Proper 20

Home Up

Prayer of the Day
Lord God, you call us to work in your vineyard and leave no one standing idle. Set us to our tasks in the work of your kingdom, and help us to order our lives by your wisdom; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amos 8:4-7
{4} Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, {5} saying, "When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, {6} buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat." {7} The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

4. you that trample on the needy…bring ruin to the poor of the land: "The rise of urban culture under the monarchy led to the development of commerce and an economic upper class. As more and more small farmers were pressed off their land and forced to shift to service and labour, their dependence upon the market became acute. The urban merchants appear to have monopolized the market; they were able to sell to landless peasants at a high price. They had the resources for stockpiling grain, and in a time of poor crops were in a position to control the economy completely." [1]
5. When will the new moon be over…and the sabbath…. We will…practice deceit with false balances: The prophet condemns the merchants out of their own mouths. Impatient for the days of religious observance to be over, they connive to cheat the poor and needy.
7. The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: See 6:8. Yahweh swears by himself, and declares his hatred for pride, which is proverbial (Proverbs 8:13). Jacob/Israel’s pride is cited against the North also in Hosea 5:5; 7:10. "an ironic sense remains the most likely: Yahweh’s oath is just as unalterable as Israel’s haughty arrogance is beyond reform." [2]
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds: Yahweh responds to their avarice and oppression of the poor with a vow not to forget. This is the theology of the Mosaic covenant, the theology of the northern kingdom where Amos was sent as a prophet.

Psalm 113
{1} Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD; praise the name of the LORD. {2} Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forevermore. {3} From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised. {4} The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. {5} Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, {6} who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? {7} He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, {8} to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. {9} He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!

3. From the rising of the sun to its setting: From east to west, or from morning to evening. "…the temporal dimension finds expression in ‘from now to eternity [vs. 2],’ so that one would expect our phrase to designate geographical limits in the main." [3]
5-6. the Lord our God…who looks far down on the heavens and the earth: Yahweh is so great that he looks down, not only on the earth, but also on the heavens (see verse 4).
7-9: He acts for the poor and needy and the barren. The reversal of the fortunes of the poor and the powerful is developed in Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2) and Mary’s song (Luke 1:46b-55). Care of the needy and poor, the widow and the orphan (the barren woman was in a similar situation) is enjoined throughout Deuteronomy and Jeremiah (Deuteronomy 10:18; 24:19-21; 25:7; 27:19; Jeremiah 7:6; 22:3).

1 Timothy 2:1-7
{1} First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, {2} for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. {3} This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, {4} who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. {5} For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, {6} who gave himself a ransom for all --this was attested at the right time. {7} For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

1-2: Paul urges the actions, intentions and needs of everyone and especially those in positions of authority be the subject of worshipful attention. Concern for civic responsibility is expressed also in Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:14 and throughout Acts. Accusations of subversion against Christians for "saying that there is another king named Jesus," are also known: Acts 17:6-7. "Such prayer is actually subversive of any claim to ultimate authority on the part of human rulers, for it turns to a still higher power with the request to bless the king…. The more forcefully Christians pressed the single and ultimate power of the one God, the more the strategy of prayer for [emperors as] would-be gods was exposed as a form of accommodation, as the frank declaration of Tertullian’s Apology 30 makes clear: "Go to it, my good magistrates, rack out the soul that prays to God for the emperor. Here lies the crime—where God’s truth is, where devotion to God is." [4]
so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life: The first of two reasons for such prayers "points to the ideal of a quiet life, removed from public turmoil." [5]
3-6: A second reason is also given, namely, that such support and respect is God’s will. God desires that everyone, including Gentiles, may come to understand the truth. Support for civic order by Christians will forestall opposition based on accusations of subversion.
5-6: "one of Paul’s typically compressed Christological-soteriological statements, as found also in Rom 3:21-26; 5:8-10; 1 Cor 8:6; 2 Cor 5:19-21; Gal 1:4; 2:20; Eph 5:2; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20; 1 Thess 5:9-10." [6]
there is one God: A statement of Israel’s fundamental understanding of God as confessed in the Shema’ (Deuteronomy 6:4). See also Romans 3:30; Galatians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 8:6.
one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human: Jesus is identified both as human and a mediator, an intermediary between God and his creatures. In Galatians 3:19-20 it is the law that is "ordained through angels by a mediator."
7. a herald and an apostle…a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth: Paul’s self-description stands in contrast to his adversaries who are identified as "teachers of the law, without understanding…" (1 Timothy 1:7). Paul is not only a teacher, but also a messenger and an announcer. Paul’s teaching is true and faithful to God’ purposes for the Gentiles.

Luke 16:1-13
{1} Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. {2} So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' {3} Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. {4} I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' {5} So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' {6} He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' {7} Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' {8} And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. {9} And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. {10} "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. {11} If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? {12} And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? {13} No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

 1. There was a rich man who had a manager: Whether the story reflects a true-to-life situation, or whether the master (verse 8) is commending the steward’s dishonesty, or just his creativity, or even whether "the master" is the rich man or verse 1 or God, does not ultimately alter the burden of the parable. Wealth is the accumulation of surplus economic resource and, by definition, dishonest and wicked. All economic resources are to be used to provide the necessities of life for oneself, for one’s family and retainers, and the poor and the needy of the neighborhood.
4. I have decided what to do so that…people may welcome me into their homes: Ironically, the dishonest steward recognizes the importance of charity on the parts of other people, while, at the same time, continuing to use dishonest means to gain access to that charity.
5-7: The steward offers to allow the debtors to cheat the rich man. Whether they accepted the offer in not clear.
8. dishonest manager: Literally, "steward of unrighteousness." See Luke 18:6, "unjust judge," literally, "judge of unrighteousness."
9. his master commended the dishonest manager: One should not get hung up on this seeming inconsistency. Jesus’ and the parable’s attitude toward dishonesty is made quite clear in 10-13,
make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they many welcome you into the eternal homes: All wealth beyond one’s needs is considered to be tainted. Israelites were responsible for each other. The thought is not to encourage dishonesty, but to recognize and affirm that mutual responsibility. One who has wealth that is beyond one’s needs should share it with those for whom one is responsible. Like "the master," Jesus, "the Lord" commends the use of "the mammon of unrighteousness," earthly resources, to make friends of those who occupy "eternal dwellings."
10-13: "These verses are an appendix ‘made up of various sayings which above all want to avoid the possible misunderstanding that disloyalty is something commendable for a steward’ (Klostermann)." [7]
13. No slave can serve two masters: Serving God requires single-minded devotion and singular dedication. There is no room for rivals.

     In the first lesson Yahweh condemns the pursuit of riches by dishonest means, at the expense of the poor and needy. The Psalm praises Yahweh who will act on behalf of the needy and poor and the barren woman. Paul urges us to intercede for earthly governors as Jesus intercedes for us.
     The Gospel declares the incompatibility of the search for wealth and the service of God. "…the parable seems to be about using the present as a time of decision, not in view of a coming catastrophe but in view of a crisis which is apparently impossible to overcome…. If one wishes, this is about a strategy for survival, the type of the immoral hero which Jesus himself was in part (7.34), which included many of his hearers like toll collectors and prostitutes, and which similarly appears in other parables (Thomas 98; Matthew 13.44; 24:43-44 and Luke 18:2-5)." [8]
     By placing the "two-masters" epigram in context with the second lesson, political authority with its ability to control wealth is identified as a rival to service, love, and devotion to God.

Hymns [9]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

459 --E--O Holy Spirit,
376 --D--Your Kingdom Come!
737v --I--There Is a Balm (825s)
366 --P--Lord of Our

300 --II--O Christ, Our
168 --II--Kyrie, God Father
397 --II--O Zion, Haste
         493, 405

Prayers of the People [10]
P or A: We gather, this morning, seeking to be faithful. Let us offer our prayers with the words "Hear us, O God," and responding, "Your mercy is great."
A: Living God, we pray for the church around the world: that its witness in the world may be life-giving and just. Hear us, O God. Your...
A: Saving God, we pray for the people of this congregation: that we may be found faithful in little and faithful in much. Hear us, O God. Your...
A: Welcoming God, we pray for __________ as they are prepared for Holy Baptism: that they will grow in grace as they advance in years. Hear us, O God. Your...
A: Merciful God, we pray for all who grieve: that all who mourn may be borne-up among the faithful. Hear us, O God. Your...
A: Healing God, we pray for all who hurt or suffer; for the hungry and the homeless; the injured and the abused; the sick and the weary; we pray especially for __________ ; we pray for all whose prayer is silent or whose need is unspoken (silence); that all will experience your presence, O God, through the ministries of your people. Hear us, O God. Your...
P: Into your hands, Gracious God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or [11]

Presider or deacon
Let us offer supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for everyone, through Christ Jesus our only mediator.
Deacon or other leader
For this holy gathering, and for the people of God in every place.
For all peoples and their leaders, and for justice, mercy, and peace in the world.
For abundant fruits of the earth, and for farmers at harvest time.
For the poor and the needy, the sick and the suffering, prisoners and refugees, and the dying and dead.
For our city and those who live in it, and for our families, companions, and all those we love.
Lifting our voices with all creation, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ.
To you, O Lord.
God of every bounty, hear the prayers we offer this day and entrust us with your riches from above, that we may hold them in faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[1] James Luther Mays, Amos: A Commentary. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969, p. 143.
[2] Hans Walter Wolff, Joel and Amos: A Commentary on the Books of the Prophets Joel and Amos. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977, p. 328.
[3] Mitchell Dahood, Psalms III:101-150. Introduction, Translation, and Notes with an Appendix The Grammar of the Psalter. Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970, p. 131.
[4] Luke Timothy Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 2001, p. 196.
[5] Ibid., p. 190.
[6] Ibid., p. 191.
[7] Gerd Lüdemann, Jesus after Two Thousand Years: What he really said and did. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2001, p. 367.
[8] Loc. cit.