Yesterday’s Scripture text for my sermon was the parable of the Unjust Steward, in Luke 16. I titled the sermon, “The Hardest Parable,” borrowing this title from Robert Capon in his awesome book, Parables of Grace. I don’t really care to rehash what I said, it was nothing earthshaking. More or less a lot of borrowing from Capon on this text. However, in the end I suggest that Jesus is the dishonest steward, who rips off his master in order to get in nice with those who owe the master, all because the master is handing the steward his pink slip over being a crappy steward. (in other words, he helps out those who owe the master, in order to get the favor returned when he is jobless.) The kicker of the story is that Jesus seems to commend the bahavior of the steward.
What I want to share isn’t more of the above, but about the reaction it stirred with some folks. Normally I get the “nice sermon” comment from most folks, the Sunday morning verison of responding “I’m fine” when someone asks how you are doing. Today, though, I had a few folks who kinda were taken aback, about such an unfamiliar slant on this text. In general, their point was that there is some “meaning” to the text, and they wonder if I had hit on the “meaning” (or if I had totally missed the point). What hit me was the common perception that there is indeed “a” meaning in the stories of Jesus, or in the stories of Scripture in general.
I cut my teeth in ministry with a similar understanding of Scripture. That if I studied the text enough, and prayed enough, there would come some obvious “meaning” in the text. (and very often, in the sermons I heard and preached, the meaning came in 3 points, often with some cute “the 3 A’s” of faith sort of thing. Now, I don’t dare think I have become more enlightened over the years in my thinking, which has changed by the way. No, it’s just that the more I seem to have derived “the” meaning to a particular text, or to “know” what Jesus is up to, for that matter, I soon have my knowing turned upside down, my “knowing” reduced to “what the hell was I thinking”. And most often this has happened when I have come face-to-face with a voice of someone outside my realm of “knowing”, whether it be someone outside “the church” or someone from the other side of the tracks, whose experience with Christ makes mine look pale in comparison. And maybe that shows me a part of my role in my new church, that I help my church folks hear from the other side. Or even better, that I admit right away that I do not really “know,” but here’s my take on it. What’s yours?