Sunday, September 25
 10:00 a.m.


Pent. Pr. 20C-1 9-18-16                                                                          St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                           Jer.8:18-9:1; 1 Tim.2:1-7; Lk 16:1-13

Between the lamenting of Jeremiah, the despairing of the psalmist, and the rather glib injunction to pray for kings and rulers and be quiet and orderly of the 2nd century Letter to Timothy, you might have a sense of whiplash! And then we have a rather shocking parable of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel – the shrewd debt collector-steward (just doing what most debt collectors do nowadays and writing down the debt because getting some of it paid off is better than getting none of it) – he is called dishonest, but commended. The children of this age are praised above the children of light – presumably idealistic faithful folk who are also a bit naïve. And apparently Jesus is telling people to make friends by “dishonest wealth “ – “unrighteous mammon” was the King James Bible translation that some of us remember. And what are the “eternal homes” (actually, “eternal tents” which is a bit of an oxymoron!) and who are the “they” who may welcome you there?  Are these the debtors who will welcome into their homes the manager who has allowed them to survive an insurmountable debt and clear their books? If this parable doesn’t shake you up a bit, you haven’t been listening!

I do notice that this manager has been charged with dishonesty…was he truly dishonest? Or was the allegation based on somebody not understanding how debt-collection works, maybe someone resenting his success in bringing in cash? So is he dishonest? Or just practical and smart, as his master assesses him to be on hearing the details.

The little puzzle-story is followed on by a series of related sayings about wealth, just hitched onto its tail. These make more sense: someone faithful in a little is likely going to be faithful in a lot, and someone unfaithful will similarly run true to character. This tends to be true of leaders – if you want to know how someone will handle a huge budget, see how they handle a small grant; if you want to see how they will regard those who are poor or of low social standing, ask how they have treated the janitor at their old job, or the attendant at the cash register in the supermarket where they shop.  

The person who tries to show allegiance to two different masters is likely to be pulled in two directions and get nothing done; the person who tries to equally serve God and their own fortune will similarly be conflicted and unsuccessful…and wealth is a powerful overlord! The obsession with it, the compelling need to get it and secure it and preserve and grow it, can certainly crowd God out of a life completely, and crowd most other life-giving things out too: spouse and children, friendships, hobbies, rest and balance, for a few!

“If you have not been faithful (trustworthy) with the dishonest wealth, or maybe the money from questionable sources, who will entrust to you the true things of value?” Now that makes some sense – consistency of character, running true to form – tends to happen.

But is Jesus really telling his followers and friends and opponents to make friends by means of dishonest wealth? To be shrewd and calculating? Maybe.

Certainly we do tend to whitewash Jesus into a milquetoasty kind of guy – always nice, well-groomed, never a spot on his white dress, just a sweet pushover who gets victimized. (Suggesting that we Christians are supposed to be goody-goody nice people too.) The more you read the Gospels, though, the more Jesus emerges as not like that at all. He can be snippy and short, even dismissive and rude (Ask the Syrophonecian woman!). He can be angry and rough (ask the money-changers doing their jobs in the temple courtyard!). He can say contradictory and perplexing things that leave his closest buddies scratching their heads and wondering who he is and what he’s really up to. He can be accusatory as well as forgiving, iconoclastic as well as traditional, and his sense of humor can be crude as well as subtle. He isn’t nice; he’s real, single-hearted, determined, utterly God-focused and humane.

We also remember that Luke’s Gospel is the one specially aimed at people of privilege, with a bit more education and social comfort than Mark’s and Mathew’s audiences. Luke loved the teachings about wealth that stick a pin into inflated egos and pocketbooks. So on one level comes the warning Luke emphasizes: riches are likely to get between you and God, you and your neighbors, especially if you are oblivious about your privilege and their privation. Don’t mistake the fools gold for the real treasure. Don’t run after money and forsake relationships, or lose your own soul.

On another level comes Jesus, who is, I think, telling his followers: don’t be naïve fools. See how the world works and learn to maneuver in it for good. A set of miserable debt-bound people in this parable are suddenly released from that bondage. Unhappy clients become welcoming friends. An annoyed boss becomes an admiring  and satisfied one. A nasty little situation of stuckness becomes unstuck by some pragmatic and sensible action. Christians use your wits and good sense to help and to build up where you can. Be faithful in that small arena where you find yourself, and with the tools and brains you have been given to work with. God isn’t looking for angels, God is looking for savvy, committed, human beings who get things done and manage using right values as they negotiate an often corrupt, tempting, world. I find that a liberating idea.





WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Office Hours:  
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Wednesday: Holy Eucharist 10:00 a.m. 
Sunday: 10:00 a.m.

This is St. John's Episcopal Church...

This is St. John's Episcopal Church, Westwood MA

Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day?  Click below to go to the Lectionary page...  all readings available for 2016:

Sunday, September 18:
8:00 a.m. Eucharist
10:00 a.m. Eucharist

Tuesday, September 20:
7:00 p.m. Bible Study followed by Compline @ 8:30

Wednesday, September 21:
10: 00 a.m. Eucharist

Congregational Resource Day
Faith Community Church, Hopkington
Saturday, October 1
9.:00 a.m. 2:00 p.m.
Bring a team from your parish with participants from the vestry, Sunday school teachers, stewardship committees, outreach and mission committees, youth leaders, parents, welcome committees, parish communicators, pastoral care teams, parish administrators, confirmation mentors, and education committees.  There is something for everyone and everyone is welcome!
Cost, which includes lunch, is $20.00 per person. You can register a team from your church with up to 11 people on one registration at the "Register Now!" button below.
For more information visit the link below

Wednesday, October 19:
A Concert of Russian Vocal Music

LYRA is coming! October 19th we will again enjoy a concert of Russian a cappella sacred and traditional music, open to the public, starting at 7pm. We may have the privilege of hosting the musicians for two nights – if your household can provide bed and breakfast for a musician, please speak to Jennifer. It’s a great opportunity to start an international friendship and learn about another culture.
LYRA brings professional musicians from choirs and concert halls in St. Petersburg around the world to introduce their music and costume and vibrant spirit to new audiences. Most are conservatory-trained, some are students. Lyra in Russian means inspiration, and you are sure to find their visit inspiring. Let’s show them real American hospitality.
Save Your Soda Can Pop-Top Rings to Help Sick Children!
Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield and Boston have been collecting pull-tabs or “pop-tops” from beverage cans since 1989, recycling them, and putting the money toward programs that directly benefit children. Since its inception, about a half-million pounds of aluminum tabs have been collected and recycled.

Shriners Hospitals for Children - Boston

 51 Blossom St.                                                                                                                Boston, MA 02114                                                                                                            Telephone 617-722-3000                                                                                                      Fax 617-523-1684



 Flowers enhance the beauty of our church and greatly contribute to our worship.  We place flowers near the altar to remind us of Creation, which brings us to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we celebrate every Sunday.  Here at St. John’s, rather than have a general budget item for flowers, we invite our parishioners to provide the flowers in memory or honor of loved ones, or in thanksgiving for special events.  There is a sign up sheet on the bulletin board  on which one may select a Sunday, (or Sundays!), for a special tribute.  The cost for flowers, which the Altar Guild orders, is $35. (Please be sure to note on your payment that it is for flowers.)  We are grateful to  Westwood Gardens Florist, which, for many years, has provided beautiful arrangements to us for a modest price.