Unsettling Accounts

1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13


Good morning. Today we celebrate the sacrament of baptism for Cameron Cavaliere. This is a joyous event in the life of the Cavaliere family and it is an especially joyous occasion in the life of this congregation. This is the fifth baptism we’ve celebrated this year, and there are more baptisms to come.

So, you would think I’d pick a really happy piece of scripture for my sermon today. Instead, the Lectionary served up one of Jesus’ most challenging parables. In this parable, if we assume that Jesus is the rich man in the story, then it seems like Jesus is commending the dishonest manager for stealing. Right?

It sounds like Jesus is saying to the manager, “Listen, I’ve heard reports that you’re stealing from me, you’re skimming from my accounts. Go, now, and collect everything I’m owed.” And then the dishonest manager goes to all of the rich man’s debtors and rewrites their accounts, so that they owe less, and then the dishonest manager can collect the reduced debts.

Is Jesus—I mean, the rich man—upset with this? No! He congratulates the dishonest manager for getting some of his property back. He commends the manager for his shrewdness. I find this story to be unsettling. If any of you can tell me how to make a happy sermon out of this, and then link it to baptism, please step into this pulpit.

Anyone? Jessica? This could be your last chance to preach here for a while. Want to take over? No?

Then let’s switch to the reading from 1 Timothy. That’s all about prayer, right? That should be an easy one for a happy sermon. But there are some problems with the Letter to Timothy, too. The Lectionary stops with verse 7, but if we continue with the rest of this chapter, we hear something different:

I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; 9 also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11 Let a woman[b] learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman[c