“In godliness and holiness”?

dishonest-manager

The Pas                       18th Sunday after Pentecost – BAS Proper 25

Proper 20 – Ordinary/Lectionary 25 – Pentecost + 18

Year C

18 September 2016

Amos 8:4-7

Psalm 113 BAS 861

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13

O God, anoint us with the healing Spirit of consolation and joy, so that we may rejoice in the richness of your love and be faithful stewards of your many gifts. Amen.

________________________________________

 

I was looking at the readings for today, and the reading from 1 Timothy instantly caught my attention.

 

This happens from time to time, a reading will jump off the page and something going on in the world around us jumps alongside of it and all of a sudden I’m putting thoughts on a paper, in a manner of speaking. Now, you should know that this doesn’t always happen and there are also the days when I’m struggling to find what God needs us to hear to experience in the readings as well.

 

What caught my eye, my ear, and my heart this week, was Paul telling Timothy “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:2b-4)

 

And I remembered the oil pipeline standoff, in North Dakota, that included the wanton destruction of sacred burial grounds. I remembered that recently there has been an injunction against the completion of this pipeline on its current trajectory, at the same time, people are now being arrested, in North Dakota for trying to protect clean water.

 

And I know we’re not supposed to look at things from a political aspect; but from the aspect of politics, now that the world is no longer looking at the people of North Dakota, what will the politicians the industrial leaders, and those who really don’t care about the care of creation, and the longevity of this world for not only this generation but for many future generations to come, do? Will they force the pipeline through behind everyone’s back, despite a clear indication by the people that this particular installation isn’t wanted? Or will they seek other ways other methods to deal with the fossil fuels being drawn from the ground, these days?

 

It seems to me that Paul is writing from a somewhat utopian perspective, from a pie in the sky view of the way the world is meant to be, to operate. Paul is reminding us that we are to rely upon God in all things for the betterment of not only ourselves and our neighbour, but for all of humanity, as well as the care and sustaining of creation.

 

From our perspective, then, it seems that Paul is, from our perspective, praying an impossible prayer. It’s impossible until all of humanity, all of the earth, all of creation is able to follow it. From God’s perspective, it would only be an improbable prayer as God waits for us to invite God into our hearts, our lives, our actions, and so this prayer then would be our reality.

 

But if we look a little further back, to the beginning of our reading, we can see something else. Paul says: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim 2: 1-2)

 

And, as I ponder this passage, I listened to Josh Groban sing “You Raise Me Up,” and the one lyric fits each one of us so clearly as he sings: “you raise me up to more than I can be.” And we remember that when we follow Paul’s advice, when we pray for kings and leaders and those in authority, then they have the same opportunities we do for doing the best that we can for the future of our world, and of all of humanity. We are all living the refrain from the song.

 

Paul encourages us to pray this prayer. In it we find the gospel we find the words of Jesus when he tells us: “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16-17)

 

Today’s gospel points out to us the tale of the shrewd business manager, and Jesus reminds us that we aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with the unsavory business dealings of the world. I’ve always had difficulty with this gospel, where out of fear of losing his position, the manager reduces the debts owed to his master.

 

Or perhaps we can look at it through Jesus’ eyes where he reduces our burden of sin before the throne of God, through his actions on the cross, his actions in the depths of our hearts as we return time and gain to the quote from John – a quote that easily winds up on posters waved at sporting events, at arenas, at places where ‘good Christians’ would hang onto John 3:16 to the ends of the earth, and ignore vs 17, where Jesus explains that he was sent into the world to save it, not condemn it.

 

And this brings us back to the reading from 1 Timothy, for today. Paul reminds us “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (1 Tim 2:5-6a)

 

In all things, in our lives, in our readings, in our interpretation of God’s word in and for our lives, we return to Christ. In all ways, we look to Christ for our example of how to live with and love each other. In all things, we look to Christ for our examples of how to operate in this world. If this weren’t the case the evangelical branding of WWJD (What would Jesus do?) wouldn’t have gone around the world like wildfire as everything from coffee cups, to book marks, to necklace pendants, to rubber bracelets in the past 20 years.

 

At the same time, we have to remember that what Jesus would do, in any situation, includes abrupt, in your face kind of messages to make people aware that there is more than meets the eye to everything Jesus does, everything Jesus says. What Jesus would do includes losing one’s temper in the face of injustice and outright deception. What Jesus would do includes giving up his life for each one of us, not because we deserve it but because we cannot bear the burden of our sin without him.

 

When we contemplate WWJD (what would Jesus do) we have to remember that first and foremost, Jesus looked out for the rights the inclusion of those who live on the sidelines, those who are considered outcasts, by society, for whatever reason. In Jesus day, this included occupation, inability to live according to the letter of Mosaic Law, and communicable disease.

 

None of us are perfect, whether in our lives, or in our deeds. We all make mistakes. We all think thoughts not worthy of Christians, or even engage in habits that we’d rather not have revealed by the light of Christ. Paul does write from an ideal of perfection, a utopia, a pie in the sky perspective. In today’s letter to Timothy, he’s writing from almost a prophetic stance – a vision of what the world can be like when we all rely upon Christ, upon God for our examples of how to live with each other, interact with each other, treat each other in our day to day dealings.

 

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim 2:1-2)

 

So, this then is how we can strive to live up to Pau’s vision of what our utopia will look like. We can pray.

 

We can pray for each other. We can pray for all people. We can pray for kings, and all those in authority. We can pray for the newly elected leaders and counsellors of OCN, for our Reve, and Mayor, and his council.

 

We can pray for our priests, pastors, and other religious leaders, and we can keep praying for ourselves and for our families.

 

We can pray in the difficult times, we can pray in the good times. We can pray when life takes that unexpected shift to the left, and we can pray when we are in the midst of celebration.

 

Luther tells us at all times to pray without ceasing. St Francis of Assisi tells us at all times preach the gospel; if necessary, use words. And we can remember Jesus teachings. Not just in today’s gospel, that those familiar with the ways of the world are better equipped to deal with those in the world, but also that Jesus was sent into the world to save the world, not to condemn it or us.

 

Jesus reminds us: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Lk 16:13)

 

How do we demonstrate the faith that Paul shows in the prayer, in the desire to live lives of peace not just with each other but with the whole world around us?

 

Are there times when we’re called to stand, as Jesus did, between injustice and the pit, to save as many as we can from being victims of injustice? Or do we just shake our heads at the news and carry on with our day when we see injustices being carried out in the world around us? As much as we wish to moving to living lives of peace with all around us, there are those who cannot seem to get on that same bandwagon.

 

In my spare time, right now, I’m rehearsing a song for the concert, at the end of the month, its Esmerelda’s prayer from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Esmerelda is considered an outcast, a thief, a beggar because she is a gypsy, she doesn’t have a permanent roof over her head. Yet, she sees more clearly the way the world is working, and the way the world can work, when we look out for our brothers and sisters in need. She sees the affluence and the antipathy that comes with it, toward those who have less. She sees the love amongst those who don’t need a whole lot, but do need God’s love and grace every day.

 

And in the end, it’s through her love for all of God’s creation that she is able to teach Quasimodo how to love and to be loved. Both the Disney version and the original novel, by Victor Hugo, have the same aim – to teach us to see the world through eyes that are not jaded with prejudice, with malice, with anything other than kindness, and the love of God.

 

It is for all of this that Jesus “who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” It is for this that we are reminded to love God with heart, mind, spirit, and soul and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Because when we start with God’s love at the heart of our actions, of our lives, then everything else stems from God’s love and grace and pours into the world around us, and Paul’s vision not only becomes our vision, but becomes our reality, as well.

 

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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