Sermon – 09-22-19 – Proper 20 – Cycle C
Scripture: Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13
Sermon Title: “Managing Wealth”
Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit live in a lovely hole in a big meadow. They worked hard to dig that hole and make it a home. They are proud of it. They have little bunnies. They are a happy family. They protect their hole called home. They claim it as their own home earned by themselves.
One day Mr. Rabbit comes sliding through the main hallway from the opening in the ground hidden by tall grass. He calls to Mrs. Rabbit. “Where are you, Mrs. Rabbit? Come quickly!” he calls. When Mrs. Rabbit tears herself away from the dinner she is preparing, she says, “What could be so urgent when I am busy cooking our dinner?”
Mr. Rabbit says, taking deep breaths in-between his words, “You will never believe what I just heard!” What is it? says Mrs. Rabbit in an apprehensive tone. “Well,” says Mr. Rabbit, “As I was hurrying past a window in that nice building on the other side of the fence, I heard someone saying in a rather loud voice that we don’t own our homes, they are gifts from God. We take care of our homes and the things in our homes. This loud voice went on to say that we are free to enjoy our homes and each other. We have good food to eat and comfortable beds and heat in the winter. But . . . we do not own our homes even if, as people do, we have a deed to the property. Loud Voice said, “All of this belongs to God, even if we worked hard to pay for it.”
“Well, of course, Mrs. Rabbit, “Rabbits don’t ever have deeds to our properties but we did work very hard to dig this hole just the way we wanted it. You and I were exhausted by the time we had our home just the way we wanted it. A nursery here, a dining room there, a game room on the other side of the bedrooms. Yes- siree! Some super nice home we designed with our paws. We even experimented and found a way to keep the rain from pouring into our hole. We designed a channel to divert that water. We can stay nice and dry. To think we don’t own this home is ludicrous. Mrs. Rabbit, tell me I heard that loud voice wrong. My hearing must be going bad!”
Mrs. Rabbit said, “Who is this God who owns our home?” Mr. Rabbit replied, “The next time we see a lot of people going into that building, let’s take our family over and sit under the open window and listen. Maybe Loud Voice will talk some more about this God person.” “Okay,” said Mrs. Rabbit. “That is a plan!”
So the next Sunday, people come. The rabbits hop cautiously to the best window for hearing Loud Voice and they sit very still, even the little bunnies. Soon they hear Loud Voice leading a song. “This is my Father’s World” it is. Oh, the world belongs to a Father. “How is he related to the God?” they wonder. Then the people start to sing, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” More words – “Under the shadow of Thy Throne, Still may we dwell secure, Our shelter from the stormy blast . . .”
They wait until they can bear it no longer. They have to share their thoughts with each other. So they quietly hop away, nudging the little bunnies toward home. When they are safely in their hole, which is their secure place, they burst into conversation. So God has a throne. Is he a king? Is he also called Father? Does he own everything? If he does then he could be called Landlord. Landlord! We don’t own our own home! How come we don’t ever see this landlord – God – Father – come to collect our rent check?
Quiet as their voices are, Big Eye Owl who is trying to sleep, hears them. He has good ears and even sitting on a branch high above he could overhear. Big Eye Owl is very wise. He calls to them to come sit under the tree and he will share his knowledge with them. Yes, there is this God who created this world and the animals and the people in it.
This God brought order to the chaos so the story goes. Some of the chaos were minerals including the soil which is your home. He created plants for your food. He created you and me – animals. And again as the story goes, God created people. Big Eye Owl continues, “God never gave the deed to the world to people.” He generously hosts us. That is he shares the world and the things in it with animals and people. He is not in the real estate business. This God wants everyone to live comfortably and to treat each other kindly. It seems like he does not come for a monthly rent check.
What God expects from his animals and people is to be caretakers and managers. God trusts us to use the things around us wisely and carefully and thankfully; not carelessly and wastefully. We are to get out and about and look-out for each other – to share the abundance, to tell each other that God as landlord is also the God of love and caring. If the world seems uncaring, he expects us to pay our rent by spreading love. Big Eye Owl explains that spreading love isn’t just smiles, as helpful as they might be. God’s creatures are supposed to spread the wealth.
Let’s look at that idea. It is fine for people to be shrewd with money. Jesus even praised this seemingly dishonest man whom we thought was headed for jail. We earn our money. Then there are umpteen methods to have our money grow! Which is fine if we remember the check for the landlord. Until we get the hang of this check for the landlord, we keep the money as it grows or we spend it in a variety of extraordinary ways on ourselves. But Big Eye Owl says, “Something is wrong here. We are to be shrewd in looking for the poor and the needy.”
We say, “Won’t our principal start to dwindle?” God’s economy is wild and unbelievable. It is firmly tied with God’s love. If we try to keep our money and keep love tied as tightly as possible to ourselves, it will slowly disappear. If we share our money and our love it will be replenished in some way. Of course, don’t let shrewdness get lost. Our back pocket might be a good place to keep our shrewdness. Jesus is suggesting that we keep it handy. It might be like a chocolate- coated almond. The hard almond is the shrewdness and the chocolate is the love.
Big Eye Owl reminds rabbit family and us that God’s way of living turns everything upside-down and inside-out. Try it a bit. Then try it a bit more! Be shrewd. Do not squander. How do we know the difference between good giving and good spending versus chasing money after money? Big Eye Owl, full of wisdom, says to the family of rabbits and to us, “Listen. Pray. Test. Watch.” Owl says, “This God can hear everything and see everything and know everything that is hidden in our hearts. God is waiting for us to be good tenants, good managers, good stewards!”