Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Mercy of the Master

Title slide
The manager in Jesus’ parable this week…
is a liar and a cheat.
Eventually his boss catches him out
…and the dishonest manager gets the boot

And there’s a moment of decision in Jesus story…
did you notice…as the manager thinks to himself…

Word slide
 ‘what shall I do now?’

Seems to me he’s got some choices
he could cut and
run… and try to find work
where nobody knows his name and
he could give up in
despair….and throw himself in the river

or…he could
risk throwing himself on the mercy of his master…by turning things around.

If he moves
away… he’d give up on the relationship with his master…if he throws himself in river he’s giving up on life …but if he risks everything trusting in his master’s mercy …trusting he’ll be forgiven… maybe things will work out

What does he do?

He works hard to turn things

how does his master respond? ……… By praising him…..For what?  [ask]
That’s right…for his cleverness. [pause]

Garrett slide
Two days ago… embattled Act MP…David Garrett… announced his resignation from the partythis follows revelations that… in 1984…
he stole a dead baby's
identity… to obtain a false passport and then swore a false affidavit in court

After a frenzied outcry from voters…
boss Rodney Hide… tells him to hit the road.

When Garrett realises his position is untenable
like the dishonest steward… I imagine…he asked
slide words
‘what do I do

Do I catch the next plane to Timbuktu and become a politician there? Do I give up and resign from politics all together…or shall I throw myself on the mercy the voting public…from whom I’ve hidden the truth? [pause]

Well…I guess following politics… is different than following Jesus. And that’s really what I want to talk about today…because it’s likely David Garrett is history politically speaking.

Now…David Garrett and I have very little in common
politically…he leans to the right…I lean to the left…he’s pro-smacking…I’m against it… he’s a brawler… I’m a pacifist…

In a political argument we’d disagree on almost everything.
And I have no idea of his true character…
or whether he has
repented and reformed…I don’t know him.

Cartoon slide
What disturbs me… is the media feeding frenzy…
fuelled by public
outrage… around the discovery
of a
crime committed twenty six years ago…
and the absence of
any public discussion…on the place of forgiveness in politics….

Steward slide
It amazes me how once again the lectionary readings for today are so appropriate for our reflection on current events
because following Jesus
is so different…
from following politics.[pause]

story of the dishonest steward makes no political sense at all. And it’s probably the most difficult of his parables to understand

Why? Because it’s
thoroughly counter-intuitive…
and there’s a lot we don’t
like about it…first we don’t like the manager… but mostly…we don’t like the outcome when he’s praised for his cleverness.

Shouldn’t the manager get what he
end to the relationship with his master?

But perhaps this is precisely Jesus’ point.
Maybe Jesus is
sayinglisten you Pharisee’s
howling at me for breaking bread with sinners
the mercy and grace and
forgiveness of God… are counter
your logic…particularly when you believe in just deserts.

Garrett slide
Now Garrett himself has fought for a limit to public mercy…he’s a champion of the three strikes you’re out legislation…in relation to prison release. So it seems even Garret believes there must be an end to mercy at some point in a criminal career…no matter how a person changes.

It may be that Garret will reconsider his position now. [pause]

I’m sure we were all shocked…by the revelation…
of Garrett’s long hidden
crimes. But…
was ours a
gut reaction… or did we pause to reflect
on what an gospel oriented Christian response would be?
Did we
ask ourselves what Jesus’ would do?
Or what Jesus taught
God would do?

Were we even
interested in finding out whether David Garrett had changed since his last crime…do we even believe people can change? Or did we yell ‘off with his head’? before we even thought about it. [pause]
Hands slide
What was it Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount? [ask]

Word slide
‘Blessed are the merciful…for they shall obtain mercy.’

Yes that’s it……and I’m grateful that following Jesus is different than following politics
because not a day goes by…
I don’t need to trust in God’s mercy myself!
I don’t know about you

but I’m also
relieved… to discover there’s a difference
in my judgmental
gut reaction to what David Garrett did…
and my ‘when-I-stop-to-
think-about-it-follower-of-Jesus-reaction’ [pause]

You know it’s likely the vast political majority… won’t allow David Garret… to be forgiven

no matter how much he changes…he’s unlikely to be invited back to the political table…

But that’s
not how Jesus’ story of the dishonest managerends… is it?
his moment of decision…he chooses…
to trust in the mercy of his
master…and turn things around.

And one of my favourite biblical scholars…Walter Brueggemann wrote … ‘if we see the “master” in Jesus’ parable as the trust worthy God… who is the only source of well-being in the world…before this master…we need not cringe in fear or hide’ when we mess up…

can turn things around…for he has come toward us in Jesus…and when we do turn back we find a place of forgiveness and grace…is always laid for us…
at our masters