September 16, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills
Proper 20/C [Pent. 15], September 18, 2022: Ps. 113; Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 1:1-15; Luke 16:1-15.
Yet, she will be preserved through childbearing, if they abide in belief and love and holiness, with discreetness (v. 15).
The passage drives “feminist-theologians” batty. But in context we recognize Paul addressing Timothy of Congregation-Pastor relations; their respective priority, spheres of authority, and conduct. Pastors are stewards of the Congregation’s mysteries for her priesthood of believers, for their faith, hope, love, and thanksgiving.
So, to whom is Paul referring, “Yet she will be preserved through childbearing”? It’s not too difficult, in this case Timothy, as bishop stands as icon of the man Jesus with his bride out of whom new life is generated by word and strengthened through the Sacrament.
The verses that immediately follow (1 Tim. 3:1-13) confirms this by set-out the qualifications for male office. So, when Paul urges Timothy, not to be querulous with the men, “in every place” and to pray, “lifting holy hands” (v. 8), he is commending church unity through liturgical prayer.
The Common Service of the Lutheran Church situates corporate Prayer following the Offertory, before Preface and Sanctus, thus connecting our supplications and intercessions with Eucharist. Your called man, stands at Altar in the stead of Christ; your offerings and petitions lifted to God by our sole mediator, who is Christ (v. 5).
Paul describes God’s intended order and authority between man and woman in the first creation (Gen. 2:15, 18), and affirms its continuance in the NT. The woman’s vocation announced by Adam is in being, “mother of all living” (cf. Gen. 3:20).
The woman and those preserved through her childbearing is the NT community. This is clear when Paul describes the woman with the singular pronoun, “she”, to wit, not every woman, but her children preserved in her baptismal office of bearing, birthing, and continuing to bear new life by “faith, love, and holiness, with discreetness”; a fidelity exemplified by men and women toward each other in the marital covenant (Eph. 5:32, 33).
This salvation is the work of God’s begetting from above (Jn. 3:3, 7, 8) among a believing priesthood. The bride oriented toward Christ in their order and respective authority, as intended from the beginning. By this catechism we now approach Jesus’ Unrighteous Steward parable, a warning not only to Pharisees of every age; but also, God’s NT priesthood.
Pharisees rightly heard Jesus’ parable a condemn their faithless stewardship of Israel for love of money (Lk. 16:14; Amos 8:4-7). For all audiences the clock is ticking-down to crisis; time for conversion, repentance, and knowledge of God in Christ is increasingly dear.
For the Pharisees, scribes, and the priestly class, Jesus’ death and resurrection would end their stewardship, just as the Dishonest Steward was in the throes of his termination. Whatever was to be done by the steward, must be done quickly (v. 6).
In the movie “Man on Fire” Denzel Washington plays an ex-CIA agent, the 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 ransom.
Creasy restrains the policeman, loads him with plastic explosives attached to a detonator timed for 5 minutes. Whatever peace the policeman might make with Creasy, he must do quickly.
The policeman wasted time in lying, threatening, and bluffing to bargain a way out of his situation. Finally, Creasy began to walk away, the policeman recognized time had run-out. Desperate for a solution to his imminent demise the policeman cried, “What do you want?” quizzically Creasy asked, “What do I want? I wish you had more time.” – the alarm rang; the policeman was dust.
Jesus defines Christian stewardship, “No servant can have two masters … You cannot serve God and money” (v. 13). It is the nature of crisis within our allotted time that there is either resolution in repentance or judgment; that time is today.
Contrasted with the vacillating policeman, Jesus’ Dishonest Steward wasted no time finding a resolution for himself. The moment he turned over his master’s books of account, he was “toast”. Still, he kept his head; in assessing his situation, guilty, without excuse, the steward did not wring hands over past misconduct or rationalize his breach of trust, he did not make a list of mitigating factors; the books spoke for themselves.
Rather the steward drew on his considerable experience in the world and knowledge of his Master; determined to settle with his Accuser (Lk. 12:58; Mt. 5:25), for which Jesus commends him for escape through “unrighteous mammon” (Lk. 16:9, 11).
It is the Master’s money, which in eternity is worthless; but in the here and now may be well employed in a manner consistent with the Master’s character. Man’s attachment to money is inherently idolatrous; which, the Pharisees mocked. So also, some “Christians”, hold that worldly wealth is sign of Divine favor; and, in some instances, perhaps so.
But, Jesus, with Amos (8:4-7), who in an earlier day condemned the king’s house and God’s priesthood for greed in league with the merchant class, defrauding the people, and mocking Sabbath’s holiness in favor of more commerce; tick-tock.
A black swan event is a thing no one has ever seen, that is, until the day it unexpectedly appears, instigating crisis. Black swans are transformative; requiring former assumptions be reassessed; quickly so. Although Israel was warned by the prophets, Jesus, God’s incarnate Torah is history’s Black Swan, whose advent calls all to reassess that formerly normative and predictable.
Jesus’ crucifixion, the only innocent Man and put to death by those he loves and sought to save, is the church’s stewardship model. The Dishonest Steward was a thief in his master’s house. Still, he knew his Lord’s character, fabulously wealthy in grace and mercy; so that money, and all sinful men desire, fails to register in his household. Jesus says, “what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk. 16:15).
When the cheating steward was exposed, he instantly discerned crisis; “business as usual” would not resolve his problem. He realized money in itself was unimportant to his Master; still he might advance those for whom the Master cared.
All things belong to God entrusted to his purposes. Certainly, in this world, we need money, but so too, Wisdom may employ “mammon” in a God pleasing way; letting loose the tight grasp on his wealth; rely on his generosity, grace, and justice; trusting Wisdom to discern a proper balance of God’s possessions and the provision he would graciously have us retain and manage.
By applying the Master’s money in a pleasing way, the Unjust Steward, under the gun, at one and the same time testified to faith and knowledge of the Master, acknowledging his generosity in the community.
In the end Jesus’ church is encouraged to freely give of her Lord’s wealth; the most precious of which is his word, sacraments, and the believing poor among us.
We temporarily possess his money for wise allocation; “rais[ing] the poor from the dust and … giv[ing] the barren woman a home making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps. 113:7, 9). Amen.