Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sermon -- 18th Sunday after Pentecost (September 22, 2013)

LUKE 16:1-13

In the name + of Jesus.

     It was perhaps the most gut-wrenching thing the manager could have heard.  The boss-man had summoned him and said, “What is this I hear about you?  Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.” (Luke 16:2)
     Oh, there’s a lot that the manager could have been thinking.  What had the master heard?  What could the manager still hide?  Could he blame someone else?  Could he convince his master that it was all a pack of lies?  But it wasn’t.  He offered no excuses.  He didn’t even fight it.  He was a bad manager. 
     He quickly called his master’s debtors in, scrambling to put together some kind of ledger to present to his master.  He didn’t even know who owed what!  Surely he had been dodging this bullet for quite some time.  The time had finally come for his performance review.  He had to give an account.  He was a bad manager.  He was guilty.  He deserved to be fired. 
     Dear Christians, you understand that you, too, are managers, don’t you?  There is nothing you have that is actually yours.  The earth is the LORD’s and … those who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)  You see?  It is not just that your stuff is on loan from God.  Even YOU are the Lord’s.  You entered this world because God was pleased to bring you in, and you will depart from this world just as empty handed as when you entered it.
     Everything you are and everything you have is a gift from God.  He entrusts his wealth to you.  He is very interested in how you are using it.  And you ought to know that the day will come when he will call to you account for how you have used his gifts.  Have you used God’s gifts to honor him with them or do you live as if God has no right to his gifts?  Have you used your wealth to bless your fellowman in his need, or do you hoard your gifts and pile up more than you need?  Have you taken care of God’s gifts to you, such as your life and your body, or do you give yourself over to gluttony, intoxication, and sloth?  Do you recognize that all your possessions are temporary and will fail, or is your life wrapped up in maintaining and accumulating wealth as if it were eternal?  We have all been poor managers of God’s gifts.  The day will come when the Lord will say, “What is this I hear about you?”  And the Lord will settle accounts with you.
      Like the crooked manager, you and I have also been unfaithful with what God has given us.  Like the crooked manager, we would also do well not to come up with excuses why this is not so grievous or damnable.  We are subject to judgment.  The charges against us are valid.  It is pointless and foolish to try to bargain with God in these matters.  He knows all, so there is no point in hiding or whitewashing anything.
     The dishonest manager did not waste any time.  He knew that his days were numbered.  He knew that his time was short.  There was nothing he could do about his past.  That was done.  But he took great measures to watch out for his future.  He had no strength for hard labor.  He refused to become a beggar and entrust himself to the kindness of strangers.  While he still had time, he made friends with his master’s debtors.  You can accuse him of being even more dishonest.  But just as diligence had not been his goal earlier, neither was honesty his goal now.  His goal was simple: I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.” (Luke 16:4)  The dishonest manager had put all his energies into making sure that his future would be secure.  And for that, the master commended him.
     Now, here is the lesson for you: The Lord will settle your account.  He will summon you to answer for yourself.  But what is past is past.  And most of what is past cannot be fixed.  The sins have been committed.  The damage has been done, and the losses cannot be reclaimed.  Rather than defend it, repent.  And rather than fixate on the past, your concern should be about the future.  The Lord will settle your account, and that is where you should put your attention.
     Your future, however, is not going to be determined by your record.  The Lord settles your account for you.  Jesus has come on your behalf.  He settles everything.  The Father assessed his Son several times in the Gospels, and every time, Jesus was declared to be God’s beloved.  Since God can only love and approve that which is holy, we know that Jesus was holy.  He was a faithful servant in God’s household, perfectly carrying out all of the duties assigned to him. 
     Jesus settled your account for you.  He did not ask how much you owed before he took on your debt.  He has covered your past with his blood.  The debt is paid.  You owe your master nothing.  Jesus spent himself completely in order to win your place in eternal dwellings.  And he sums up your account with his word from Mt. Calvary: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)  That word was used by merchants in the marketplace when customers completed their final payment.  The debt was wiped out, and the merchant declared, “It is finished!  Paid in full!”  That is Jesus’ assessment for you from the cross.  He life was spent.  His blood was spilled.  Your debt is done.  “Paid in full!  It is finished!”
     What’s more, Jesus is the steward who squanders his Father’s mercy.  He is not stingy.  He does not merely cover what has been past.  He goes on to cover your faults and failings tomorrow, too.  He continues to pour out mercy, as if he will never run out.  And do you know what?  He never does.  This is not an excuse for you to abuse his mercy, any more than you are encouraged to abuse his other gifts.  But he assures you that you are safe in his care.  There is not going to come a day when the Father says you have reached your quota of mercy and that you are done. 
     In the parable, the master did not come back to correct the manager’s forgiveness.  And in the same way, the heavenly Father will not come back and tell you that Jesus’ forgiveness was too generous or unjust.  There is not going to be a day when you hear, “You know, on second thought, that was really bad.  I can’t forgive that.”  Jesus has settled your account.  The debt is paid.  Sins are covered.  It is settled. 
     Dear Christians, your money will fail.  Your gifts will wear out.  The Lord will call you out of this world, and you will depart with nothing in your hands and nothing to you name – nothing except a Savior who has paid the price and gives you eternal dwellings.  That is all that matters.  Therefore, be shrewd, and recognize the only thing that has eternal value.  Devote yourself to your Lord Jesus Christ.  Flee to him for his gifts of mercy and forgiveness.  So do not fear your judgment.  Jesus has covered every debt.  The Lord has settled your account, and it is settled.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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