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What was Jesus thinking?

October 1, 2013

Today’s Gospel passage is one of those hard to swallow passages where Jesus doesn’t make much sense. Looking back as I was growing up, I cannot remember a sermon that really dealt with this text. It is almost like a forgotten parable. The few times that someone might have dealt with this parable may have ended with God surely works in mysterious way. However, when this passage was left in the canonical books of the Bible we have here today, there must have been something that made the church fathers leave this story in the text. Something that we maybe be overlooking…and hopefully we can see it together.
Could this story be a retelling of the Genesis story and the exile from the garden? There the first humans did not steward well what God had entrusted to them and God sent them away from that place. Could it be insight into the human condition that we fall short in our dealings with God and the rest of creation? There are definitely overtones of both options.
The theologian, Tom Wright, poses the thought that Jesus was using this parable to address the poor management of the temple authorities. However from this explanation, if we have a change of heart and treat others with respect and correct dealings with people, even the temple authorities could be welcomed back into being the children of God. During the first century, the temple authorities were know for fleecing the children of Israel. The Temple authorities set up the vendors that provided the animals for sacrifice and they received a cut of the money. They also charged for performing the “required” sacrifices. These were the same people that declared people pure so that they could participate in Temple functions. Yes, they had power, and that power caused their egos to grow. They were so focused on who could be a part of the temple that they lost focus on being a part of the children of God. Is that the heart of the parable Jesus uses here? I think it is a part of the reason it was retained in this bible.
When we are called to task on things that we fall short on, what do we normally do? Blame someone else. We don’t want to take responsibility for our actions. Do we? The temple authorities didn’t want to face that fact that God calls each of us into communion with one another and with God also. *(Have you encountered anyone on your daily walk that you felt did something wrong but never admitted it?)* However, I think that God was calling the temple authorities to mend fences instead of causing division. We should try to make connections with people where they are in their journey. A “real” relationship, if you will. In the parable, the manager realizes his mistake when he is called by his “boss” and he didn’t make excuses for his actions. He began to correct actions toward others in his community, maybe not with respectable reasons at the onset, but he was acting justly with those he was dealing with and not over-charging them as he did in the past.
I feel that this parable was left in the bible to teach us that we need to be just in our actions. Yesterday’s actions cannot be changed, but today’s actions can be. How will we as individuals and as a part if the body of Christ be in communion with one another? In this communion, we have to learn to forgive ourselves, and encourage others to change their hearts and actions to be true members of the body of Christ. As many people over the centuries have said, there is nothing we can do to atone for our short comings. However through Christ Jesus, we are brought back into the fold of God.
Let us not make the mistakes of the temple authorities and alienate people we are called to be in communion with, even if we are in a position of authority. May our actions glorify the gifts God has bestowed on each of us. May we return to the thought we learned in kindergarten, and play well with others, and use the model Jesus provided for us. Where there is oppression stand with and for those being oppressed, so that God’s love will be seen by all creation.

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From → jimmyahornjr

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