The parable that Jesus tells today (Luke 16:1-13) is a very odd kind of story – one that has perplexed people across the generations. Does he really praise the astuteness of the steward for doing something at least immoral, if not illegal, in the final stages of his term as the steward for the rich man? What is going on here? So many parts of the story are simply weird, including the whole conduct of the rich man, the steward and the debtors. Lots of different explanations have been offered by saints and scholars, but few are deeply convincing. It seems that all that Jesus says about this is really by way of introduction to a more significant theme that often is lost in the midst of the weirdness of the parable – the need to be ready for the crisis that is looming large in the lives of the Jewish community, and by extension to be applied by our present community to a crisis that continues to unfold within the western church and world.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am (10mins)
Sunday 25, Year C.
We read the whole of the fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel today – which begins with this description of the annoyance of the religious types that Jesus was mixing with the wrong kinds of people – the tax collectors and sinners. In response, Jesus offers these three beautiful parables – the last two of which are unique to the Gospel of Luke. The first is the shepherd who has 100 sheep and one goes astray; the second is a woman with 10 coins who loses one; and the last and longest is a father with two sons and one leaves to go to a distant land. All three parables are odd in their own ways and all lead us further in our reflection upon the mercy of the Lord and our role as Christians to reach out to those on the edge.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 7.30am (9 minutes)
Jesus is somewhat uncharacteristic today as he tries to win friends and influence the crowds by declaring that they will not be worthy to be his followers and disciples unless we hate the most significant people in our lives, including ourselves, take up our cross – which means to prepare to die – and give away all that we possess. Such strong stuff. To drive home the message, Jesus uses two images – both of which are very appropriate for Father’s Day – the Bunnings/Masters friendly man doing the DIY project of building a tower, and the very Game of Thrones friendly reference to two kings going to war against each other. The stakes are certainly raised. Jesus is deadly serious that this discipleship business will cost us everything. At the beginning, we must be ready to learn and grow – but he will ask everything of us – because it is only when we are free to follow him that we will find any freedom in life.
This weekend also marks the beginning of my second year at St Paul’s. So this Gospel provides the basis for this call to respond to the great commission that Jesus gives to us – to go, make disciples, baptise and teach. Only one of the four elements of the commission is central – and it happens to be the one part that the church has not been especially strong in – we have faithfully baptised people over the centuries, and built schools and educated children, and we have sent missionaries to new territories – but we have often failed to do the one essential thing – which is to make disciples. This has to change – because the central call of the church – the reason that the Church exists – is to evangelise and make disciples – which means that the reason that this parish exists is to evangelise and make disciples. So as we begin this new season of Spring, let us also make this a new springtime in the parish by embracing this call to make disciples.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am Mass (13 mins)
Sunday 23, Year C. Luke 14:25-33