Pentecost 18

The name Louis G. Cowan is not exactly a household name, but his creation changed television and added a phrase to the American lexicon. Cowan’s big idea was the game show The $64,000 Question. Almost immediately, The $64,000 Question beat every other program on Tuesday nights in ratings. Broadcast historian Robert Metz claimed U.S. President Eisenhower himself did not want to be disturbed while the show was on and that the nation’s crime rate, movie theater, and restaurant patronage dropped dramatically when the show aired.[1]

 

We’ve got a couple $64,000 questions this weekend, starting with this Parable of the Unjust Steward. Since it appears to present an immoral person as a model, the story has been used by Christianity’s enemies to denigrate Jesus as teacher. But there is a way of reading it that makes powerful sense.

“It is undeniable that the steward is called unrighteous and that he is also held up as some kind of an example. But just how is he unrighteous and exactly what aspect of his character or action is presented for imitation? Let us read it closely.

“The steward of a wealthy landowner is told to turn in his books when he has been discovered as having squandered his master’s property. Until he hands over the books, he still has authority over the land renters. He moves quickly to “sweeten” their annual rent contracts (paid in kind according to their crop—i.e., in jars of olive oil or bushels of wheat). The renters do not know the steward is being dismissed; they would presume that he has talked the master into these more favorable rates and would be only too happy to accede to the new contract, no questions asked. They would also think highly of the master for being so generous. When the landowner discovers what his steward has done, he has to hand it to him. The clever action of the steward has not only put the rascal in good favor with the renters it has also brought to the land-owner an honor which he would be foolish to try to undo.

“(Jesus then) suggests that the steward is some kind of example: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” Obviously, to imitate the steward literally, by acting deceptively, would simply be to act as a child of this world. Something else is required of the children of light. Jesus urges the latter, those trying to live the way of the kingdom, to “make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that, when it fails, you may be welcomed into eternal dwellings”. Clearly this draws a parallel with the parable: Jesus urges us to use wealth in such a way as to gain favor with (God), who is both the ultimate client and the ultimate landowner. Jesus spotlights the opportunistic shrewdness of the steward. The application for the “children of light” is that they too are to be clever opportunists, by using wealth in the ways that Jesus elsewhere advocates the use of resources—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, lending but asking nothing in return.”[2]

 

Now that we’ve figured that out, I’ve got a couple other $64,000 questions.Here we are at the beginning of another “Program Year” – I hate that term, but this is about the time we leave summer behind, the Church School begins anew, the Choir is back with us, the weekday services come back, and we hit the gas on the activities of the parish.

 

And so the question becomes, Where is God moving in our lives? In your life? In the life of our church? I can tell you where I see movement: in the lives of the almost two dozen young men and women who will be Confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church by our bishop in a few weeks. What can we do to serve our youth, to help them become better disciples of Jesus? I see movement in the help we are receiving in cooking meals for HomeFront, help from within our church and people coming in from our community. Is God telling us to expand that ministry, to partner with others? I see movement in how many young couples are here and serious about their faith and about making sure their children are raised to know Jesus. What are the needs of our young families, how can we help them continue to model the Faith to their children?

 

I’m excited about all this movement, about what God is doing in Bordentown, I’m excited about what God is doing through us and for us. And so this fall’s $64,000 question is, Where is God moving in your life?

[1] Wikipedia, The $64,000 Question

[2] http://liturgy.slu.edu/25OrdC091816/theword_hamm.html

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