Tuesday September 14, 2010
Background on this weeks readings:
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 Jeremiah’s Lament
Here we have the prophet pouring his heart out in lament over the suffering of the people. Writing as he was after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, but before the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah in 586BCE, he is calling the nation back to faithful devotion to God and asserting that their future survival depends on it. Clearly, his heart is broken for the state of the nation and the people.
1 Timothy 2:1-7 Pray for your leaders
Here we have a snippet from the writer of 1 Timothy using language similar to that of Paul, but sounding more blunt and less nuanced than I believe Paul would ever sound. Biblical Scholar John D Crossan would say that of the three voices of Paul found in the work attributed to him, the radical Paul, the Conservative Paul and the reactionary Paul, this would be the reactionary Paul. The first section of this reading calls for prayer for the Kings and other leaders. As kind as this may be, I get the sense that this sentiment replaces a more radical sentiment that would have the early Christians opposing the secular authorities on behalf of the gospel. Thus opens a whole can of worms.
Luke 16:1-13 The Parable of the dishonest manager
Finally, the gospel reading offers us one of the most troublesome parables of Jesus. A manager gets caught skimming and squandering, is given notice to clear off his desk and be gone. Thinking ahead, before he leaves, he goes around and curries favours from all the clients, hoping to take care of his suddenly shaky future. According to verse 8-12, the moral of the story is, our future is kind of shaky, so be shrewd in this life to gain favours for the next one. Interestingly though, in verse 13 and following, though not directly addressing the earlier point, may actually lead us to a more central point. What about serving two masters? How many of us are “lovers of money?” (vs 14) Here I think we are getting to the main point. The one who appears to be the scoundrel in his use of money may be no more a scoundrel that the rest of us respectable folk who, when push comes to shove, are serving two masters and have no more clear motives than the scoundrel in the parable. Our very discomfort with the parable may well reveal how important money is to us.
I plan to focus on the Jeremiah and the Luke readings this week. The outpouring of Jeremiah’s heart is hard to resist. His question: “Is there a Balm in Gilead?” moves me. Is there no cure for the deep malaise of the people? How many situations give rise to such lament within our hearts: oil gushes into the Gulf of Mexico, we remember 9-11 while a pastor from the south calls for the burning of the Qur’an, thousands struggle in Pakistan.
Then, I turn to the gospel reading and the tangles we humans get ourselves into over money. Is there a balm, a healing salve for the brokenness of materialism? Does the Christian Way offer anything that might cure our love of money?
1. As your read Jeremiah’s lament, what situations come to you that bring forth similar lamentation? If you were to offer a prayer, naming the brokenness that most speaks to your heart in our day, what would that prayer include?
2. What is your initial reaction to the gospel reading? How do you feel about these words and this story coming out of Jesus’ mouth?
3. The gospel reading is really calling us to focus on our loyalty. The love of money is the problem. Expecting money to save us is the problem. To what degree have you placed your trust in the monetary system, RRSPs, investments, the stock market, to sustain your life? What else do you place your trust in?
1. From Christian Century: “Shrewd investment” by Jennifer Copeland http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3120
2. “Watermelon Rugby with the Shrewd Manager” by Alyce McKenzie http://www.patheos.com/community/mainlineportal/2010/09/12/watermelon-rugby-with-the-shrewd-manager-lectionary-reflection-on-luke-161-13-september-192010/