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22 Pentecost / Stewardship 1 - Luke 18:9-17

This week, there are a few things to lay out before we dive into the Word.

Today is the first of three Sundays that we at Shepherd will reflect upon financial

stewardship as we prepare ourselves to make pledges, or at least estimates, of our

offerings for the coming year.

We will give these pledges during worship on November 24, and celebrate them with a

brunch together following.

On these Sundays, we will continue hearing from the gospel of Luke, including stories

we usually miss because of Reformation and All Saints.

What does this mean?

It means that when my Mom compares her pastor's sermon to mine, it won't be

based on the same gospel reading, and now she knows why.

Finally, today is Martin Luther's birthday; he turns 536, so let's start with him.


Luther kindled the Protestant Reformation with an insistence on the doctrine of

justification by faith, the beautiful and unbelievable and usually untrustable truth

that we are right with God only and completely because God says so.

We cannot earn or deserve or diminish God's grace; it is all gift and no reward.

This is excellent theology and terrible fundraising.

Luther unleashed this insight at a time when the church was busily granting indulgences

in exchange for monetary gifts—essentially selling God's forgiveness.

To be fair, it was a bit more nuanced and complicated than that, but most people didn't

know that, and almost everyone assumed, like our Pharisee, that their offering had

some kind of influence in heaven, that God noticed and cared.

The indulgence industry was fueling a rather ambitious capital campaign.

Perhaps you've heard of the Vatican.

St. Peter's in Rome was under construction, with significant funding coming from

indulgences, and friends, Michelangelo ain't cheap.

To have some rogue monk publishing that indulgences are unnecessary and deceptive

because salvation is free is not smart business.

Lutherans have struggled with stewardship ever since, thanks be to God.


The challenge is that stewardship does not begin with us.

It begins with a strange, frivolous God who justifies tax collectors and blesses

helpless children while ignoring the impeccable religion of the Pharisee.

It is hard for us to appreciate what a good guy he really is.

He fasted and tithed more than he needed to—twice a week instead of once, and

a tithe of his entire income, not just the required portion.

He kept himself at a distance from the tax collector to keep himself ritually clean,

separate, set apart, or to use the Scripture's word, holy.

He prayed a standard Jewish prayer of thanksgiving, which would strike none of his

contemporaries as unusual or arrogant, giving God the credit for his holiness and

thanking God, which is something the tax collector never does.

He is honest, loyal, generous, conscientious, educated, disciplined, faithful—a pastor's

dream.

He stands in absolute contrast to the scoundrel in the shadows, a pitif