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Luke 16:1-13

When I prepare to create a message... a sermon,
I first read the text over and over again, imagining myself as every character...
asking questions... looking at details.

I look to see if there might be more than one story
woven together, or stories told in a sequence.

I listen to the Spirit, for out of the ordinary, meanings, or themes.
I look for context, situational history, and cultural influences.

I also read what other people have said about the text...
historians, other preachers, commentators,
sometimes critic of scripture.

Again and again... when studying this particular reading...
people started with a similar statement:
This is a really difficult text.
If you feel puzzled, confused, or even downright mystified by this parable,
you’re in good company.
Nothing prepared me for this morning’s biblical text.
This parable may be confusing and feel inappropriate.
Any commentator will tell you that this is a difficult text.

I am not sure too many people like to be faced with difficult things.
We like life to go smoothly and easily.

Yet when I look around today... not so much in our world is easy,
not so much goes along without bumps and detours and stalls.

I met a person the other day who simply doesn’t / won’t ...
watch the news.... too much negativity they say!

But are we not... to engage in life, and make a difference, right where we are?
Especially when things are difficult?

These days it is hard to know what to do about many things.

On October 21 all Canadians 18 years and older will be voting.
I am an optimist.

Right now... listening to the news,
some might say it is really difficult to know what to do.

We might feel puzzled, confused, or even downright mystified.

But we are called to be aware, to pay attention,
to ask good questions, to listen to others, to examine the issues.

And then we have Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Iran.
Are we feeling puzzled, confused, downright mystified and even afraid?

This past Friday there was a climate strike where
hundreds of thousands of young people, across six continents,
left their classrooms and gathered in the streets.

Then on Saturday, youth leaders assembled at the United Nations
to demand radical moves to fight climate change.

Activists at Saturday's gathering
demanded money for a fund to help poorer nations
adapt to a warming world and provide greener energy.

They also insisted that the world should wean itself quickly
from coal, oil and gas that cause climate change.

We are in the season of Pentecost... Creation Time.
We celebrate creation... yes, but we must also recognize that she is groaning.

What are we doing? What must we begin to do?

We might feel puzzled, confused, even downright mystified and caught in old habits.

Shall we return to the Parable before I lose you entirely?

Understanding the issues, recognizing context,
and listening to the Spirit matters.

Cultural context for the Parable reminds us that in the time of Jesus,
the master... the rich man... or employer,
did not pay a wage to the manager... the employee.

Instead, a manager made their money by adding a fee,
on to the bill given to the customer.

The customers likely did not know the break down of those costs.

Also... when the manager knew that he was being fired...
he went back to the customers,
and offered them a reduction in the fee,
hoping to ‘buy’ a friend... through a perceived generosity.

In this culture, paying someone back... or returning a favour...
is an obligation.

If the manager does a favour for the rich man’s clients,
they will be obligated to somehow return the favour.

Reading this Parable from the perspective of the peoples who lived
in the time of Jesus... things make a bit more sense.

But why does the Parable have the rich man, commend the manager for acting shrewdly... and instruct the disciples to make friends by the means of dishonest wealth?

This is where I wonder if there are not two or three,
stories or teachings mingled in this one text.

The words following the Parable...
the words that seem to be Jesus’ explanation... appear a little more clear.

Not completely clear, however.

One of the lessons of this Parable might be
that we should use every means at our disposal
to prepare for our futures... not that we should be dishonest,
but shrewd.... which can be translated as prudent or wise.

Jesus also calls us to faithfulness in the little things,
because most of life is made up of small things.

Few of us can save the world,
but we can be honest, tutor a child, visit a person,
or stand beside someone who is being treated harshly.

“The one who is faithful in a very little, is faithful also in much” (v. 10)

Jesus is also talking about a different way of using wealth.
Having money is not a bad thing.

Yet remembering that all we have belongs to God,
we are to have Holy things in mind
as we live our lives and spend our money.

We cannot serve God and wealth,
yet we can serve God with wise use of our wealth.

The Author of the Gospel we call Luke,
often describes the ministry of Jesus and his disciples,
as being dependent on the hospitality of others.

The manager was forced to reach out to others,
and trust in their future goodness.

Old hierarchies were overturned
and new friendships are established.

The challenge of navigating my way through
this parable caused me to reflect
on the present state of the world in this moment.

I was constantly reminded that sometimes,
not much makes sense in the world except that which is a mystery.

We might feel puzzled, confused, or even downright mystified.

But we are called to be aware, to pay attention,
to ask good questions, to listen to others, to examine the issues.

We are called to follow the Christ,
in the ways of hope, justice and compassion.

I am not alone in this,
together we can make difference in this world.

Together we are a voice for hope, justice and compassion.

And when we are that voice...
when our hearts sing, and the fires of justice burn...
God will turn the world around.