Saturday Thoughts: Luke 16:1-13
Even though I am on vacation-hahah I want to reflect on this week's gospel, "The Dishonest Manager" is how we Episcopalians know it. For many of us, the story has an unsatisfying ending. Instead of being punished for cutting a deal with those who owe money to the landowner, the landowner himself congratulates the manager for being shrewd. We shake our collective heads and think WHAT! The comments I have read all week are about not caring about financial security or all being equal in the eyes of God or finally that the reign of God will turn the world upside down.
All good and faithful analyses but my take is a little different. What if instead of seeing the dishonest manager not as someone else but as ourselves and those who owe being ourselves as well. We are all managers of our lives. We make the decisions about where we live, work and play. We choose our friends and hopefully marry the loves of our lives, perhaps choose to have children. Each way along the way in our lives, we decide. Now we know some decisions we make are better than others and sometimes we wish for the opportunity to do it all over again. Alas, this is not possible. So we make deals with ourselves. We say things like, "Just this once" or "I won't do this again." We in that moment become the dishonest manager of our lives. Or perhaps we don't stretch ourselves because we are afraid of failure or being laughed at or even being shunned. Again we are dishonest with those feelings and thoughts and do not become the person God wants us to be.
I see the story of the dishonest manager as how we cheat ourselves out of all that God wants for us when we "cut a deal" with our shadow side. The final verse in this story is "No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” When we do not live the life that God has intended for us we begin to hate the life we have and wish for another. This is when poor choices enter our thoughts and we make deals with ourselves and with the shadow side of our personality. We begin to hate this shadow and lose out on what is possible so focused on the false dream the life we think we would have by listening to the what if's and if only's. God wants us to have the best life possible but first we have to be brutally honest with all those pieces of our lives we want to keep hidden. It is only then will we become honest managers of ourselves.
Today's gospel is about inviting the lost and lonely to our tables rather than those who can repay the invitation. Sometimes the readings just fit with what is going on in the parish and today's reading is one of those times. Several weeks ago I was watching the CBS Morning Show on Saturday, the musical guest that day was Gregory Porter a Grammy winning jazz artist. Mr. Porter sang the title song from his new album"Take me to the Alley" and told the story of growing up watching his mother minister to the people in the Alley. I sat listening to him sing transfixed by not only his voice but the words of the song. I have been deeply affected by it and when I listen can actually see Jesus walking through the alley being with the least and the lost.
Please follow the link to watch a clip of Porter singing "Take me to the Alley" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj5z4SbrH20
I have also found much profit from reading JD Vance's book "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Country in Crisis. In it Vance's tells the story of his own troubled family and how he rose out of poverty to attend Yale Law School. What I found most eye-opening was the final chapter of the book and how we place our own value system on others. I recommend it to everyone I meet for the simple reason those of us who want to do good, have to understand how to do that good in the community in which we find ourselves. My idea of a good life is just that, mine and I need to remember that when I am doing God's work in the world.
What Does It Mean?
I have been thinking quite a bit lately about what it means to be a Christian. We hear the worded bandied about, glibly rolling off the tongues of the media, friends, politicians perhaps even yourself. It is a word for some which is filled with all kinds of preconceived notions and feelings. Perhaps you have found this to be true in your own life. Now as a transplant from the North, I know the term is not quite as loaded here in North Carolina. In fact, it is just a way of thinking and being. It is a given we all attend church and I have yet to meet someone who looks down his or her nose at me because I do.
In the past, when I lived in Michigan, my occupation was greeted with phrases such as, "Oh, good for you!" or "Isn't that nice!" Like I was some sort of freak or had just learned how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. I felt uncomfortable because I know I made others feel uncomfortable. The thought that pervades our world seems to be that Christians judge everyone and everything. In my experience, I have found that to be anything but true. Yes there are people who proclaim to be Christian and are harsh critics of others; but for the most part, the people I know and love, are too busy judging themselves to have time to judge others. We are all just trying to do the best we can with what God has given us.
So what does it mean to be a Christian? It means we follow one man, Jesus, and attempt to pattern our lives after his. It means we are changed by having a relationship with him and accepting him as our Lord and Savior. It means we see the world through his eyes, a world that is broken and hurting and we do our best to be his hands and his feet, to bind up the sick and save the lost. I know I am a better person for having Jesus as my friend and I know you are too.