Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sermon: Grace doesn’t make Cents

Hey, Jesus, you’re squandering God’s grace.
You’re throwing it around like New Money at Sacks 5th Avenue.
                If you’re truly on God’s payroll, you’d hold back, and not associate with people like that
—sinners, tax collectors, all those people not welcome at God’s table.
—You’re squandering God’s goodwill,
you’re being a bad steward of God’s kindness,
God’s grace.
                Then, as we know, Jesus responds to such accusations with stories about lost things, lost animals, and lost people. He tells the religious authorities
—God is like a woman scouring her house for a single cent.
—God is like a shepherd leaving all his sheep alone in the woods in order to find a single lost one.
—God is like a father embarrassing himself for his sinner son’s sake…
—You all, however, are like a jealous brother who embraces his father’s embarrassment, and holds a grudge against this lost son who was found.

                Jesus leaves them, but maybe the Disciples aren’t fully convinced—we rarely are right?
Maybe they are murmuring about cost-benefit analysis,
or wondering where their next meal will come from,
or wondering what they’re neighbors will say when they notice them dining with undesirables.
                I’d imagine Jesus stops suddenly along the road, maybe Thomas is looking down at his I-Phone and doesn’t notice until he runs into Andrew, not such a good thing—he’s got a temper on him…
                Jesus turns to them and says, “I see that you don’t get it. You want grace to make sense, to add up…
But grace doesn’t make cents,
or dollars,
or any sort of back and forth I owe you and you owe me, quid pro quo, way of being.
But, because you all are stubborn, let’s think this through their way,
let’s run the numbers and play out the alternative scenario,
auditing God’s books,
and thinking through what the Pharisees and Scribes accused me of doing with God’s grace.
Let’s assume God is a God of limited resources, like Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit, who hordes his Gold and kills any poor beggar or fool who tries to so much as touch it.

                God has put his great big pile of money into a trust, and asked me to manage it.
                And I did… but soon enough the Pharisees and Scribes saw what I was doing, you’ve seen it first hand, right? 
Forgiving like a fool,
searching in places good folk ought not be,
associating with the destitute and disposable…
                And this God of limited resources, greedy as all get out, called me into his office and raked me over the coals just like the Pharisees say he would.
This God of limits asked, “Are the charges against you true? Are you not charging interest on my grace and looking out for my bottom line? Show me your books at once!”
                So, I left his office,
ran to my desk (getting there before the goons who would put all my work stuff into a box and boot me out the door could make it there).
I furiously called and emailed all my customers…
after all, look at my baby soft hands, I’ve not worked a day in my life.”
                At this James guhuffed, seeing Jesus’ calloused carpenter hands.
                “I called everyone, the unclean man with a demon I exorcised, the whole pile of people I healed at the house of Peter’s mother-in-law, the lepers, that paralyzed fella, the centurion and his slave, the widow and her son…
you get the idea—all these people I’ve been helping in the name of God.
I said to one, “What do you owe God? 100 jugs of oil, pay 50.”
To another, “100 bushels of wheat, make it 80.”
                And you’ve seen it guys, the way people praise God in response to mercy, in response to forgiveness, healing…
                The whole village partied in response to the unexpected generosity from this Scrooge version of God.
He heard the hip-hip-hoorays hollered the whole way home,
So he found me and gave me my job back
—after all, people he’d never expected to pay him back, or even associate with him, were singing his praises to the highest heaven.

                So, if the Pharisees are right--God’s bag, his greatest joy and way of relating to the world, is filling his sack with loot,
and yet my gracious representation of him has got him more loot than all the tight fistedness of the Pharisees,
if that’s the case, then you as my disciples ought to do the same.
                Yes, even in the face of resistance and book keeping and holding grudges, go and represent God as gracious.
                They’ll tell you it is dishonest to go to the least, lost, and disinherited with God’s goods,
that you can’t squeeze a drop of praise of God from them no matter how hard you try…
well, they’re thinking is too heavenly minded, be wise, shrewd, dishonest in the eyes of the Religious-folk, so that you might go to those who will actually notice the services God has provided.
In business this is called a Blue Water strategy
—while everyone else is fighting over a small group of people, making the water red with the blood of competition, you go where no other company is, and you fish that market alone
—you are rewarded, while everyone else is bloodied

                You get it, right?
If our way of honoring God and spreading God’s Grace around, is still the most profitable way of doing this God thing
—even within a system that assumes God is a tight-fisted titan, hoarding his Grace and counting every penny of it…
how much more faithful is our open handed, merciful generosity in light of God’s true nature?
—in light of the God who searches out the lost?
squanders His very self for the sake of those he seeks!
How much more faithful this so called dishonesty that doesn’t make sense. A+A