Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Psalmic Verses: Creation-Song


Abba, U slung this chunk of cooling space-rock into orbit * and wrapped the
biosphere around it.
U coaxed forth precise conditions * for thoughts slowly to emerge, tentative
and slimy, from primeaval mud.
U provided animals for our clumsy ancestors to hunt, * and on the walls
of caves they scrawled icons of their gratitude.
U sought out tribes to represent U in the world, * and wrestled them into
something like submission.
U rescued them from slavery by the hand of Moses and Aaron, * and many
unsubmissive women.
U hounded them with relentless prophets, * and beheld the folly of their
U revealed Urself in unexpected births, * and in the fertility of fields and flocks.
U scattered them like seeds upon the earth, * that they might become a blessing to
the world.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The "Parable of the Dishonest Manager" Luke 16:1-13

Luke 16:1-13

About the “dishonest manager…”

WE are the “Dishonest Manager”, just as we are the “Rich Young Man”, the Good Samaritan, Lazarus, etc. ALL wealth is dishonest. There is NO “parable of the righteous Manager.” Even the Good Samaritan is in need of forgiveness. We all partake of what the older translations call “Mammon,” even if we avoid the flagrant wheeling & dealing of the Dishonest Manager.
So then, some will ask, “what’s the point of trying to be honest? A legitimate question, and one that has been addressed by St. Paul, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and many others… but not by me at this moment. I leave the issue of “antinomianism” for another day.
“The Master commended the Dishonest Manager. There is a clue! What “Master” would do that? The beginning of the parable paints a picture of the Master as a typical boss-man. The Dishonest Manager does not go to the Master and say, “I figure you’d be impressed if I doctored the books to my own advantage.” He had to be as astonished as we are at this unexpected twist in the plot.
So does that mean we will be commended if we act shrewdly on behalf of the kingdom? “Make friends for yourselves”, he says (and so did Pastor Manisha in her sermon yesterday) using “dishonest wealth” (is there any other kind?). Nothing is said about how the Dishonest Manager RESPONDED to the Master’s equanimity. Chances are, he saw it as a sign of weakness and became more corrupt than ever.
The kingdom of God is a Retirement Community for unsuccessful swindlers and inside-traders. “How did I get here?” asks Bernie Mahdoff. “Beats me”, responds the head of ENRON Corp., “you must have done somebody a favor back in the day. As for me, I can’t stand this place, all these big wedding parties with riff raff as guests of honor. I’m trying to arrange for a transfer to some other kingdom.” “There’s only one other alternative that I know of.” says Bernie. “It’s hard to get used to this forgiveness thing, but I find that it’s growing on me.”

Good News. Great News. We are forgiven for our participation in the Kingdom of Mammon. We are like Jonah, swallowed by the Monster but vomited safely back on shore by virtue of the grace of God. Our part is to stop fighting it, but even if we can’t stop (and no one can, if they eat), the Mischievous Master keeps pulling the rug out from under both our sins and our virtues. It’s also our responsibility to accept the essential kinship between ourselves and the Dishonest Manager types.

* From henceforth I shall refer to this passage as “The Parable of the Mischievous Master.”