SERMON FOR THE 9TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz

Jesus tells a parable to his disciples. It is about a man, who has just been fired from his job. He was a manager for a wealthy man. However, the wealthy man discovered that this particular manager had been dishonest with his money – and it’s probably a fair assumption that the manager was stealing the wealthy master’s money. 


Before the man was fired, Jesus tells a monologue the manager had with himself: “What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.” If you have ever been fired, laid off, or quit a job – or know someone who has – you may know this struggle all too well. Especially, when a person has held a job for a long period of time, then the transition into another means of income can be even more challenging. This may have been the situation of the manager. 

 

Jesus continues the parable with the manager’s decision: “I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people will receive me into their houses.” Interesting enough, the man was not immediately terminated from his job and so he requested to see those in debt to his master. Even today, for an employer to not immediately fire his employee is an exception to the rule of business. Either way, the manager took advantage of his limited time in order to find favor with others. After he meets with those in debt to his master, he then reduces the debt they owed. In order for the manager’s plan to work, he had to place trust in his master. By telling those in debt that they owed less than the original loan, the manager trusted that his master would honor the word spoken by the manager in his name.

SERMON FOR THE 9TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 8-17-14
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz

Jesus tells a parable to his disciples. It is about a man, who has just been fired from his job. He was a manager for a wealthy man. However, the wealthy man discovered that this particular manager had been dishonest with his money – and it’s probably a fair assumption that the manager was stealing the wealthy master’s money. 
Before the man was fired, Jesus tells a monologue the manager had with himself: “What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.” If you have ever been fired, laid off, or quit a job – or know someone who has – you may know this struggle all too well. Especially, when a person has held a job for a long period of time, then the transition into another means of income can be even more challenging. This may have been the situation of the manager. 
Jesus continues the parable with the manager’s decision: “I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people will receive me into their houses.” Interesting enough, the man was not immediately terminated from his job and so he requested to see those in debt to his master. Even today, for an employer to not immediately fire his employee is an exception to the rule of business. Either way, the manager took advantage of his limited time in order to find favor with others. After he meets with those in debt to his master, he then reduces the debt they owed. In order for the manager’s plan to work, he had to place trust in his master. By telling those in debt that they owed less than the original loan, the manager trusted that his master would honor the word spoken by the manager in his name.

The unexpected twist of this parable is that the master commended the manager for his actions. He approved of him for charging his debtors, less than they owed. He even praised him for his shrewdness. Wait, this manager is not a man to be praised. He is a thief and liar that cheated his master! This is why he is being fired in the first place. His shrewdness should not be honored, but condemned. Yet, the manager threw himself into the mercy of his master. The same master that the manager wasted his resources – Breaking any trust between the two.
By reducing the debt of those who owed his master, the manager trusts that the master would honor the debt-reducing word spoken in his name. He trusted his master would not go back to the debtors and demand the rest of what they owed him. This was great trust because the debts and the reductions were enormous. In fact, fifty measures of oil were worth about the wage for a farm worker for a year and a half. Instead, the master applauds the manager reducing such debt.
The master recognizes that his own reputation among the people was favored by the manager’s actions. The master’s reputation would be one of being an exceedingly generous and graceful master. He had shown his rascal of a manager grace and those who were in debt to him, he also showed grace. Both, the manager and those in debt, needed this master’s grace to continue living. The manager needed the favor of those for whom he reduced debt, so that he would be received into their houses. As for the debtors, the master liberated them by waiving off years of income that they owed.
Even Jesus commends the manager’s behavior. The master is the one who showed grace, yet the manager is the one Jesus teaches us to be like. “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.”
So what is Jesus teaching his disciples in this parable? What are we to take from this story? First, we are given a warning. The warning is simple – we do not own what we have here on earth. The Apostle Paul gives Timothy the same warning, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”
What does this mean for the things we have in this life? What it means is that we are not masters of our possessions, but managers of such things. Everything we possess, our money, home, vehicles, yard, clothes, food, and whatever else you may have, are not yours, but gifts given to you by God. This also includes relationships, such as your wife, husband, mom, dad, daughter, son, friend, and neighbor. Your wife or husband is not an independent possession, but God has given you your spouse to love and care for.
You may have heard it said from a father talking about his daughter, ‘That’s my girl.’ Or a mother of her son, ‘That’s my boy!’ The truth is that the son or daughter belongs to God, and God has given that child to the parents to love and care for – to raise and provide for.
Even our own bodies are not of our own, Paul says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own…” Everything we have has been given as a gift from above. No one may have known this better than Adam in the Garden of Eden. Unlike, the manager who silently accepted his termination, Adam tried to rationalize his evil desire, grumbling and blaming another when charges were brought against him. Unlike, the manager who silently accepted his termination, we try to rationalize our evil desire, grumbling as our Master brings charges against us.
For Jesus refers to the wealth in the parable as unrighteous wealth. This is another revelation Jesus is teaching in this parable. Wealth or gifts from God which he has given us to manage is not unrighteous, but it becomes unrighteous when we serve or idolize what we have been given to manage by God. Righteous means ‘to be made right with God.’ What we manage here on earth does not make us right with God because we desire evil. We serve what we manage instead of serving our Master. Unrighteous wealth easily turns into our imagined rock and refuge.
Yet, despite our unfaithfulness, God is faithful and he will also provide the way of escape. Even as we fail, he provides a way to receive us into the eternal dwellings. For Jesus is the manager in the parable. Not that he is a thief, liar or cheater, but that he took on our crisis and made the wrongs right. When God called Him to open the books and settle our deficient accounts on Good Friday – Jesus did not say, “Sit down and write part of your debt is cancelled!” No, but the blood that He shed on the cross took away the sin of the world! In glorious, gracious, generosity, Jesus, in effect, said to each and every sinner in the world – “Write paid in full.” – “It is finished!”
The manager in the parable was right to stake everything on the Master’s mercy. And so are you! The Master became the manager, and comes to you as the debtor. You were bankrupt before the Master and Jesus took all of your debt – all your unrighteousness, dishonesty, idolatry, unfaithfulness. He became the one in debt. Jesus came down from heaven, and took on the debt of the world. He descended from being the Master to the debtor. Now the darkness of debt has become the light of salvation. The darkness of Good Friday became the light of Easter, so that Jesus will receive you into his eternal dwellings.

Jesus has made you a friend to the Master, saying:
“With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
With the blameless man you show yourself blameless;”

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.”

THE PRAYERS

Almighty and most merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks for all Your goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Your dear Son and for the revelation of Your will and grace. Implant Your Word in us that, with good and honest hearts, we may keep it and bring forth the fruits of faith.

We humbly implore You to rule and govern Your Church throughout the world. Bless all those who proclaim Your truth, that we may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Your saving Word and that faith in You may be strengthened, love toward others increased and Your kingdom extended. Send forth laborers into Your harvest, and sustain those whom You have sent that the Word of reconciliation may be proclaimed to all people and the Gospel preached in all the world.

Grant health and prosperity to all who are in authority, especially to the president and Congress of the United States, the governor and legislature of this state (commonwealth), and to all who make, administer and judge our laws. Grant them grace to rule according to Your good pleasure for the maintenance of righteousness and the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.

According to Your good pleasure, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries that they may cease their hostilities and walk with us in meekness and in peace.

Comfort, O God, with Your Holy Spirit all who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death or any other adversity especially Carol and Lou in their time of recovery and therapy. Grant courage and steadfastness especially to those who suffer for Your name’s sake, that they may receive and accept their afflictions in the confidence that You will acknowledge them as Your own.

Although we have deserved Your righteous wrath and punishment, yet we ask You, O most merciful Father, not to remember the sins of our youth nor our many transgressions. Out of Your unspeakable goodness and mercy defend us from all harm and danger to body and soul. Preserve us from false doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and from famine, from anguish of heart and despair of Your mercy, and from an evil death. In every time of trouble, show Yourself a very present help, the Savior of all, especially to those who believe.

Cause all needed fruits of the earth to prosper, that we may enjoy them in due season. Give success to the Christian training of the young; to all lawful occupations on land, sea and air; and to all pure arts and useful knowledge, crowning them with Your blessing. Receive our thanks for the joys and blessings You grant to husbands and wives. Assist them always by Your grace to grow in love toward You and for each other. Hear us especially in thanksgiving for the anniversaries of Tom and Sue and of Jeff and Darice.

Receive, O God, our bodies and souls and all our talents, together with the offerings we bring before You, for by His blood Your Son has purchased us to be Your own that we may live under Him in His kingdom.

Grant Your Holy Spirit to those who come to the Lord’s Table this day, that they may receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ in sincere repentance and firm faith and to their abundant blessing.

These and whatsoever other things You would have us ask of You, O God, grant for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your only Son, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a