This is the prayer on the lips and in the hearts of every preacher who is opening the Lectionary for the first time this morning and finding out that Proper 20, Year C is THE SUNDAY! The Sunday that we are challenged with the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. The Sermon Brainwave gurus tell me that none other than Rudolf Bultmann calls this “The problem child of parable exegesis.” It is, without a doubt, a really tough lesson to understand for one’s self, let alone to attempt to preach about for a congregation filled with people from every stratus of the socio-economic ladder. How do you preach about wealth to the single mother who is barely scraping by? How do you preach about it to the DINKS trying to decide whether to travel to New Zealand or Iceland for their next ridiculously amazing vacation?
Perhaps even more importantly, how do you preach Jesus’ words, “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. 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.” This parable seriously challenges us, and 2,000 years later, we’re still not sure what to do with it.
My friend and colleague, The Rev. Evan Garner, blogged this morning about staying on the surface with this passage. You should read his post, it is a good place to start, but I’ve suggested to him that by staying on the surface, we miss the impact of parable as literary time bomb. At some point after hearing this lesson read, after it sits and stews in our gray matter for a while, this parable will pop back up, raising all sorts of deep theological and philosophical questions, that the preacher, hopefully, should be prepared to help answer.
I’ve planted the bomb in my brain this morning. Now to wait, hopefully without much anxiety (thanks to the Collect), for the meaning to explode from within.