First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Sermon & Weekly Bulletin ~ September 22, 2019

09-22-19 Bulletin PDF

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. “Building Good Credit”
  2. First glance and deeper exploration
    1. Context and perspective
    2. Both of today’s scriptures can be difficult to comprehend, or seem to lead us in one direction, when actually leading us in another direction altogether
      1. depending on your starting point of view
    3. So, how we understand the scriptures has to do with where we locate ourselves in the scripture
      1. The everpresent Gospel message about the inversion of power
    4. 1 Timothy
      1. Initial glance, seems to call Christians to support the political structures of the day
      2. 1 Timothy 2:2 – often prooftexted by people who support the current administration, and prooftexted by other people when they agreed with the previous administration.
      3. Yet, there is the wider context, not just the prooftext
      4. Historical context, Roman views of other religions. “you can worship who you want, but honor our gods, too” This was a source of tension between Israelites and Romans, as well as the fledgling Christians.
      5. Practical piece of advice. Making sure the rulers are included in prayers for ALL people.
        1. Means to an end, help us Christians get by while we seek to change things
      6. Sure, pray for the leaders, but not in the way they command you to pray for them. Pray for them like you pray for everyone else, and to make life simpler
        1. Scripture is more egalitarian than at first glance
        2. They aren’t gods, but people
      7. Luke 16, at first glance
        1. Rich man finds out his household manager is swindling him. He asks for an accounting of the books before dismissing him
        2. The manager cuts a deal to win favor with the master’s debtors, and the master commends him for it?
        3. Then good aphorisms, but some how not quite connected to the story very well?
          1. 10 “Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.
          2. 11 If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
  • 12 If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own?
  1. 13 No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
  1. 1st Modern example of this reading
    1. A week ago Saturday, Carson King, was seen on ESPN’s “College GameDay” holding a poster that said “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” and then gave his cell number to be sent money via web app venmo.
      1. After 30 minutes, he’d made $400. After he hit $600 he thought, ‘There are better things I can do with this’
      2. After talking to his family and deducting out the cost of a case of Busch Light, he decided to give the rest to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital
  • By Tuesday evening, he’d made $20,000. Both Busch Beer and Venmo have agreed to match his donation.
  1. Help unpack Luke
    1. Honor shame – what if he’d kept the money? Not a feel good story. Maybe a story of a shrewd business man, but ultimately selfish and self serving.
  2. Instead, Carson King built up another kind of credit – goodwill
    1. In a relational way.
    2. so did Venmo and Busch. If he’d kept the money, they’d have looked bad by association, but they used this to their advantage to build a bit of goodwill
  3. one reading of Gospel passage, then, is advice for building good credit beyond the financial
    1. makes assumptions about relative statuses of master and manager
  4. Luke – Jesus’ parable of the accused manager
    1. Manager lost master’s trust after an unfounded accusation
      1. Background – household manager was usually a slave, less often an employee. And, more importantly, the line between the two was pretty blurred.
      2. This accusation eliminated the manger’s best skill set, not leaving him many options.
  • The system he’s used to care for himself just abandoned him, with little notice and little concern for his well being.
  1. Decides to build up good will, or good credit, with master’s debtors
  2. a purely economic perspective, it is conniving
    1. Accused of poor management, so he squanders more, and gets applauded for it?
    2. How would any other employer ever trust him?
  3. Holy Spirit – reversing the social order
    1. Using the master’s tools against him
    2. Why should he (or anyone) support or work within a system that has so little regard for them?
  • Reminds me of GM cutting off health care for striking workers, making one more argument for universal healthcare
  1. Difference between lawful and good
    1. Important traits and point of view from the under classes, especially slaves
    2. Robin hood effect, steal from the rich to give to the poor
  • Manager was condemned to, at best, menial labor, for something he may or may not have done
  1. What value is there to try and regain honor when already condemned
  1. So, manager looked out for others who are also impoverished and also himself
    1. Why expect people to be lawful when the laws don’t benefit them?
  2. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.
  1. Jesus’ inversion of power and responsibility
    1. Care for one another first. Don’t let religious proscriptions or rules of finance get in your way
    2. Tension between worldly and Godly.
      1. Honesty and dishonest aren’t the only measures of Godly behavior
      2. Doesn’t make for keeping the existing social order stable
  • Does make for moving towards God’s kin-dom, when all the children of God are cared for above all
  1. The manager was only called dishonest by Jesus after reducing the debts. And, that was the part that the master was commended for.
    1. So dishonesty was possibly a good thing in this case
  2. Which do you value more, lawful or good?
    1. Can there be a chaotic good? Robin Hood, trickster good.
  3. Worldly wealth is unrighteous wealth
    1. Important translation difference. CEB calls it “worldly wealth” as does NIV
      1. NRSV “dishonest wealth” CEV “wicked wealth”
      2. Linking the inherent dishonesty in the financial systems of the world
    2. KJV and NKJV don’t translate, keep the Greek, mammon¸ the embodiment of wealth, the god of wealth
    3. No household servant can serve two masters. … You cannot serve God and wealth\Mammon
  4. Who do you serve? God or mammon?
    1. If your first response to policies are, yeah that might be a good idea, but we can’t afford it, that’s a good indication that mammon is being valued more.
    2. Or your response is, yes, we need that, but I wouldn’t trust _______ with it (government, poor people, etc.). maybe you are desiring order more than goodness.
    3. God’s measure of faithfulness is different than the businesspersons.
    4. If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
  • 2nd modern example of today’s reading
    1. Climate strike inspired by Greta Thunberg –
      1. Education strike, what’s the point of going to school if the world that I’m being prepared for won’t exist by then?
    2. Why participate in a system that won’t care for us?
      1. Profit over people, profit over climate
    3. Faithfulness isn’t to a financial system, it’s to the people of the world.
  • Building up good credit in the eyes of God
    1. Jesus says “I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.”
    2. In the tension between God and Mammon, one can be used to serve the other
    3. 10 “Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.
      1. Anecdote about substance abuse counselor who blew through toll booths, and his people didn’t get better.
    4. 11 If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
      1. If you haven’t been faithful to God with things that don’t ultimately matter?
    5. 12 If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own?
      1. The Earth is God’s we are called to be the stewards. Yet we have not been adequately caring for God’ property.
    6. 13 No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
      1. God’s kingdom is more than just turning unexpected worldly gain to a better advantage for yourself that also benefits others (though do that too, whenever you can)
      2. God is calling us to radically re-prioritize people over profit. And if we need to buck the current systems in power to do it, so be it. That is building the true better credit.

Readings

1 Timothy 2:1-7 Can be found on page ___________ of your pew Bible.

We continue our reading of the letter to Timothy. Last week, we were reminded that Paul’s salvation was an example of God’s endless mercy and patience, and perhaps better equipped him to spread the good news.

2 First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people. 2 Pray for kings and everyone who is in authority so that we can live a quiet and peaceful life in complete godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and it pleases God our savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a payment to set all people free. This was a testimony that was given at the right time. 7 I was appointed to be a preacher and apostle of this testimony—I’m telling the truth and I’m not lying! I’m a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Luke 16:1-13 Can be found on page ___________ of your pew Bible.

Today’s reading from Luke continues from last week’s reading, where Jesus shared two parables to illustrate that God seeks out the lost and celebrates when they return.”

16 Jesus also said to the disciples, “A certain rich man heard that his household manager was wasting his estate. 2 He called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give me a report of your administration because you can no longer serve as my manager.’

3 “The household manager said to himself, What will I do now that my master is firing me as his manager? I’m not strong enough to dig and too proud to beg. 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I am removed from my management position, people will welcome me into their houses.

5 “One by one, the manager sent for each person who owed his master money. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your contract, sit down quickly, and write four hundred fifty gallons.’ 7 Then the manager said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘One thousand bushels of wheat.’ He said, ‘Take your contract and write eight hundred.’

8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted cleverly. People who belong to this world are more clever in dealing with their peers than are people who belong to the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.

10 “Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much. 11 If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own? 13 No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”