9.15.2010

17th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20), Year C

* Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Psalm 79:1-9 •
* Amos 8:4-7 and Psalm 113 •
* 1 Timothy 2:1-7 •
* Luke 16:1-13

You are focused on the wrong things.

For the better part of our existence, this is a woeful understatement. Of course we (Matt & Laura) spend a decent amount of time focused on the wrong things. How about you?

Really - it's not a difficult reality to name and to look at. We can all look back on our lives and see spaces where we put all of our energy and all of our time in to exactly the wrong things. We know these things happen, but what do we DO about it?

This week the lectionary readings have us keenly aware of how often we are focused on the wrong things...things that do not matter...things that might provide some comfort, some pleasure, some measure of superiority. But do they make the world a better place? Do they call forward the Kingdom of God into this time and this place among those with whom we interact?

The passage from Jeremiah begins in a dark way. We spent some time really sorting through who was speaking here. We are hearing the divine God through the words of Jeremiah. God is sad and disappointed and weary and frustrated. It isn't often that we attribute these emotions to the Divine. But here, God has tended the people of Israel, he has saved them from captivity, he has set leaders before them time and time again. When judges and priests were not enough, the God of Israel raised up Kings, even though it supplanted God's sovereign power. Now the people are focused less and less on their relationship with God and more and more on their safety, their supremacy, and their political might. How frustrating that must be for the Creator and Liberator who has turned back to these people with mercy and grace time and time again.

In Luke, we are faced with very difficult parable about a wealthy man's business manager who is found lacking. When he realizes that he is going to lose his job, he goes out to the wealthy man's debtors and colludes with them to falsify what they truly owe, endearing himself to these people so that they might be kind to him later when he is without a job. It helps to read the parables and teachings surrounding this one. This parable follows on the heels of the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. And it precedes a teaching about the Kingdom of God in which Jesus tells the pharisees that while they justify themselves based on what others think, God knows their hearts and judges them accordingly. There is a warning among these stories...God knows God's creation and will seek after it. Does God know you? How will God find your heart?

1 Timothy is a letter to a community written before the early church sorted out its understanding of the Trinity - the relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We were drawn to a few things here. In this translation, the author is pretty clear that Jesus is a mediator of God, the only one mediator, and a human. Let all of those things sink in. The author is also encouraging the community to pray for its Kings (occupying leaders like the Romans and Greeks? neighboring Kings?). So the passage begins encouraging a universalism of sorts - pray for everyone. Then it quickly limits the focus - there is only one mediator of the one God. Ouch. (Go ahead, read further...1 Timothy is also source text for many controversial teachings about women's roles in the church).

Lay all of these things beside one another and the result can be a baffling patchwork - if we're trying to make it all work together.
But that brings us back to our original thought. When we look at all the different things these passages aim toward, how do we know if we are focused on the right things?

God, we hear so many messages
and it is hard to know which one to
listen to.
Even beyond the average voices
that compete for our competition,
it is tough to know
which is the right thing to
focus on.
Guide us.
Help us discern.
Be with us as
we find our way.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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