One Truth, One People, One Mission
September 22, 2019*
By Pastor John Partridge
Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Luke 16:1-13
Do you watch the news or read a newspaper, or even just try to keep up with what’s going on by reading an internet news feed of some kind?
No matter how you do it, if you understand the world around you with a Christian worldview, we often cycle between several questions about the insanity that seems to be going on around us. And, not surprisingly, some of the questions that we ask ourselves are the same questions that the followers of God have been asking themselves for millennia. Six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Jeremiah watched as his nation was carried off in to captivity and he weeps, laments, and cries out to God with what I see as two common questions (questions that we still often ask today), and one wish that offers direction to us today. (Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1)
18 You who are my Comforter in sorrow,
my heart is faint within me.
19 Listen to the cry of my people
from a land far away:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King no longer there?”
And there is the first question. Jeremiah says, ‘My people have been carried away into captivity in a faraway land.’ And he asks the question, ‘Has God abandoned us?’ ‘Is God no longer the God in Jerusalem?’
“Why have they aroused my anger with their images,
with their worthless foreign idols?”
And there we find the second question: ‘Or, have we abandoned God?”
20 “The harvest is past,
the summer has ended,
and we are not saved.”
21 Since my people are crushed, I am crushed;
I mourn, and horror grips me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing
for the wound of my people?
9:1 Oh, that my head were a spring of water
and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night
for the slain of my people.
Jeremiah finds uncertainty amid the chaos of war. The northern kingdom of Israel had been captured more than a hundred years earlier and now he watches as Jerusalem and all of Judea is captured and her people carried off into captivity in Babylon. But in the middle of his uncertainty, Jeremiah cries out that if all he can do is weep, then his wish is that he might be able to weep even more. This is powerful. In the middle of Jeremiah’s powerlessness, his wish is that he might at least be able to do more of the little that he is able to do. Think about that, because we’re going to come back to that idea before we’re finished.
In one sense, this wish, or this prayer, of Jeremiah has some of the same heart as the shrewd manager in the story told by Jesus on Luke 16:1-13 where we hear this:
16:1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ 7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Jesus is quick to point out that wealth, and wealthy people, isn’t evil just because one person has it and another doesn’t. Instead, Jesus makes the point that wealth isn’t evil at all if that wealth is used to bring people into the kingdom of God. And to those of us who fall short of being called wealthy, Jesus emphasizes that the goal isn’t to be rich, but to be trustworthy in handling whatever we have been given. We cannot serve money, but we can use it as a tool to serve God.
At the end of the day, the manager in Jesus’ story didn’t have much once he knew that he was going to lose his job. He didn’t have much time, he didn’t have much money of his own, he wasn’t strong enough to work in the fields or as a laborer, he didn’t have any notable skills, but he is commended by his master because he was shrewd enough to use what he had to make place for himself in the homes of several of his master’s customers after he lost his job. And there is that lesson that we heard in Jeremiah, no matter how much or how little you have, you can use what you have.
But to what end?
What is our purpose? As the people of God and as the followers of Jesus Christ, what should we be doing?
And that is exactly the question that Paul answers in his letter to his protégé and friend, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 2:1-7.
2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
First, Paul says that we should pray, not just for our friends, and not just for the people that agree with us, and not even just for our allies, but that we should pray for everyone. Paul says that, even in a world where authority was abused and kings were often terrible, cruel, and violent despots, we should even pray for kings and people in positions of authority, so that we might be left alone and live quiet lives, and spread the good news of Jesus Christ without interference. Next, Paul reminds Timothy that God wants all people to be saved and come to know one, single, truth: There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, Jesus Christ. Jesus came, not to save the rich, or the poor, or the people of Israel, or church people, or even good people. Jesus’ mission was to give himself as a ransom for all people.
The Old Testament and New Testament are not different stories, they are the stores from different times about the same truth, the first is about the promise of God and the second is about the fulfillment of that promise.
And so, we remember that there is one truth, that there is one God, and one mediator between God and mankind, Jesus Christ who gave himself as a ransom for all people. There is only one people, the people of God, who know that the rescue of all humanity flows through Jesus Christ and him only. And there is only one mission, to do everything in our power, whether we have much or whether we have little, to use everything that we do have, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible.
That means, that like Jeremiah, we should pray that we could do more with what little we have. That means that like the shrewd manager, we should use whatever we have, whatever we have been given and whatever lies at our disposal, to serve God, and gain friends that can be with us in eternity.
There’s nothing wrong with being rich, if you use your money for God.
Most of us will never be rich.
But you don’t have to be rich.
You just need to be smart and use what you have.
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