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She (A Seriously Theological Sermon)

October 2, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

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Proper 20/C [Pent. 15] (2019): Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-15; Luke 16:1-15.

She, But she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (v. 15).

This is one of those passages that drives “feminist-theologians” batty. You recognize the context; St. Paul addresses the congregation-Pastor relation, describing their respective order and spheres of authority.

The Pastor is the congregation’s steward of the things and mysteries of God for the benefit of the priesthood of believers to exercise a stewardship of faith, love, and thanksgiving.

So then, to whom is Paul referring, “But she will be saved through childbearing”? It’s not too difficult; by definition the Pastor’s Office stands in the place of Jesus, a picture of the Man with his bride out of whom new life is generated in her by conveyance of his word.

So, when Timothy, is directed with men “in every place” to pray, “lifting holy hands” (v. 8), in the Celebrant’s orans Altar posture—"let us pray”; Paul directs Prayer as communal and liturgical.

The Common Service of the Lutheran Church situates its Prayer following the Offertory and before the Sanctus connecting our supplications and intercessions with the Eucharistic thanksgiving. As your called man, standing at Altar in the stead of Christ, your gifts, self-offering, and prayers are lifted to God by Christ our Mediator.

Paul’s Sermon describes God’s intended order and authority in his church, as between the man and the woman in the first creation (Gen. 2:15, 18) which Paul affirms to be continuing in the NT. The Apostle, by a pronoun change, then broadens his initial reference of the woman Eve to the woman “mother of all living” who is bride of Christ in the NT epoch (Gen. 3:20).

The one being saved or preserved through childbearing then is the NT community. This is made clear when Paul describes “she” as “they” (not all women), but men and women saved through the bride’s administering office of Baptism for bearing, birthing, and continuing to bear to new life by “faith and love and holiness, with self-control”, which is to say, in fidelity exercised by both men and women toward each other, especially in the marital relation (Eph. 5:32, 33).

Salvation, in this manner is the creative work of God, by the Father’s begetting from above by the Spirit, word and water (Jn. 3:3, 7, 8) to a believing priesthood in the on-going life of the one holy catholic apostolic Church. In this way the NT bride is oriented toward Christ in an order for the exercise of respective authorities as intended for Adam and Eve.

From this brief catechism we attend Jesus’ parable of the Dishonest Steward, a warning not only to Pharisees but to God’s NT priesthood. The Pharisees overhearing Jesus’ discourse, rightly discerned it as against their faithless stewardship especially for love of money (Lk. 16:14).

For both audiences the clock ticks-down to crisis; time for conversion, repentance, and knowledge of God in Christ was for the Pharisees, and for us is increasingly dear.

For the OT Pharisees, scribes, and priestly class, the cross would signal an end of their stewardship under the OT, just as the Dishonest Steward was threatened with his termination. Whatever was to be done, he must do quickly (v. 6).

In the movie “Man on Fire” Denzel Washington plays an ex-CIA agent, a true story of John Creasy, turned avenging angel, pursuing kidnappers of a little girl he was hired to protect. Seeking those responsible, Creasy captured the high-ranking policeman who instigated the girl’s ransoming.

Creasy restrains the policeman, loads him with plastic explosive attached to a detonator timed for 5 minutes. Whatever peace the corrupt policeman might make with Creasy, he must do quickly.

The man wasted his time thinking to threaten, bluff, or bargain his way out of his critical situation. Finally, the policeman recognized that time had all but run-out as Creasy walked away.

Desperate for a solution to his imminent demise the policeman cried, “What do you want?” Creasy from a safe distance quizzical asked, “What do I want? I wish you had more time.” – the alarm rang; the policeman returned to dust.

Jesus defines our proper loyalties for godly stewardship, “No servant can have two masters…You cannot serve God and money” (v. 13). It is in the nature of crisis within our allotted time that there is either resolution or judgment.

Contrasted with the vacillating policeman Jesus’ Dishonest Steward wasted no time in finding his resolution. The moment he would turn over Rich Man’s books of account, he was “toast”. Still he kept his head; dispassionately assessed his situation; he is guilty, without excuse.

The steward does not wring hands over past misconduct or rationalize his breach of trust, he does not make a list of mitigating factors in defense; the cooked books speak for themselves.

Rather the steward draws on his considerable experience in the world and knowledge of his Master; for which Jesus commends him in finding a means of escape through “unrighteous mammon” (vv. 9, 11), the Master’s money which in eternity is worthless; but in the here and now may well be employed to a God pleasing stewardship.

Man’s attachment to money is inherently idolatrous; which teaching the Pharisees mocked. For those Pharisees and some “Christians”, it is received wisdom that worldly wealth is a sign of Divine favor; and, perhaps in some instances it is.

But, Jesus as Amos (8:4-7) in an earlier day, condemned the king’s house and God’s priesthood for their greed in league with an irreligious merchant class, defrauding and profiting at the expense of God’s people to the extent of mocking the holiness of the Sabbath day in favor of occasions for more commerce; tick-tock.

A black swan is a thing or event no one has ever seen, that is, until one day one appears, usually it will instigate crisis. Black swans are transformative, all former assumptions must be reassessed in light of what otherwise was previously unknown, and quickly. Jesus is history’s Black Swan, calling us to reassess all we thought normative, predictable and true of God.

Jesus’ crucifixion, the only innocent Man put to death by those whom he loves and sought to save, is for his NT church her stewardship model.

The Dishonest Steward was a thief in his master’s house. Still, he knew his Lord’s character, fabulously wealthy, especially in grace and mercy, generous to a fault; so much so that mammon, lucre, money, all that sinful men desire, fails to register in his household. Jesus says, “what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (v. 15).

When the steward’s cheating was exposed, he instantly discerned a black swan and crisis; “business as usual” would not resolve his problem. He realized money as ultimately unimportant to the Rich Man; but that it could advance the Master’s tenants for whom he cared and so were important while access to his Master’s wealth continued.

All things belong to God, held in trust to his ends. Certainly, in this world, we need money (“coin of the realm”), but so too, Wisdom may employ this “unrighteous wealth” in a God pleasing way; letting loose tight grasps on his wealth, relying in faith on his generosity, grace, and justice; trusting Wisdom to discern the proper balance of God’s claim on our possessions and the provision he would graciously have us retain and manage.

By applying the Rich Man’s money in a pleasing way, the steward at one and the same time testified to a faith that acknowledged the Master’s generosity, albeit under the gun, and the graciousness and justice he exercised to magnifying his Lord in the community.

In the end Jesus’ NT church is encouraged to freely give of her Lord’s wealth; the most precious of which in order is his word, sacraments, and the believing poor among us. His money is given for us to wisely allocate to God’s glory who “raises the poor from the dust and… gives the barren woman a home making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps. 113:7, 9). Amen.