1 Timothy 2:1-7
Every now and then, we come upon a passage of Scripture that is especially challenging to preach on. Sometimes, the difficulty comes from the fact that the text is so familiar that just about everything that can be said about it has been said.
Then, at other times, texts are difficult for exactly the opposite reason: they’re so confusing that we spend so much time explaining the text that we never get around to actually preaching the Good News! It’s little wonder that Martin Luther once said of preaching passages such as the one we heard this morning, “Sometimes you have to squeeze the Biblical text until it leaks the Gospel.”
Today we heard the story of a dishonest manager who is about to be fired for misappropriating company funds. He considers restitution for his embezzlement, but he’s unwilling to resort to manual labor, and he’s too proud to ask for charity, so he visits all of the vendors who owe his employer money and he convinces them to falsify their invoices so that it appears that they owe the master less than what they do.
The manager does this in order to develop a quid pro quo relationship: if he does the vendors a favor now by making it seem like they owe less than what they do, then they’ll be more likely to do him a favor later—like give him a job once he gets fired for corruption. And if they don’t, he can reveal their trade secret: that they falsified their invoices. And then to everyone’s surprise Jesus actually praises the manager. So what is the point of this Gospel?
First, I think at least part of what Jesus is trying to say to us here is that it is important for us to use our brain and to think critically about our faith and the world around us.
Without the ability to think critically and share our expertise with others, no amount of passion or money or creativity will bring our goals—worthy as they may be—to fruition.
In praising the manager, Jesus is not praising his dishonesty; rather, he is praising his shrewdness and creativity. He’s praising the manager’s ability to utilize his capacity for critical thinking as a tool for building up the Body of Christ and bringing about the Kingdom of God.
So, how do we critically think about the kingdom of God, how do we show others what the kingdom of God should look like? I grew up in Colorado and there were two main cultural moments that defined my childhood. The first was the Columbine Shooting in Littleton, CO about 4 hours from where I grew up and the second was the murder and funeral of Matthew Shepherd. Matthew was 21 when he was murdered outside of Laramie, Wyoming. To this day his murder is considered one of the horrific in our nations history. Matthew was murdered for one reason and one reason only. He was killed because he was gay.
I was just a kid when Matthew was killed so my parents told me very little about his death but I remember the aftermath, the funeral to be specific. Because Matthew was gay the churches in Laramie refused to hold his funeral. His family literally had no place, no sanctuary that would allow them to honor their son’s life and then the Episcopal Church stepped in. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Casper, WY about 2 hours away from his actual home offered and even requested the honor of holding his funeral. Just last year Matthew’s ashes were finally laid to rest at the Episcopal National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
The story of Matthew Shepherd is certainly extreme and unique but the story of people being gay and feeling unwanted, unwelcomed, and less created in the image of God in churches is not. Organized religion has hurt the LGBT community in ways that deep and long lasting. For too long, pretending to speak in the name of God, some church have sent a message that people who are gay are less created in the image of God than people who are straight. And unfortunately it wasn’t just a feeling of unwelcome when gay people came through the door it was an actual verbal message that they were told when they entered.
Thankfully, the church has gotten a lot better and mainly it is because of people like you; people who are loving and welcoming no matter what. You all know something that has taken a lot of the church generations to learn… all people are equally created in the image of God and that the spiritual practice of hospitality, of welcome, and love is not an acceptance of the way every person lives their life but rather an understanding that God loves equally and fully. We know here at Trinity that we can welcome people who are different than us, who make different choices than us and we can hold all of that in God’s love.
So, with that in mind I wanted to share with you a proposal that was brought to the vestry by a member of the congregation, which was deliberated on and unanimously voted for by the members present. The vestry voted to hang a pride flag outside of our church. The main part of the proposal that really struck me was when it was said that we are a loving, welcoming, and life giving church and we have the ability to provide sanctuary for those who church has harmed but in order for us to be that safe place for them we need to get them in the door first. A flag will show them that we are not like all of the other churches that they have been to and here they will be welcomed.
But it is important to note what the flag does not say as well. The flag is not a statement of promotion from every member of this church it is simply a promise that no matter who you love you will be treated as a beloved child of God here. I know that this is big and some may need time to process and I am more than happy to have deep conversations with you as we prepare to hang the flag next week.
I have always said that faithful people can come to two separate and different understand and both can be right in the eyes of God. It is so important in time like these that we remain in conversation with one another and remember that this is the start not the end of this conversation.
One of the things that I love most about Trinity is that this is a place where people with vast differences come together and worship God and because of that when I look out at all of you I see a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like.
Today we heard the story of the shrewd manager and as I said I think this story is about how we are to use our minds and intellect to bring about the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that is reflective of all of Gods creation. May we work to be creative in the ways we welcome and love our neighbor and may we never let our fear keep us from doing what is right.