She Knew I Knew

Luke 16:19-31 – The 19th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, September 25, 2016

“The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried . . .” (Luke 16:22)

park-entranceBright lights flashed.

I steered to the shoulder and stopped. In my rearview mirror I watched the Kings Canyon National Park ranger open the door, alight from her seat, and purposefully stride toward me.

My wife sat in the passenger seat, still and silent. Our Minnesota-born niece and nephew, in California to attend college, occupied the back seat. All were witnesses to my foolishness. This was in 2010. I still recall my embarrassment.

The ranger, a slender woman with auburn hair pulled back and a holstered gun on her belt, leaned down and asked me an inevitable, irksome question.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked THE QUESTION.

(Don’t judge me! Being stopped by law enforcement personnel hasn’t been a regular experience in my mundane life. Oh sure, there was the “Nebraska incident.” We were headed for our new home and new life in Wisconsin when a Nebraska cop stopped me to wonder why I was leaving his lovely state at such a rapid pace. And there was also that graveside service I was late for, when another cop stopped me for traveling “slightly” over the posted limit. He encouraged me to tell my pastor’s tale of woe and repentance to the traffic judge while handing me a speeding ticket. Such a helpful cop . . . and the judge turned out to be a swell fellow too.)

Like the ranger at my window, all of the cops asked a variation of THE QUESTION . . .

“Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?” Continue reading →

How ‘Bout Some Quarters?

Mark 10:17-31 – The 20th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, October 11, 2015

“Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, ‘You are lacking one thing . . .’” (Mark 10:21)

coinsThe rich man was a good man.

From not stealing to honoring his parents to loving God (and more), he hadn’t merely memorized the essential commandments of his faith. They were the benchmarks of his daily life.

But could he achieve eternal life? He approached Jesus.

Tell me, Good Teacher, what else should I do? (Clearly he was a Type A, can-do, overachieving kind of guy.)

Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him.

I wonder how the rich man pictured the goal of his request?

Is eternal life a heaven of still waters and green pastures that we long for in today’s landscape of a dry earth and drier souls? Is it the better place where the swing low, sweet chariot transports us from dreary to dreamy? In my reading of scripture, I don’t doubt that Jesus spoke of eternal life in the same breaths he took to elsewhere promise the heavenly mansions prepared by God. So why not picture a fine divine future—a “better place”—when wondering about eternal life? Continue reading →

A Flawed, Curious, Hopeful, Forgiving Human

Luke 16:1-13  – The 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time  – for Sunday, September 22, 2013

“There was a rich man who had a manager…” (Luke 16:1)

There is one parable

More than any of Jesus’ stories

That befuddles

Intrigues and frightens me.

I don’t know why it troubles me so

(And yet I do)

Go ahead, those more wise, experienced and confident than me, tell me what this parable only found at Luke 16:1-9 means . . .

Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. (2) So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” (3) Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. (4) I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” (5) So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” (6) He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” (7) Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” (8) And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. (9) And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

BreechBefore I answer what I possibly think believe the parable means, let me explain a few interpretive decisions regarding this irksome and enlightened tale.

  • I posted this parable. I usually assume you can look up the Biblical chapters and sentences on your own, but I wanted easy access to Luke’s words.
  • However, I only included part of the parable. If you wish to read the absent verses (10-13 in Luke’s 16th chapter), feel free! For me, those verses were add-ons inspired by the early Christian community’s efforts to sugarcoat Jesus’ story. It’s as if they were tsk-tsking, wagging a finger and urging followers to serve God rather than gold. How simplistic and misleading.
  • When I began posting weekly reflections in June ‘07, I privately vowed to avoid reading the scholarly tomes about the Bible that crowd my bookshelves. I also vowed to avoid other like-minded blogs by Internet colleagues, whether ne’er-do-wells like me or respected theologians. I didn’t want others to influence my musings or to unknowingly “steal” ideas. Weird, eh? But I’ve occasionally ignored my silly vow . . . like now. I read again James Breech’s chapter on Luke 16:1-13 in his extraordinary The Silence of Jesus, published way, way, way back in 1983. Much of my thoughts regarding this parable can be attributed to Breech. Like me, he may also be wrong about everything. But his insights on Jesus’ parables transformed my faith.

*           *           *

This is what is frequently suggested for comprehending Jesus’ tale: be shrewd and decisive in your faith like the manager!

Oh, you mean the conniving, cheating, self-serving, it’s-not-my-fault manager? Nope, not me, please.

Breech suggested this . . .

“…the narrative focuses on the issue of trust: the rich man is not primarily concerned about his possessions, but about the steward whom he has entrusted to be responsible for them.”

And this . . . Continue reading →