Good Dishonest Forgiveness

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 8:4-7

I Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13

The Manager in our parable inadvertently does some good, godly things. He has been found out for having squandered his boss’ property that he was supposed to be taking care of. This Manager was in trouble and was about to lose his job. Before the paperwork could be signed and his pink slip could be delivered, the Manager decides to try to worm his way into the good graces of the clients he would soon no longer serve. “If I can scratch their back now, maybe they will scratch my back later. Maybe they will do me a solid and give me a place to crash and some food to eat until I can get on my feet again.” So the Manager sets out to visit his clients. He asks each of the clients how much debt they owe the Manager’s boss and methodically cuts it dramatically. 100 jugs of oil get cut to just 50 and 100 containers of wheat get cut to 80.

Imagine being 15 years in on your 30-year home mortgage and a representative from the bank comes to your home and says to you, “You know what? Let’s just forgive the rest of your mortgage payments. Your house is paid in full now. It’s yours.” Or imagine someone offering you or a family member 2 free years of college. Or imagine going to the supermarket and every trip for the next 10 years, every single thing in the store is marked “Buy one, get one free!”

What a deal! Suddenly you are freed up to take care of other debts, to get that surgery or doctor’s visit you’ve been putting off, to go back to school, or to get someone a nice Christmas present. From your perspective, this Manager, extravagantly and generously forgave your debts and freed you from all the worries tied up with that debt.

In a truly odd fashion, the Manager’s boss gets wind of this mass forgiveness and instead of sending him to jail for effectively giving away the money that likely belonged to the boss, he praises the Manager “because he had acted shrewdly.”

The manager had previously been reliant on himself and his ability to get money. He didn’t need the help of another soul when things were going his way. Then, his boss finds out that he’s been squandering his property. The situation changes suddenly. After some shrewd planning, the manager realizes that he needs to form community ASAP. From a purely self-serving motivation, this manager realizes that his only hope of surviving this life is to make some friends. Continue reading

Found

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 32:7-14

I Timothy 1:12-17

Luke 15:1-10

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. On that day the news was filled with images of the airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers and those gargantuan structures holding thousands of people crumbling in an explosion of fire and debris. Those who had loved ones who worked in the towers or worked or lived near the towers were filled with dread as they hoped against hope that their father, mother, sibling, friend, or lover was able to get away in time and escape with their lives. Friends and family frantically called and texted their loved ones. Some were lucky enough to have received a response back.

These are some of the texts from that day from folks who had received news that their loved one was safe or from their loved one letting them know they were OK.

“My dad survived! I got a call from stepmom’s coworker saying my dad is alive, although that is all the info I have. I do not know if he is injured or unscathed.”

“Abroer’s father is alive,” one text proclaims. “survived WTC collapse. I am trying to contact family members to find out more.”

“urgent. It’s tim. I’m okay. Call me at home…i was outside the building when it exploded, but i’m fine.”

“pete is ok. He can’t find his brother who works in the world financial center next to the trade center…..”

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/11/25/september.11.messages/

 

Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. In these stories someone has lost something incredibly important to them. The shepherd has lost one of his sheep and the woman has lost her coin. They search high and low and do not rest until they find what they are looking for and when they find it, they throw a big party to celebrate.

I imagine that the joy God and the rest of heaven feel- the kind that makes them want to spontaneously party- is the same kind of joy felt by those who found their loved ones alive and well on September 11, 2001. They feared the worst, but were surprised and relieved with joy. The beloved child of God was lost but is now found.

But what about those who seem to still be lost? What about those who made phone calls that were never connected or who sent text messages but never received a reply? They did not receive the joy of finding what was lost and it just doesn’t seem fair. Continue reading