The Ninth Sunday after Trinity 2015

Bible Text: Luke 16:1-13 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2015

When the steward’s life depended on what he was doing, he was in trouble. When he lost everything, then he was free. We don’t have to try to squeeze every detail of this parable into some real life part of our faith. The big lesson is this: Jesus comes and acts as if the Father’s stuff is His to give away. Just think about it. How do the pharisees and scribes and the other religious leaders live? They hoard God’s grace and forgiveness and dribble it out to deserving people. Jesus comes and throws forgiveness around like it’s His to give out. He comes into the world and says, “Whatever you owe God because of your sins? Mark it as paid!” Your debts are cancelled because Jesus comes and tells you that it’s paid. He pays the price, of course. That happens for you because He loses His place, as it were. That is, on Calvary, the Father turns His back. When He hangs on the cross, covered in our sins, it’s as if the Father is telling Him, “You can’t be steward anymore.” But that is precisely the point at which Jesus is free. He has so perfectly and completely obeyed the Father’s will, that He just throws out forgiveness, life and salvation, like it’s his to give! And we, who had debts of sin to God, are off the hook.

And now, the Lord has given His stewards charge over His things. He has given pastors His gifts to give out to the people. And pastors will be bad stewards of the Lord’s gifts if they go around putting conditions and qualifications on that Gospel: You can be forgiven…IF. You will be a child of God…IF. But with a wink, Jesus tells this parable to remind His disciples that wasting the Lord’s gifts as if we own them is precisely what His kingdom is like! Here, we have all of God’s riches and we dish them out as if they’re ours to give. You have sins? Forgiven. You did WHAT? That’s forgiven too! Here, let’s baptize you. Made a mess? Pulled a whopper? Here, come confess it and I’ll forgive you. Goofed up? Fell into sin? Did you act like an Israelite in the Old Testament and run off after some idol or fall into some sexual immorality or grumbling against God? Here, have Jesus’ body and blood! Paul says in our epistle that when we are tempted, God will always give us a way out. But you know what the way out is? Jesus lifted up on the cross to see Him and be saved. Jesus slashing our bills to “zero” and our pastors throwing forgiveness at us like there’s no tomorrow! Lots of Jesus gifts from a Savior who lives like He can do that. Because He can!

This is life in the kingdom of God: forgive like you stole that forgiveness. Like it’s yours to give out. You see, when we think our standing with God depends on us, how we live, what we do, how we act, what we need to accomplish—then we are not free. We hoard what is the Lord’s and are forgiveness penny-pinchers. But when we realize we will never save ourselves, never make a way to God, and that we’re doomed by ourselves, but the Lord has this whole pile of forgiveness to be grabbed and dished out to everyone…well, then we live free. There is the irony of faith. We trust that the Lord will forgive us and love us not when we act like the right kind of people, but when we know we’re not. When we’re forgiven by Christ, we have nothing to lose. That’s because WE have nothing to lose. If God really wants to forgive all those sinners out there, then that’s His problem. We’ll just be a part of that batch of sinners that’s receiving Christ’s forgiveness. Maybe you have some sins you think will keep you out of paradise? Maybe you struggle with some hidden guilt that convinces you that you will have to face the Lord’s wrath on the Last Day? But here comes Jesus telling you, “Slash the bill! Mark it paid! You’re good to go.” Can that be legit? Not your problem! The Steward has said to do it. You Savior has paid it and cancelled it. So if it ever comes time to settle up with the Lord, well, you already know: It’s a done deal. You’re good to go. THAT is the point of this parable. That Jesus takes what is the Father’s and spends it on sinners. And we sinners in turn spend it on others. And in receiving that forgiveness, we have been given a place in an everlasting home with Him. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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