

          It is always easier to defend than it is to attack.  In the history of warfare, technology has often given the defenders the advantage.  That was the case in the first century world when walled cities provided a significant obstacle that had to be overcome.  It could be done, and no one was better at it than the Romans.  However, the act of laying siege to a city and taking it required large numbers of troops and a great deal of time and effort.

          Jesus describes that process in our Gospel lesson today as he speaks about Jerusalem’s future.  He speaks of the judgment that will come upon the city because they have failed to recognize in Jesus that things that make for peace.  They have failed to understand that in Jesus the time of visitation had occurred.

          Our text this morning is part of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Mounted on a colt our Lord rides into Jerusalem accompanied by a great number of his disciples. They rejoice and praise God because of all the mighty works they have seen Jesus do. They say, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

          This is a scene of exultation.  But Jesus’ response seems to be completely out of step with the moment.  We learn in our text, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’”

The people rejoice, but Jesus weeps.  He weeps over Jerusalem because they have not recognized in him the things that truly make for peace.  Now the truth about Jesus is hidden from them – they are trapped in their rejection of Jesus. 

Then Jesus announces what awaits them.  Our Lord says, For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

The people of Jerusalem did not know the time of their visitation because they did not believe in Jesus.  In their unbelief they did not recognize that Jesus was God’s visitation bringing them salvation.  At the naming of John the Baptist, Zechariah prophesied about what God was doing in Christ when he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”

God’s visitation occurred when he sent his Son into the world.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, the Son of God was present in the flesh.  He was God’s visitation bringing the kingdom of God – the reign of God.  Christ was the visitation of God turning back the forces of Satan and sin.

When our Lord went to Nain, he encountered a funeral procession that was leaving the town.  He said to the widow whose only son had died, “Do not weep.”  Then he stopped the funeral procession as he touched the bier.  He said, “Young man I say to you arise,” and the man was restored to life.  Luke tells us, “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’”  They were right. God had visited his people in the person of Jesus Christ.

God visited his people in order to give peace. Christ came to the world to bring peace.  When the angels announced Jesus’ birth they sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  We hear an echo of that just before our text as the crowd says, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Jesus had come to Jerusalem to bring peace.  But he was going to do so in an expected way.  Just before entering the city, our Lord predicted his passion for the third time.  He said, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

Jesus came to bring peace by dying on the cross.  On our own we could never have peace with God.  We could never know real peace.  As sinners, we were hostile to God.  We were opposed to God, and our sin stood as the great barrier that separated us from the holy God.  Our sin provoked God’s righteous judgment and wrath.  The only outcome for us would have been eternal damnation.

But Christ was the visitation of God to bring us peace.  He was numbered with the transgressors.  He took our sin and died on the cross as he received God’s wrath in our place. St. Paul told the Corinthians, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Because of Jesus’ death for us we are forgiven.

But Jesus had come to bring peace – complete and total peace. He came to bring a peace that overcomes death itself.  And so as our Lord predicted, on third day he rose from the dead.  By his resurrection he has given us life – eternal life that can never be taken from us.  He has given us the living hope of sharing in Jesus’ resurrection life when he returns in glory on the Last Day.  Sin and death have been defeated and so we have peace now – and we will receive the consummation of that peace when Christ returns.

We are still tempted to miss this peace. The world offers its own version of peace as it holds out money and possessions as a false god.  It offers peace to those who accept its sinful ways.  It says that if we will just abandon Christ then we can have peace in our family instead of the division that is prompted by the truth of God’s word.

Jesus came to bring real peace – peace with God.  He gives a peace that defeats sin and death.  But he didn’t come to bring the absence of conflict.  In fact, quite the opposite, our Lord said he would be cause of conflict.   He said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

          Jesus’s word reveals the false peace that the world offers.  He calls us to faith in himself so that we may have peace.  He calls us to recognize his visitation that occurs in our day.  Jesus’ coming was not limited to his earthly ministry.  It was not limited to the day he entered into Jerusalem.

          Our Lord’s time of visitation continues in our day.  Christ visits us through his Word as it is proclaimed and read.  The Spirit uses the inspired word of God to deliver Jesus to us.  He calls us to faith and sustains us in faith as we face life’s challenges.

          Christ visits us through the water of Holy Baptism.  In your baptism you were buried with Christ.  You were baptized into his saving death.  You have shared in the death of the risen Lord and so your baptism is the assurance that Christ will raise you from the dead.  It is the guarantee that you are a forgiven child of God.

          And Christ visits us in the Sacrament of the Altar.  Here he uses bread and wine to give us his true body and blood.  We sing “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” because Christ comes to us bodily in the Sacrament.  Here he gives us his body and blood, given and shed for our forgiveness. Here he gives us food for the new man to strengthen us in faith.

          The people of Jerusalem didn’t recognize the time of their visitation.  They didn’t recognize the things that make for peace because they had their own idea of what this should look like.  They rejected Jesus and in the end the things that make for peace were hidden from them.

Today’s Gospel lesson alerts us to the fact that God works in his own way.  He acted in the incarnate Son as he visited his people and brought peace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That visitation continues now through the Means of Grace that take place in the Church.  By faith in Christ we receive the peace that he has won for us.  We live at peace with God now, and have the peace of knowing that eternal life is ours – a life that will be lived with Christ in the new creation. 























Sunday, August 6, 2023

Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity - Lk 16:1-9


Trinity 9

                                                                                       Lk 16:1-9



          Bernie Madoff operated the largest Ponzi scheme in history – a scam that was worth almost 65 billion dollars.  In a Ponzi scheme investors believe that their profits are coming from legitimate business activity.  However, there is in fact no business. All profits are really are coming from new investors. The scam can keep running as long as new investors continue to contribute money and most of the investors do not demand full repayment.

          Madoff apparently started doing this in the 1970’s.  He claimed to have a unique strategy that he used with stocks. This allowed him to earn profits that exceeded what investors could normally expect.  Madoff used his connections with the Jewish community to target wealthy individuals and institutions.  For many years he was successful in bringing in new investors.  He produced false trading reports to give the illusion that he was running a legitimate business.

          Madoff’s scheme came crashing down due to the 2008 financial crisis.  Many people began requesting a return of their funds, and he no longer had the money to be able to cover this.  Madoff’s sons learned about what had been happening and turned their father in to federal authorities.  He had defrauded 40,000 people and institutions, and was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

          Today’s Gospel lesson is an unusual text because like Bernie Madoff, it is about a financial scam.  A manager defrauds his employer out of money in order to acquire personal gain.  The parable is puzzling at first because it seems to praise this dishonest activity.  But we will see that it really teaches us about how we are to view and use our possessions in light of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.

          We learn in our text that there was a rich man who had a manager that was overseeing his financial affairs.  The rich man learned that the manager was wasting his possessions and so he decided a change had to be made.  He said, “What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.”  He ordered the manager to turn in the financial books because his employment was ended.

          The manger found himself in a moment of crisis.  He considered his options and none of them were good.  He wasn’t strong enough to do manual labor.  He was ashamed to beg.  There seemed to be little hope. But then in a moment of inspiration he hit upon a plan that would prompt people to receive him into their houses in the future.

          The manager still had the financial books.  So he summoned his master’s debtors one by one.  Most likely the rich man owned land which people worked and then owed him a percentage of their harvest. The manager reduced what each person owed. We learn about two examples of this.

In both cases this amounted to a five hundred denarius reduction. A denarius was a day’s wage, so this was a significant benefit.  The individuals did not know that the manager had been fired.  He obviously led the debtors to believe that he was the cause of the reduction – that he had persuaded the rich man to give this benefit.  In this way many people would feel indebted to the manager and would be willing to help him when he no longer had a job.

The rich man learned about what the manager had done.  But his reaction is not what we expect.  Instead of being angry we are told, “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.” The rich man appreciated the manner in which the manager had acted in order to secure his future.

Then in our text Jesus goes on to say, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

What are we to make of this? The manager defrauds the rich man out of money in order to secure his own future.  The rich man praises the manger because he has acted shrewdly.  Is Jesus teaching us to break the Seventh Commandment by getting our neighbor’s possessions in a dishonest way?

Obviously the answer is no.  Instead, he is teaching us how we are to deal with our possessions – our wealth.  Earlier in the Gospel Jesus said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Our Lord warns us against the role that possessions and wealth play in our life.  He teaches that they are not to be the focus for us – they are not to be the center of our care and attention.

Jesus teaches us the reason for this just after our text when he says, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”  There can be only one God in our life.  Money and wealth operate as a false god that draws away our attention from God and runs our life. We focus on the gifts rather than the One who is the Giver.

Our Lord promises that God will provide us with what we need to live. He says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Christ points to the birds and the flowers.  God feeds the birds, and we are worth far more to God. Surely he will also feed us.  Jesus says of the flowers, “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”

God has promised to give us what we need to live.  We are to trust him.  He has told us that he is to be God in our life and not our possessions. So what is this supposed to look like? Our Lord says in chapter twelve: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

          Jesus says that our possessions are to be the means by which we bless others.  This will be very different from the world.  The world will view wealth as the means by which it can serve itself.  We are to view it as the way in which we serve others. 

The truth of the matter is that the world is better at using its wealth than we are.  Jesus says in our text, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”  The world is fully committed to using wealth in selfish ways, while we often fail to use it in God pleasing ways – in ways that help others.

We are indeed the sons of light. So the key is for us to remember what time it is.  In the parable, the manager recognized the critical moment that had arrived.  He was fired but still had the financial books.  If he acted promptly, he could secure his future.  In a similar way, we need to live and act in accordance with the critical moment that is here as well.

We live in the moment when Jesus Christ has died for our sins and risen from the dead.  St. Paul says in our epistle lesson that we live at a time when the end of the ages has come upon us. God’s dramatic action in Christ has given us forgiveness and life.  Through baptism we have been made a new creation by God – we are sons and daughters of light.

          We know Jesus as the Lord who has freed us from sin and death.  We therefore need to live in ways that show this.  We need to use our possessions and wealth in a way that is guided by faith in Christ.

First, this will mean using our money and wealth to support the work of the Gospel.  You do that through your offering here at Good Shepherd.  You support the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Means of Grace.  The question we much ask ourselves is whether what we give to God has kept pace with what God has given to us. 

There are opportunities for giving outside our congregation.  We are currently receiving offerings to support Lutheran Seminary Uganda. Both professors and students sacrifice so that the training of new pastors can take place to meet the needs of congregations in that country.  Our support of the Gospel goes much farther in that setting, where $3600 supports a professor for an entire year.

          We proclaim that we are against the murder of unborn children in abortion, and that we are for life.  Yet if we are to be for life we also need to support work on behalf of life.  Clarity Women’s Care – formerly known as Pregnancy Matters – seeks to encourage pregnant women to keep their child.  It provides resources and support for women in crisis pregnancy situations. This is work that we can support through the wealth that God has given to us.

           Jesus says in our text, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”  Our Lord is telling us to use our wealth in ways that recognize the time in which we live.  It is the time of salvation.  We are sons and daughters of light because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because God has given us salvation in Christ, we now use our wealth in ways that serve others.  This is use of wealth that pleases God and bears fruit in eternity.