Monday, September 19, 2016

CAN WE RISK LOSING RESPECTABILITY TO FOLLOW JESUS: "Can we forgive those who hurt or attack us even when others around us think we are deluded, naïve, and foolish? " John+

Crooked Jesus

          In the New Testament writings, of St. Paul and others, there are short, pithy statements of faith, called kerygma.  They are important because they give us a snapshot of the earliest faith convictions of those who lived closest to the time of Jesus.  In Paul’s Letter to Timothy today we have a great example:

          For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time.

          Of course the attested at the right time refers to the Resurrection.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the absolute confirmation of everything Jesus did and taught and was the pivotal point of human history.  The way followers of Jesus look at history was forever changed.

          When we study the history of human culture from the beginning of time, it seems to document a series of victories and defeats, winners and losers, victorious kings and rulers and defeated kings and rulers, and all their peoples with them.  The most important thing was to be on the winning side of history.

          The Resurrection of Jesus changed history by removing once and for all the notion that victory is all that really matters.  In Jesus, Son of the living God, we have a story of utter defeat and loss.  The crowds spurned his message of love, mercy, and forgiveness, and physically tortured him, mocked him with their tongues, and put him to death.  God raised him up, attesting at the right timethat the loss of everything, even life itself, could end in victory.  History’s cry- to the victor belongs the spoils, was no longer true:  those who lose everything for Jesus, even life itself, will experience victory!

          In today’s Gospel of the Dishonest Steward we have Jesus’ description of himself by the world around him, as a crook.  Yes, Jesus the Crook.  Jesus was seen by the rich and powerful {and those who looked up to them} as squandering their livelihood and possessions.  The Dishonest Steward {Jesus} was fired.  What does he do?  He calls all those who owe the rich guy and forgives their debts, cutting their bills in half.  The debtors {remember Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer- forgive our debtors} didn’t know that the Steward was fired, they think the Rich Master is great.  The Master’s reputation soars {honor was more important than money in those days}, and when the Master finds out he even praises the shrewd Steward!

          What does all this mean?  The Dishonest Steward {Jesus} had no right at all to forgive the debts owed the master.  What he did was completely out of line and completely unrespectable in the eyes of all those looking on.  What Jesus is teaching here, I think, is that respectability is what the world desires from people, but is not what God desires.  The world desires to be on the respectable side of the winners of this world.  Winning gives one respect.  Jesus doesn’t value respectability that comes from winning, money, or even moral uprightness.  All the ways the world keeps score mean nothing to Jesus.  What then is most important to Jesus?  Forgiveness.

          Forgive.  Forgive everything.  Forgive for any reason.  Forgive when it isn’t deserved.  Forgive when you have been hurt.  Forgive when it’s not even your issue.  There is no bad reason not to forgive.  You don’t have to forgive out of love, because you might not feel any love.  You don’t forgive because you don’t want the other to benefit from your forgiveness.  You might forgive because you remember that’s what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, or you may forgive because you finally get Jesus’ message and want to conduit his bountiful mercy and love.  Whatever the reason, in good or bad faith, the message is FORGIVE.
          The world thought Jesus was a crook:  there wasn’t anything respectable about Jesus, he didn’t keep the Sabbath, he had table fellowship with other crooks, he died a criminal’s death, a complete loser.  The question for me, and perhaps for you too, is can we risk losing some of our respectability so we can follow Jesus?  Can we forgive those who hurt or attack us even when others around us think we are deluded, naïve, and foolish?  If so, the history of the world will finally change for the better!  


St. Alban
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)


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