September 18, 2016

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– The Rev’d Carole Neilson –

Focus texts Jeremiah 8:18-9:1, Psalm 79:1-9, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Luke 16: 1-13

Today’s Gospel reading is the parable of the Dishonest Steward. This is a difficult parable to understand as it can be interpreted in several ways. But just to be clear about one fact: Jesus is not praising rascals and cheaters. Instead, he is illustrating how clever people can be, and how we can use our energy and cooperation as part of how we cope in the world.

The parable does not end with the master commending the dishonest steward. The words of Jesus which follow are the theme of his message. “Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful in much… “Christianity is all about ‘giving —of sharing. Jesus told his followers to go into all the world sharing the good news of Christ risen… By sharing the good news about Jesus and God’s love for humanity and creation, we have to act. We give to those less fortunate, we nurture the young, strive to be peacemakers, greet strangers, and minister to the sick and the dying.

As autumn begins and the homeless become more visible in metro Vancouver, we have opportunities to answer the call to be faithful stewards. This city of New Westminster stands out among the cities as a place where the homeless can receive a hot meal every day. Today, a church on eighth street is providing breakfast. At noon today, the Salvation Army serves lunch. Other churches and missions serve meals the rest of the week. Our parish serves a wholesome breakfast every Thursday all year, including holidays.

Today’s Gospel shows us how we can be involved with the world while holding fast to our ethics and values in the name of Jesus Christ. St. John Chrysostom wrote, “The rich man is not one who is in possession of much, but who gives much.” Giving our time, our skills, and our money is part of our calling as we travel our faith journey with Jesus Christ.

You have probably heard the phrase, “The Christian Church exists for the people outside its doors”. We are not a private club. As Paul wrote to Timothy in today’s reading, “requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving are to be made for all people. Pray for kings and everyone in authority.”

Paul recognizes that God’s love is open to everyone – to those who know God and those who don’t.”

One of the strengths of our faith is that while we pray for all sorts and conditions throughout the world, we are expected not to submit to injustice and wrong. We are called to be God’s giants, resolutely striding out to meet whatever comes. We celebrate the good, comfort those in need, and work for the peace and justice of everyone.

The fact that we expand our sphere of who we pray for, shows we respect people in every walk of life – from the poor stranger to the most powerful leaders. Respecting others does not mean we are a submissive people. Oppression and the misuse of justice or the environment are challenges we see everywhere. It is our calling to help those who need it.

Make no mistake.. our faith journey with Jesus Christ is not always easy.

Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we follow, He leads. He is the one who enables us to keep life in balance.

There is nothing wrong in having wealth as long as our wealth is not our master. It is a mark of our faith that we are not known by how much we have, but how much of our time, our skills and our money we give away.

As faithful stewards, we pray about these things. We all have personal responsibilities, and need the steady hand of our Lord to direct us in ways that benefit us, and those around us, our family, friends, strangers, and all creation.

We can do our bit – nickels, dimes, and quarters add up. Our time given in spite of the hectic pace of life, and using our skills and training are all seen. God sees what we offer and knows the sincerity in our hearts as we give.

Yesterday, I watched the Disease Conference being held in Montreal. Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, the philanthropist Bill Gates, Un. Sec. Gen. Ban Ki -Moon, and rock star Bono were among the speakers. The theme of the conference is “Let it end forever’ meaning the diseases – AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Bill Gates said this is humanity at its best.” It is gatherings like these that can bring much needed change to our troubled world. We know it is possible to reach out beyond national borders and help everyone regardless of race, religion, culture or creed.

When we gather as a Christian community, we are making a statement about our relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and with each other, Coming to church is an individual choice. Our decision to come on a regular basis should lift our spirits, individually and as a family or community of believers. Our support for one another is crucial for our faith journey.

There is strength in community. Our prayers are answered, and our praise is heard. Knowing we belong helps us build our sense of self-worth. Last week, we heard the parable about the lost sheep and lost coin. The shepherd left his flock to find the lost sheep. The woman swept and cleaned her house until she found the lost coin. They called in their friends and neighbours to celebrate because both the sheep and coin had value.

This is how we should live – holding all life as valuable – rejoicing when good things happen, helping when tragedy occurs, knowing that wherever we are, and whatever happens, we are in God’s hands.

We cannot explain why there is so much suffering and tragedy in the world. But we can be among those who help in whatever way we can.

In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus says, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.. for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me, He was asked, When did we do all these things for you?”

His answer, “I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of people, you did it to me.”

We are called to be noble, generous, honest and true. Our Lord is our master, and we are his trustworthy stewards. Let us rise up and be the best that we can be – today, tomorrow, and always.

Amen.