Archive | September 2016

The Christian Citizen: Considerations in the Voting Booth

We are just weeks away from the presidential election, and I know there are many of you who agree with me that I wish it were already over! But it is not, and I fear it is likely to get far worse in tone and tawdriness until election day.

For many reasons, this is one of the most important elections in this century. The appointment of up to three Supreme Court Justices, overturning Citizens United, and continuing to solve the healthcare situation, especially for women and the poor are just a few of the domestic issues that loom in the near future.

There is also the growing global crisis in war, terrorism, and the resulting wave of millions of refugees worldwide, in trade and finance, and in the environment that affects every living soul on earth. Whether we like it or not, our President sets a tone for the world, and is looked upon for leadership and direction.

election-rhetoricSadly, the mudslinging, scare tactics, name-calling, lies and promises that can’t be kept aren’t new in 2016. Though we are bombarded with ‘he said/she said’ and a level of public discourse that has reached a new low, one does not have to look far back in history to realize that this has always happened to some degree in politics. Even though the political rhetoric gets outrageous, and “spin” and “talking heads” muddy the already-murky waters, the checks and balances of our constitutional system have continued to support our democratic process year after year.

Sadly, however, some of the 2016 candidates are making it a central focus of their campaigns to denigrate and cast doubt on this democratic process – to sow seeds of distrust and anger about our national institutions and elections, and to foment dissatisfaction wherever possible. Although our system of governance and of choosing our leaders may have some glitches, we would do well to remember that US democracy is far more successful and promising than any governance human beings have developed to-date, anywhere on this earth, and we must guard it with our lives!

Still, some shrug their shoulders and say, ‘it doesn’t matter if I vote – it’s all rigged” or ‘I don’t like any candidate so I will make a protest vote – it doesn’t matter who wins”.

If you feel this way, I want to ask you to reconsider. As Christians and followers of Jesus, I urge you not only to vote, but to realize that your vote matters— like never before! I ask you to consider several basic concepts springing from our faith that can help influence your decision.

INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM VS. THE COMMON GOOD: The central struggle of modern societal ruling systems has been to balance the rights of the individual with the needs and structure of the community—to seek the common good while preserving personal freedoms. If one takes time to read the platforms and policy statements of the four groups vying for national office, it is clear where they stand on matters of great national importance: regulation, public vs. private institutions and ownership, access to the laws and the courts, healthcare education, religion, etc. From the first recorded moments of His ministry, we know that Jesus taught inclusiveness, caring for your neighbor and “the least of these,” non-violence, and fairness. We are taught to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), “go the extra mile,” “welcome the stranger” (Romans 12:13) and to love and treat others as we wish to be treated (Luke 6:31). Racial, religious, economic, and social barriers must be broken so that we may all be one as “Children of the Light” (Luke 16:8). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) is a profound and simple model of what is important and eternal in relationships and in nations. We must seek leaders with policies and positions that strive for that model. We must go beyond our personal fears to seek and support those who espouse the good for each of us within what is good for ALL of us! Playing on our fears, our greed, our hubris, and our prejudices diminishes us all.

COMPROMISE OR ”RENDER TO CAESAR THE THINGS THAT ARE CAESAR’S”: Politics is messy and often unfair. Just as in Jesus’ day, many groups, interests, and powers make up society, and the struggle to live together must involve “give and take’ if it is to succeed. In Mark 12, Jesus avoids the trap of literalism in which his enemies sought to ensnare him. Instead of railing against unfair taxes, Jesus reminds them that taxes, societal laws and regulations are all part of the earthly realm of Caesar, and not of God, but if we are to live in this world successfully, we must at times live by the rules of “Caesar” so that we may do the work of God! No one likes to compromise their values or integrity, but we have all done it at one time or another, and in politics, we’d best follow Jesus advice, and seek leaders who have been willing to compromise in order to get something done for the good of all. “My way or the highway” may sound high-minded and tough, but in fact, it migrates against moving forward any discourse or action for the benefit of all. Jesus would urge us to support leaders who have shown themselves able to master the give and take of difficult agreements in the world of “Caesar”!

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS: Since childhood I have heard the adage “talk is cheap,” and with most political rhetoric, promises are made and broken on a daily basis. Several times in His teachings Jesus reminded us that we can be judged best by what we DO, more than what we say. In Luke 6:44 we find:

For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

In the book of James 2:14-16, we are reminded that faith without works is dead—and so we must look to the candidate’s actions and deeds, rather than listen only to what they promise. How have they lived their lives? What have they valued and fought for? That tells us more about what they will do in office than any catchy slogans or bold assertions!

DO NOT DESTROY THE GOOD IN SEARCH OF PERFECTION: We must remember that only God is perfect and we all fall short of perfection. But Jesus continually urges us to

“seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)

to keep trying. Our leaders fail and make mistakes, but many do good things in the process, and in the chaos of the political arena, have fought and proven themselves. As we learned in our Scripture last Sunday, he who is faithful in small things, can be trusted in large things (Luke 16:10), and so let us not deny the leader who has shown in his or her life a determination to work for the best for us all, despite his or her mistakes and failures. Let us ardently support those leaders who did their best to work with love for compassion, peace, and justice for all of us. Remember, we are also choosing for the world!

YOUR VOTE MATTERS—for today and for the future of America and the planet! I urge you to take your faith with you passionately and enthusiastically into the voting booth!

And finally,

We must pray for all our leaders and the candidates – pray that they will consider the teachings of Jesus in their lives and their elected functions.

And no matter what, no matter who is your favorite,


This is the one time that the ‘government for the people’ can actual be determined ‘by the people’.

written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 17 Sep 2016

What Are Our Priorities?

Luke 16:1-13

As you might have noticed, we have been hearing a lot of parables from Luke in the last few months; this is Year C in the revised common lectionary. . . the year of Luke. And Luke seemed to concentrate on Jesus and his parables as teaching tools for his disciples and anyone who interacted with Him. Jesus used parables to convey a moral truth, a lesson for the hearer on how to live their lives. We started out with some gentle parables (the Parable of the Sower of seeds in Luke 8, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10) and have progressed to today’s Parable of the Unjust Steward that has a lot more substance. I often wonder if the tone of the parables become more complicated because Jesus is tired of having to answer the same questions all the time.

In today’s gospel, we just heard:

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ (Luke 16:1-2)

The manager’s gig was up – he had been caught stealing from the rich man. He was being rightfully fired for cause: theft. Yet, a few lines later we hear this:

And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16:8)

Did we just hear that the rich man commended the manager who had ‘cooked the books’ and cheated him?

You have got to be kidding!!

That doesn’t make sense! If someone cheated you, would YOU praise their shrewdness? I don’t think so!

Of all the parables in Luke, this is probably one of the most difficult parables to try to understand and, certainly, to explain to you. Most preachers try to stay as far away as possible from preaching on this. But here I go.

It’s an interesting story; here’s a con artist, caught cheating his master, shown to be guilty by his silence (he says absolutely nothing when he is accused by the rich man and summarily fired). Yet he ends up being commended for his smart thinking. At first, we might think Jesus is condoning the theft by the manager. In fact, Jesus says

for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. (Luke 16:8)

in other words, the dishonest manager was more shrewd than Jesus’ own followers. This man, doing his evil deeds, was far more dedicated to his self-preservation than Jesus’ disciples were in spreading the good news of the gospel.

So what’s the point of the story?

In my opinion, the point of the story is that it is NOT OK to be a con artist, even if you get away with it in the end. Nor does it teach us to manipulate events for our own benefit, as it seems to. As much as that may have been the dishonest manager’s method, Jesus isn’t suggesting that it’s OK for us to manipulate or cheat, even if it is appears to be in the service of God’s kingdom.

The people who use this parable to justify underhanded or dishonest methods are simply misrepresenting it for their own purposes.

The end NEVER justifies the means.

Let me repeat that:

The end NEVER, NEVER, NEVER justifies the means.

If the parable is not about justifying dishonest behavior and the end justifying the means, what is the deeper meaning of the parable?

What the parable is also about is money, the power it brings, and how to use it in our lives. It’s about understanding that there can honest and dishonest uses of money and power.

Even in Jesus’ day there was this idea that money was an evil thing; some people thought if you got involved with money you would be tainted, would have committed a serious, maybe, mortal sin. In Matthew 19:24, Jesus himself said

it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

But he didn’t say it was impossible. Just having riches doesn’t preclude you from salvation. What matters in the end is how wisely you use money and the power it brings. In other words, don’t be put off by the thought that there’s something wrong with wealth, as though wealth is a hindrance to entering God’s kingdom. Rather, make sure that what wealth you have is used for godly purposes. Make sure that your use of your wealth results in your making friends that will last for an eternity, that is, children of the Kingdom of God. God is about relationships and interactions with others.

All of us live in this blessed and, frankly, rich country. We enjoy independence, freedom, and material goods far beyond those of most people in the world. Jesus is warning us to make sure we use our wealth well, to bring people into the Kingdom of God.

Despite the way the manager behaved, life’s purpose is not solely about making our own individual and family’s lives more comfortable. Many people look at their wealth and think it exists for their use only. Whether it is inherited or worked hard for, a sense of fear of the future or the overwhelming need to look after ourselves or our family, encourages us to hoard our wealth for fear of loss. But that isn’t at all what Jesus is talking about here. He’s talking about using our wealth for others; not just our family, but for those we many not know, for causes we did not start, to benefit people not directly connected with us. This parable encourages us to look at life as not just caring for #1, but to use all the resources we have to bring this world into the Kingdom of God.

Life is NOT about accumulating wealth. Rather it’s to make sure that the wealth we have is used properly. Life is about looking beyond ourselves to the needs of others and to causes and actions that bring people to the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is many things; but if we learn anything from the teachings of Jesus, we learn the Kingdom of God is one where no one is hungry, no one is homeless, no one is suffering or sad. The Kingdom of God is one in which there is no war, no greed, no cruelty. All are included in the Kingdom of God; there is eternal compassion, forgiveness and mercy, and most of all there is joy. Jesus taught is to pray:

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)

And this is the work of a Christian, to use his or her money, time, knowledge and energy to bring this kingdom closer to earth.

So, what are you living for at this moment?

This parable is not only about money, it’s also about having a long term vision. It’s about expanding our horizon, getting the big picture of life. It’s about understanding where we’re going, long term, so we can know how to live our lives here and now. Think about what the manager did. He realized what life will be like when he was fired and he did something about it. He personally sacrificed some things so he could do right by his master and his friends. He took the opportunity he had while the opportunity was there, to create for himself a secure future.

How are we to apply this strange parable to our own lives?

Life is about the grace and forgiveness of God given so freely and so unearned. You will hear in the communion anthem:

There is a wideness in God’s mercy,. . .

there’s a kindness in His justice, . . .

the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind,[1]

And another point Jesus is making with this parable is, if the crooked people of this world go to so much trouble and effort to be wicked, to be dishonest, to cheat, and to be so selfish — why can’t his disciples and us put as much or even more effort into being His followers, the “sons and daughter of the light”.

We are here to plan for eternity; we are here to bring people into God’s kingdom. And one way of doing that is to use our money, our wealth, and our time to support God’s work. We mustn’t fall into the trap of being ashamed of our wealth or, at the other extreme of thinking that we don’t have enough to spare for God’s work. Rather we should rejoice that God has made it possible for us to give our resources to support his work, to make friends for eternity.

  • Have you thought about the fact that when you spend time working with our youth you’re making friends for eternity?
  • Have you thought that when you put your money in the plate each week, that you’re helping to support a witness on Worthington’s Village Green for the Kingdom of God?
  • Has it occurred to you that when you put hours of time and energy into our Vestry, our Choir, any of our committees, or prepare food for the homeless you are making friends for the Kingdom of God?
  • When you support with your money, political candidates that believe in the service and love of others, do you realize you are working to bring God’s kingdom on earth?
  • Do you know when you stop to help a child, to help someone in need, listen to someone who needs an ear, or take a stand in a public gathering for the principles of Jesus, that you are using your wealth to win people for the Kingdom of God?

Jesus concludes with a sharp statement as a way to sum up what he had been trying to say all along:

“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13)

Jesus doesn’t want half-hearted discipleship; He wants total discipleship on our part.

Can you put forth the effort to serve Jesus?

That is what he is asking in the parable, “where is your effort?”, “where are your priorities”?

Is your priority in things that will fade away?

Or is your priority to build the Kingdom of God here on earth and for eternity?



Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 18 September 2016


[1]       Frederick William Faber & Maurice Bevan, There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy.