It was the kick-off Sunday for the annual stewardship campaign at a large evangelical church. Fifteen or twenty minutes into the preacher’s sermon, just as he was getting revved up, the preacher yelled to the congregation, “If this church is going to serve God, first it’s got to get down on its knees and crawl!” And the congregation yelled back “Make it crawl preacher, make it crawl!”
The dishonest steward in this evening’s parable is in the practice of gouging his master’s clients for his own gain. If someone owes his master $100, he demands twice that and keep the excess for himself. He’s like our modern-day payday lenders, preying on vulnerable people by charging crippling interest for his own gain. He’s making himself his master, in other words, using and abusing the position in life his true master had granted him. Only when the steward falls from grace—and only then, when he’s at the bottom—does he give up the pretension to be his own master and let go of those self-serving portions of his collections, asking instead from his master’s clients only what they genuinely owe. He finally becomes an honest servant, and his life is redeemed. Remember that, as I switch gears for a minute.
This is an auspicious evening, and it’s one in which there is some tension. On the one hand, we gather for the first time in this style of worship, which is both ancient in our tradition and new to Christ Church Cathedral. We sing, pause, and pray in ways that intend to remind us of God’s deep peace which runs—like water from a sacred well—beneath all of the things on the surface of our lives that would disrupt God’s peace. On the other hand, we observe today the fifteenth anniversary of that singular event of our lifetimes which spoke so powerfully that we had—and still have—difficulty finding words to counteract the horror of September 11, 2001.