Comparing notes on the dishonest steward

The Gospel reading for yesterday was the parable of the dishonest steward (Luke 16:1-13), the guy who knew he would lose his job for embezzlement and so took the opportunity to forgive the debts of those who owed his boss money, as a way to get in good with them when he would be unemployed. His boss commended his shrewd dealing, as did Jesus, in a way. That’s a fascinating parable, but it’s one of the hardest to interpret and apply.

Churches that follow the three-year-lectionary, not only Lutherans but other denominations as well, will all have read that passage in church yesterday and very likely heard a sermon on it. That means that many of us here heard takes on what that sermon means. Let’s compile what we learned.

My pastor took the part about those who had their debts forgiven and applied it not to money but to sin: We all have a debt we cannot pay. We were forgiven it earlier in the service when we heard the absolution from the pastor.

I heard of another pastor today who observed that the steward, for all of his own problems, was showing mercy.

What aspects of the parable were illuminated for you in yesterday’s sermon? (Pastors, tell us what you did with it. Laypeople, tell us what you got out of it.)

Dumb parables?

Another great sermon from Pastor Douthwaite, preaching on Luke 15:1-10.  An excerpt:

And so Jesus says: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”

And the Pharisees and scribes are perhaps thinking to themselves here: What man of them? None of them! Why risk the 99 for the sake of the one? It shouldn’t have wandered off anyway. It’s probably too dumb to stay with the flock. But to preserve the 99, that – you see, Jesus – is what’s called an “acceptable loss.” But even so, if one did find that sheep, why rejoice? It needs discipline, so it won’t wander off again. Hmm . . .

Then Jesus says: “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?”

Well, this parable makes a little more sense, for sure, you’re talking about money here. Of course you’d look for lost money!

But then, Jesus continues, “And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ ”

Um, no. Because if you found this coin you’ve just been looking so hard for, why spend it on your neighbors? They didn’t help you look for it, did they? And why would you spend so much time looking for it if you were just going to spend it? Hmm . . .

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. . . . [T]here is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Joy? Why? If a sinner repents, he’s just doing what he was supposed to do. And he shouldn’t have sinned in the first place! So why rejoice? These are dumb parables, Jesus. Nobody does these things.

Well, not nobody. Jesus does them. The true Shepherd. The Good Shepherd. The Shepherd for whom there are no “acceptable losses.” The Shepherd who laid down His life for all the sheep. The Shepherd who searches and does not give up. The Shepherd who loves His sheep more than you can possibly imagine. The Shepherd whose heart is filled with joy whenever one of His sheep is found. No matter who they are, no matter where they have wandered, and no matter how long they have been lost, there is joy in heaven and in the heart of the Good Shepherd when each and every sheep is back, safe and sound, in His arms.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 16 Sermon.


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