Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Morning Prayer II/Proper 6: June 14, 2020
Gospel: Luke 12:41-48
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne Hymes; Sermon, "Jesus Taught Us Better than That" (Gospel: Luke 12:41-48). Video will rotate for proper viewing shortly after the opening sentences. Music: Ms. Gina Spano; Reader/Videographer: Mr. LeGrand Jones
Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, 14 June 2020
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Work places are diverse and complex contexts for the display of myriad human behaviors. Each organization has its own work culture, and those who move in those spaces must learn to navigate that culture with all of the office politics. There are even, what might be described as the laws or the unspoken expectations of a particular work culture, which can set up new workers entering the context, for reward or punishment should they act wrongly.
In many places where I have worked, the unspoken cultural law was that everyone was expected to arrive before the boss arrived; to be busy non-stop while the boss was there; and to never leave at the end of the day before the boss left. Now, a new employee, having completed their work, and quite unaware of the cultural expectations, might leave even while their boss is still in the office. Unbeknownst to them, they have broken the law of that culture, and will certainly hear about it the next day. But how can one be held accountable for breaking laws that they don’t even know exist? Ignorantia juris non excusat, which means ignorance of the law is no excuse.
In the gospel passage in Luke this morning, Jesus had previously been teaching to a large crowd of people, which included his inner circle of disciples. When Peter asked Jesus about whether or not the parable was meant for his inner circle or for everyone, Peter was referring to the parable before our passage which emphasized the necessity for the slaves, at all times, to be watchful and alert for the coming of their master—to avoid being caught off guard when the master returns at an unexpected hour (12:40).
Jesus did not answer Peter’s question directly; instead he offered another parable about the faithful and the unfaithful slave. This parable focuses on the moral character, the integrity, of the manager figure, who was entrusted with the wellbeing of the master’s slaves, and who himself was a slave to the master. This manager figure, while a slave himself, was set apart by his responsibility. And because of his accountability to the expectations to the master, he was subject to the rewards of obedience, and to the punishments of disobedience, to those expectations—the laws of the workplace if you will.
On the one hand, there is the manager who knew what the master expected, yet abused the other slaves and engaged in behaviors that besmirched his position and the intentions of the master. On the other hand, there is the manager who did not know what the master expected, and behaved contrary to those expectations. When the master came at an unexpected time, both managers received punishment—ranging from being cut into pieces to a light beating.
For our 21st century sensibilities it makes sense that one who intentionally commits wrong doing deserves punishment. But is it fair to hold one accountable for wrong doing when they are unaware of the laws of the land or even that those laws exist? This parable is set in the context of Jewish
law, which distinguished between intentional and unintentional wrongs, and which punished all violations of obedience. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
While Jesus did not directly answer Peter’s question—is this for us for everyone—this parable is about those whom Jesus has entrusted with the truth of God’s expectations for those called and formed to walk in the footsteps of Jesus—teaching, preaching and healing God’s people as Jesus taught them. This parable was directed to those Jesus set apart and taught to obediently follow God’s will just as Jesus did.
This parable is also directed to all leaders of the church today, who like Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, will be judged harshly for knowingly acting against that which Jesus taught, and as our reading in Acts described it, “…making crooked the straight paths of the Lord” (Acts 13:10).
As children, my sister and I would try to get away with doing things that we knew we should not do. Once the bad behavior was detected, our mother would look at us with disappointment and say, “Now, I know I taught you better than that.”
Amidst the challenges of and increasingly secularized society, I am reminded of the Church as prophet; the one crying out in the wilderness for all to make straight the path of the Lord. In order to reclaim her prophetic voice, the Church, as the body of Christ, must risk unwavering obedience to God’s will when the world about her denies God’s existence.
The Church must labor on frontiers that are hostile to the Church when she stands in the gap, loving, protecting and caring for those who are the most vulnerable in our society. Risk having the audacity to be seen and heard—up close and personal—proclaiming the gospel throughout the layers of society. And risk relationship with all of God’s people, so that ignorance of God’s laws may not condemn, but make space for correction and loving invitation.
Church leaders, and the ministers who labor alongside them, in the building up of God’s kingdom, have much responsibility to bear. The primary one of which is to resist compliance with anything that makes crooked the straight paths of the Lord. And, when those who know better, fall into sin and fail to do what is right, I can just imagine the voice of Jesus speaking to His church for correction in love saying, “You know what God wants; I know I taught you better than that.”
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (12:48). We, who by faith, follow Jesus Christ, have been given much—eternal life now and in God’s eternal kingdom to come. Therefore, we are required to act according to the One who gives life and does not deal death; And we have been entrusted with much—the feeding of Jesus’ sheep with the life-giving gospel message, according to God, the One who reconciles and does not fracture. And, truly more will be demanded of us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, ignorance of God’s law of love is no excuse. May we resist all distractions of this world that may lead us, intentionally or unintentionally, into temptation, because we know that Jesus taught us better than that.