1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16: 1-13
I am writing this on Monday morning, twenty-four hours since we celebrated Homecoming here at Bethel. In so many ways, it was a great and very special day.
Twenty four hours ago, our friend Rev. Buddy Marston was here, preaching on Nehemiah 4:14 : After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the LORD, Who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
[ Please let me know if you would like a CD or tape of yesterday’s worship service- they will be freely available, later this week. The sermon, in particular, is well worth hearing again. ]
It would be unwise and unhelpful for me to try to summarize briefly what Rev. Marston said so well and in such depth. Even so, it seemed to me that his main emphasis was on fighting for God’s future for our churches, our families, our people. He emphasized that our enemy in this fight is Satan, who hates all of God’s works, especially people.
“Remember the LORD” means that we are not alone in this fight: God fights for His people and His Church. At his conclusion, Rev. Marston stated, “I believe Bethel Church is that kind of church, that will not let people fight alone.”
This is reassuring. It is also a serious challenge to us, here in the local congregation, to be active partners with God in the struggle. Just as the Jews trying to rebuild Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day had to marshal all of their meager resources to accomplish their task, so do we.
Thank God, our resources are not that meager ! We have a dedicated core group of workers with excellent skills, a beautiful building, much good will among our neighboring congregations, and vast potential of un-tapped personnel and raw material which can be brought to the battle— if we partner with God.
Our gospel lesson for this coming week speaks to the contest we are in. Allow me to set it in context.
Jesus faced a group of people which included not only his disciples and acknowledged “sinners”— folks who were friendly to his movement: there were also worldly-minded curmudgeons who wanted him to fail: religious leaders who grumbled about Jesus, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:1-2)
That was when Jesus told the parables about the lost sheep and the good shepherd, the lost coin and the determined housewife, and the lost son and his loving father and angry older brother. All of those parables Jesus told to make the point: our loving heavenly Father desperately wants everyone to be “found” – “saved” – enlisted on God’s side against the devil.
So, in this week’s gospel lesson, Jesus makes a further move: in his parable of the dishonest manager, he tells us that God wants each of us, His agents, to use every skill, every clever brain cell, every gift He has given us in our fight against the devil, to rescue the lost ones.
We human beings can be quite devious, energetic, and persistent when we want something for ourselves: money, survival, authority, etc.. “The children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:8) If you have been the victim— or the perpetrator— of a scam or a con-job, you know how that is: it is not good.
But Jesus’ challenge is for us to use all of our best in God’s service, to be excellent managers of whatever gifts God has given us for God’s sake. Jesus was not saying that “the ends justify the means”— we must not use cruelty or any evil way in God’s name. But, if we submit to God’s rule in our lives and claim God’s powerful help in doing God’s will, there is no limit to the success we may achieve against our enemy the devil.
Your church needs you now, to step up and offer your shrewdness, your strength, your loyalty, your patience, your kindness, your dexterity, your number-crunching ability, your hugs... whatever best gifts God has given you.
Rev. Marston told us yesterday, “Whenever you fight for your family, your husband, your wife, your children, you choose not to take the easy way out, and you remember the Lord. And the forces of hell will not destroy their future, or the future of your church. You have an Advocate: any enemy of yours, or your family, or your church is an enemy of God.”
Praise, O servants of the LORD;
praise the name of the LORD.