Psalm 97:1-6; Joshua 18:1-19:9; Luke 16:1-15

Psalm 97:1-6: John certainly had this psalm in mind when he wrote of his visions on Patmos. “His lightnings lit up the world; / the earth saw and quaked. /Mountains melted like wax before the LORD,/ before the Master of all the earth.” (4,5). Particularly at the opening of the sixth seal: “and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” (Rev 6:13,14).

Both passages remind me that despite my and others’ attempts to do so, God is not constrained by the little box into which we prefer He’d fit.

At its core, this psalm is about justice: “Cloud and dense fog around Him, / justice and judgment the base of His throne” (2) and then, “The heavens told His justice, and all peoples saw His glory.” (6) A perfect creation would be perfectly just. Alas, we have corrupted creation by our sin that promotes injustice. We want to keep God in that little box hoping He won’t see our acts because in our hearts we know that we sew and tolerate injustice. Again and again, we are reminded that to come before God we must be perfectly just. And there is only One Way by which that can occur.

Joshua 18:1-19:9: Seven tribes have not yet had their territories apportioned. We would think that upon finally arriving at the Promised Land that everyone would be eager to claim their portion of the land, settle down and begin life anew.  Yet, there seems that having arrived, the people are just “hanging out.” We hear frustration in Joshua’s voice when he asks, “How long will you be slack about going in and taking possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?” (18:3) So Joshua takes matters into his own hands, assigns three men from each tribe to lay out the remaining portions of land, which they do.

So, why were they being slack about taking possession of the land? There could be many reasons, but one of them, I think, was that as far as they were concerned they’d reached the Promised Land and that in itself was sufficient. Just as we come into the Kingdom when we’re baptized but then just “hang out,” expecting others to to the hard work. We choose churches based on how much we like the quality of their preaching and music. We “church shop” for the programs that suit us, behaving exactly as the consumers of other products. But then, like the Israelites, we we refuse to actually work and contribute to the building of the Kingdom. Joshua’s words about “how long we will be slack” is not a historical artifact; they are completely appropriate for us today.

Luke 16:1-15: This is one of those parables that upon first reading make me go “Huh?!?” Is Jesus really endorsing dishonesty? But on closer examination, Jesus is endorsing stewardship and faithfulness. We are all dishonest managers and we have been given wealth that in the end and despite what we think is assuredly not our own; it is God’s. How we use that wealth is the point here. Do we use it as a means to invite others into the Kingdom just as the manager used his master’s wealth to ensure he would be welcome into other’s homes after he lost his job?

Wealth is a means, not an end. We can have wealth, but if we focus on it, thinking it’s our own then it becomes our master. But if we use it as a means to build the Kingdom, then we are serving God, not the other master.

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