Scripture is uniformly clear in its call to put God above all else, to worship and serve God faithfully, to refuse all idols and devices that draw us from God. It does NOT tell us that in order to do these things we must do so in a manner that is absolutely the same as “we have always done.” In fact, much of Jesus’ message, and much of both the New Testament and the Hebrew scriptures, is directly telling us that God is doing a NEW thing—and so should we.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul encourages prayer for kings and all others in power, no matter what their religious or political positions, first of all so that they will allow the faithful to live in peace, knowing that they are being supported. Then he goes on to argue a more theological position, saying that God desires the salvation of everyone, even those who may oppress believers. This is an about face from more traditional adversarial views of those who oppose God’s faithful; there is no retribution, no “eye for an eye” here. Further, the outsiders are being welcomed in. This is definitely not the old way.
In telling his disciples the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus is setting out a rather confusing pattern to follow. Following what we know about reading parables, the master who dismisses the manager is God, and the manager is Israel. Israel’s job is to manage God’s property, to be the light of the world, to be responsible to God and for God’s possessions. But Israel has failed at this job, and is now being let go. What to do? Not what the Pharisees do, which is to get even stricter about the rules and to create even more rules to make Israel “holier.” If we follow the story, what Jesus is advocating for Israel, in the face of crisis, to try something far less cautious: forget all the extra, add-on rules and regulations, and get down to the essentials of the Law—loving God and neighbor. Make friends, and bring those friends into God’s Kingdom, too.
“Mammon,” the word our translation renders into “wealth,” is a Greek transliteration of a Semitic word that could also mean, “that which one trusts.” It is impossible to serve God and your own trusted ways. Serving God may well mean going somewhere, doing something that scares you and takes you into the unknown. Is that happening in your life, somewhere? Is it happening in the life of the Cathedral Family?