Act Four

Luke 16:19-31 Some memories never go away and maybe never should. For twelve years in Atlanta, I navigated fences and gates to get into the downtown church I served. Late each evening, those same fences and gates served as the backdrop for women and men as they would roll up their clothes for a pillow and lay down cardboard for a mattress, while I would walk to my car and return to my comfortable home and bed. The parable that Jesus tells today brings back memories, hard ones. It is a tough parable to preach not only because it hits close to home, but because it is so hard to pin down. Some pin it down is as a “Jesus get tough on wealth” story. After all, that theme is not new in Luke. It be

Shrewd Saints

Text: Luke 16:1-13 You are about to hear a perplexing story. So, make yourself as comfortable as you can on those old wooden pews. Set your bulletin down and close your eyes if you like. Normally, I would never issue such an invitation at the beginning of a sermon, but I am convinced that if you sleep through this story, then you really need the rest. (Read Luke 16:1-13) Speaking in a stage voice that every religious leader nearby could hear, Jesus tells yet another once upon a bedtime story, but this is one that will not help you sleep. Only moments before, Jesus said, "Once upon a time, there was a young [prodigal] son who squandered his inheritance." In this once upon a time story, a fina

The Company God Keeps

Text: Luke 15:1-10 What preacher does not love the fifteenth chapter of Luke? What preacher worth her salt cannot soar like an eagle with the rousing, recurring, rhetoric of “lost” and “found” that frames this chapter? The problem with parables, though, is that they should come with the equivalent of those yellow cones that are often placed on newly waxed floors. Parables are by nature “slippery when wet” and they are always wet, even when they look perfectly dry. They lure us out onto the floor and before we know it, our feet are up in the air and we are looking at the room from an entirely new, and often not so comfortable, angle. It is even harder to understand parables when we skip ove

An Engraved Life

Text: Luke 14:1, 7-14 The story begins with a leader of a major religious party in Judaism inviting Jesus to his dinner table. Just when it is time for the meal to be served, Jesus decides to do some table talk. He talks about a table set for a wedding feast. There are ornate place cards adorning each dinner setting. Caterers and florists scurry about attending to last minute details, and on the hour, guests arrive, smartly attired, holding their elegantly engraved invitations. This is a sought-after invitation to a no-holds-barred affair. That is the setting and the beginning of the text from Luke today, but before we continue with this story, some back story might be helpful. By the time

Never Out of Season

Texts: Luke 2:8-10; Matthew 2:9-12 We were a NBC Nightly News family. Every weeknight after an always early dinner, we would sit in front of our one household TV. Then promptly at 7 p.m., we would listen to Chet Huntley and David Brinkley lead us through the major news stories of the day. This was long before the Internet, the 24-hour news cycle, and long before 900 cable channels. In the TV news of my childhood, it seemed to matter less which channel you watched to hear the news. For, whatever network you viewed in the 1960s, there were certain stories that would not go away. Almost nightly, there would be footage of the so-called “Conflict” in Vietnam. Occasionally, you would hear the elo

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