Crazy Mercy (Trinity 09, 2012)

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, CA

Trinity 09, 2012 (August 5)

Luke 16:1-13

TITLE: “Crazy Mercy”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  Our text for today is the Gospel lesson just read, the parable of the unrighteous servant.  We focus on the words of Jesus: And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

No question about it.  This is a tough text.  So in order to navigate this, we have to get a couple things really clear off the bat.  First, God the Father is the merciful rich man.  He doesn’t punish the dishonest manager when He would have had every right to do so.  Instead, He shows mercy and love.  That’s point number one.

Point number two is that Jesus is the dishonest manager.  No, I’m not saying that Jesus lies or deceives us.  What I’m saying is that He forgives our sins and failings, because Jesus knows more about the mercy of our Heavenly Father than we do.

So let’s rehearse the text to make sure we understand what’s going on here, then we’ll come back to our two main points.  A rich man has a manager who takes care of his rental properties for him.  Someone comes to the rich man, we’ll call him the master, and tells him that is manager is being dishonest.  The master then calls his manager to him and says, “‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’” (Luke 16:2)  Now at this point he could have thrown the man in jail. But He doesn’t.  He shows mercy. He simply fires him.

Our unrighteous manager is no in a pickle.  He can dig ditches.  He’s ashamed to beg.  The only thing he’s good at, apparently, is taking care of his master’s property.  And he isn’t even good at that!  He keeps squandering the master’s riches, wasting them when they shouldn’t be wasted.  So this is his idea: “I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’” (Luke 16:4)

He then has a fire sale on the rich man’s rental properties!  He slashes prices left and right, dismissing a year’s worth of work and more with the stroke of a pen.  In a flash more has been forgiven them than these poor renters even thought possible.  It’s a dream come true.

So, now, let’s get back to the rich man.  It’s pretty easy to put ourselves into this Lord’s position.  He has an employee that is acting crazy with his property, all for his own selfish gain.  But this manager/employee knows something about the rich man.  He knows that the rich man is merciful, and that he will not shame his crooked employee or himself by going back on the promises the employee made.  

The rich man can’t help but commend the shrewdness of the dishonest manager.  The manager recognized something very important: no matter what, the rich man will be merciful, because that’s who he is.  

So now that we’ve heard the story, let’s get back to our two main points and bring them home for sinners like you and I.

Point number one is that the master, the rich man, our Heavenly Father, is merciful.  That’s what makes God tick.  His love for you knows no bounds.  He will forgive your sins.  He has forgiven your sins already on the cross of His Son, Jesus Christ.  You have a Lord who loves you, and who will stand by you even when you mess up royally.  And make no mistake about it, we all mess up royally.  Our sin is almost as boundless as God’s mercy and love.  

Point number two is that forgiveness come from the most unlikely places.  The dishonest manager is the Christ figure in our story.  Jesus does not present Himself as the nice, pious Buddha sitting up on a hill, detached from the sufferings and hardships of others.  Jesus comes to us as one of us.  Jesus comes to us in the form of a sinner, so that we need never be afraid of His boundless mercy.  One pastor put it this way:

The unjust steward is the Christ-figure because he is a crook, like Jesus. The unique contribution of this parable to our understanding of Jesus is its insistence that grace cannot come to the world through respectability. Respectability regards only life, success, winning; it will have no truck with the grace that works by death and losing – which is the only kind of grace there is. (Robert Farrar Capon)

Your redemption will not come through the respectability of the world.  Your salvation will not come because you act right, look right, or appear to have everything together.  Far from it.  The reason Jesus comes to you lowly and humble is because that’s the only way sinners like you and I can receive him.

Today God comes to you with a gift.  The gift is the forgiveness of sins in Himself.  He covers up this gift in bread and wine, but Jesus is there, His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Shed your worry about how the world views you.  God comes to you now to give you salvation.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Sometimes God’s mercy will give you a headache, like this parable.  It just seems too good to be true.  We may even eye God’s mercy with suspicion, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But Jesus comes to you today and slashes your sins to ribbons.  That old debt and guilt which you have been clinging to, Jesus takes it from you and puts it on Himself.  He will take care of it.

So this day, rejoice in the crazy love of God for you.  Rejoice that God would take a sinner like you or me into His heavenly mansions.  It is strange.  It even seems irreverent somehow.  But that’s God for you.  Trust in His mercy, for it will last you for all eternity.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting.  Amen.

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