Jesus’ Dishonest Steward

Parables and moral stories have been told as long as there have been people who need to learn right from wrong. We know well the fairy tales: Cinderella, who is faithful in her work despite its injustice, is rewarded with a charming prince; in the Grimms Brothers’ stories, disobedient children are eaten and faithful children escape harm.

Jewish folklore was no different, it followed similar rules — just like all over the ancient world, you always bet on the oldest son, people who are less fortunate deserve it, the rich are winners, and the poor better be as faithful as they can.

The stories of Israelite patriarchs in our Old Testament upend these sensibilities — Jacob, the younger son, even the trickster, ends up winning the birthright of God’s blessing and becoming the father of many nations. Job’s friends know he must have done something really, really bad to deserve the horrible calamities that befall him — but we learn from reading Job’s story that his conduct was all faithfulness, his misfortune not a result of bad behavior. The God of Jacob and Job is a different sort of God than the world had ever seen. Continue reading

Constance & Her Companions

2355585789_56e371cfcd_zDelivered on the occasion of the Holy Eucharist for the Episcopal Church Women meeting at St. Augustine’s, 9 September 2016. Remembering Constance & Her Companions. 

This morning I want to share a witness of God’s gracious provision during a dying season in my own life.

Constance and her companions, the Martyrs of Memphis, were called to real bodily sacrifice out of love. This is one of the ways that God calls us; God also calls us to dying to ourselves, as our Gospel passage from last Sunday outlined, and dying to our own conceptions and assumptions and identities about ourselves, as I preached on a few weeks ago.

While I was working at the Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina, I entered a period of depression. Continue reading

Will Good Really Win?

 

Rembrandt_-_The_Three_Crosses_(second_state)_-_WGA19086

It’s been a hard week to have the tv on, or listen to the radio, or even to read the morning paper. Each day has carried fresh horror and violence, from religious extremism to the effects of mental illness, from random and tragic natural disaster to carefully planned and executed extinguishing of life.

One of my coping mechanisms when faced with a relentless barrage of bad news is to escape to another world — that is, to Netflix.

This past week, I’ve been in 1950’s Madrid, observing life at a department store, cheering on the seamstresses and delivery boys who work day and night, and shaking my fist at the selfish and scheming minority shareholders in the company who leaks scandals to National Enquirer to hamstring their opponents and make furtive phone calls from the smoky back rooms of bars.

Late in the season, I realized that this series’ power over me had less to do with scintillating dialogue or all-consuming love stories; the real center of this show is the fight between good and evil. A piece of me knows that because it’s a television show, and because it’s the love-lorn-style drama it is, that eventually, good will prevail. It’s a long road, and I know it will take till the very last episode, but somehow, the honest and good will win over the dark, and evil and scheming.

Back in the real world, I wonder, when a child at Disneyworld encounters an alligator — will good really win?

When a member of Parliament loses her life in broad daylight — will good really win?

When yet another friend is diagnosed with cancer — will good really win?

And these are to say nothing of the ache still present in Charleston a year later, and the raw wound in Orlando today.  And refugees from Syria, and mothers and babies in South and Central America living at the mercy of Zika.

How on earth will good ever win?

This is the same question that Elijah asks God in our Scripture passage this morning. Continue reading

good shepherd sunday

Ours is not a God who leads in paths of plushness. When faced with the cross, our God climbed up on it. When threatened with death, our God said, “do your worst.” We follow a Shepherd who leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.