Deacon Cornell's Homily


Amos 8:4-7 1
Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13


September 17-18, 2016, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

There is a story told about Mark Twain having an argument about polygamy with a Mormon. The Mormon challenged Mark Twain by saying, "Show me where in the Bible it says I cannot have more than one wife." Mark Twain quickly quoted from today's Gospel passage: No man can serve two masters!

Many years ago I read a commentatary on today's Gospel passage that said this parable is uniquely qualified to teach us how to read and interpret parables. Parables, like most of scripture, are not meant to be read literally. Hopefully you have gotten that message clearly over the past few weeks as we have heard Jesus say he came to set the world on fire, that we must hate our mothers and fathers if we want to be disciples, and then last week, asking "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?" If Jesus asked that question at the National Association of Working Shepherds, the answer would have been: No one; ever!

In today’s reading, Jesus is not telling us that devious employees are to be emulated or even admired. He holds up the behavior of the servant who is about to be separated from his job as a contrast to the behavior of those who claim to be his disciples. How many people here know how many games the Red Sox have left in the regular season? How many people know what the school budget is for Stow this fiscal year?How about the closing Dow Jones Index this week? How about all the words to your current favorite song? Please don't raise your hands on this: how many people have jobs that require a master's degree or equivalent in education or training or better? My point is that this community is made up of very educated, very capable, very motivated people.

Again no hands, how many people remember what last Sunday's readings were; all 3? How many people here know who the prophet Amos is or why he wrote what we heard in our first reading? For those who don't, how many plan to go home and google it? And finally for now, how would those of you who silently answered yes to having a job that required an advanced degree respond if someone with a 9th or 10th grade level awareness of your job said that they disagreed with how you are doing your job? I ask this because I had coffee with Deacon Bob Brady this week and in talking about people coming for marriage or to bring their children for baptism he remarked that he frequently hears people say that they disagree with this or that Church teaching. The reality is that most people have at best a 9th or 10th grade understanding of Church teaching.

So it seems that as it was in Jesus' day so it continues today. We are still much more likely to take initiative in worldly things than in our relationship to Christ. What would happen if we applied the same thinking to our faith life as the unjust steward did to his life? At some level each of us has to make the fundamental decision as to whether we believe there is a loving God whose plan or vision for us is to call us to become all He has created us to be, or there is no such God and all of what we see is pretty meaningless. If I decide there is no God, then I should stick to it and stop wasting time coming to Church or loving anyone. But if I decide there is such a God, doesn't it make sense to find out more about this God, and then try to respond to that call? It is pretty simple and Fr. Walter laid it out simply at the town meeting last Wednesday. If we decide for God then we need to learn to know God who is most humanly accessible in the person of Jesus Christ; then we need to live out that loving call in community since that is how God made us and calls us to live; and then, because we are the body of Christ here and now, act as Christ does by passing this love and challenging call on by making others disciples as well.

I am suggesting that if we decide for God we should devote every bit as much of our intelligence, and education, and motivation to responding to this call as we do to all the other things we do in life. Just as the steward was motivated to provide for his livelihood, we should be motivated by the realization that living out our faith fully is what is needed to bring about the kingdom of God here on earth. That is not just providing for our livelihood, it is making this world a place where there is no hunger, there is no violence and oppression or terrorism, there is no addiction or mental illness or homlessness. Isn't that the world we want for our children and our grandchildren. Isn't that the world we want for ourselves? That is what is at the heart of our collaborative pastoral plan; that is what we taste and anticipate as we gather here week after week to celebrate Eucharist. What will it take for us to have the zeal and the initiative of the devious servant?

For me it is the very same realization that the steward in today's parable had: I don't have any other choice. I cannot live in this world without doing everything I can to bring about the kingdom of God, here and now. I cannot live with the pain I see around me and in me without doing everything I can to respond to the only thing which can heal that pain: Christ's love. The prayer that is in my heart and on my lips is that you all decide the same way: to know that Christ loves you, experience that love in this community, and then share that love with everyone you meet.

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