Once We Start to Act, Hope is Everywhere
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Luke 16:1 – 13
“Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth, so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” -Jesus in Luke 16:9
Whoa, what the heck, Jesus? What does that even mean? Are you really saying you want us to be dishonest, that the ends justify the means, that we need to do whatever skeevy thing needs to get done to get the boss’ money and save our own hides?
It feels, I don’t know, a little...incongruent with the rest of the Gospel message. You know, the whole love your neighbor stuff, the turn the other cheek stuff, the blessed are the peacemakers stuff.
But let’s back up for a second, and take into account the context of this story. The author who wrote Luke and Acts—it was the same person—had some pretty clear ideas on who they thought Jesus was and what it meant to follow Jesus.
Lainey mentioned this awhile back, but out of all the Gospels, Luke is the most concerned with justice, with the poor, with the marginalized. Only in Luke does Jesus quote the Jewish scriptures, saying,
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Only in Luke does the story of Zaccheus appear, where the rich man vows to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four-fold anyone he’s ever cheated. All because he wanted to follow Jesus.
In Acts, Luke introduces an entirely different way of being in community: no private property. Everything the community had was shared. Did this actually happen? I don’t know. Probably not in any kind of pure way. But was it aspirational. Yeah, it definitely was.
This is all to say that I don’t think Jesus was advocating for anyone cheating anyone else for the sake of the kingdom of God.
What I do think is that Jesus is asking us to be shrewd when it comes to seeking justice, to living our faith, to bringing the kingdom of God into our world.
This is how Eugene Peterson translated the Gospel today in The Message:
Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.
Sometimes, I think we can get a little stuck. A little too comfortable with the way things are. A little complacent. We obey the rules because we’ve always obeyed the rules, because obeying the rules means that we’re being good.
Sometimes, though, we need to recognize when breaking the rules is what’s going to bring life.
Like an ambulance. I think it’s really important that we all stop at stop signs and red lights. It keeps us all safe. Helps us to get where we’re going in an orderly way.
You know who doesn’t stop? Ambulances. Why? Because it’s an emergency. It’s a matter of life or death.
We are in an emergency. There are some in our communities who don’t believe it, but hundreds of thousands of children and youth gathered this weekend to tell everyone: climate change is real, and it threatens all of us.
It is time to run red lights. It is time to turn over tables. It is time to be shrewd. It is time to disrupt the order of things.
That’s what Greta Thunberg is trying to tell us. She’s the 16 year-old Swedish girl who has organized an international effort to fight climate change. She was the mastermind behind the Climate Strikes that started on Friday, where students around the world walked out of school to protest the inaction of our world’s leaders when it comes to climate change.
In her Ted Talk, she points out that 200 species are going extinct every day, a rate that is at least 1,000 times higher than normal. She points out that rising temperatures will disproportionately impact poorer people and poorer countries.
Because the majority of people in poorer countries tend to rely on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods. So when temperatures rise, when droughts grow long, when rains become more unpredictable, and when sea levels rise, their ways of life will change and perhaps disappear.
This will eventually affect all of us, of course, but they’ll feel it first. There might be starvation. There might be mass immigration, particularly to richer countries. And so there might be conflict. We’re already seeing it.
The poor will suffer first. And they will suffer most. The Jesus of Luke would have something to say about this.
Greta’s Ted Talk continues:
We've had 30 years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas. And I'm sorry, but it doesn't work. Because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now. They haven't. And yes, we do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.
Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.
This is the story that Gisela, Jack, and Judy brought back from the Climate Strike in Portland—where over 20,000 people gathered and then marched across the Hawthorne Bridge. They went, and they represented St. Luke’s—and also the spirit of the Gospel of Luke!
Gisela told me that there was something festive about it. That it engendered resolve and a bit of hope.
Judy told me that the Climate Strike “turned out to be a powerful antidepressant for the general malaise of the impotence we have felt over the last years. It moved her to do more, be more aware, risk more, to help this current generation and their offspring.”
Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.
On our vacation, Rachel and I passed a billboard on the highway that said, “There is evidence for God!” “Is” was underlined and the sentiment ended with an exclamation point. There IS evidence for God!” Below that, it cited Romans 1:20. Oh, and there was also a picture of a baby. I have to admit that my first reaction was skepticism. I figured some fundamentalist group was publicly picking a bone with us heathens who don’t understand God correctly.
But I was curious. I was driving, so I asked Rachel to look the verse up. Romans 1:20 says: “Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”
Actually, the billboard is right. It’s true. It’s beautiful. When we look around at God’s creation, at the trees, the mountains, the ocean, we can see and understand God’s eternal power and divine nature.
So what does it mean to take what God made for granted? What does it mean when we abuse and exploit and destroy the resources God gave us?
It is time to run red lights. It is time to turn over tables. It is time to be shrewd. It is time to disrupt the order of things. It is time to take action.
What can we do to decrease the amount of fossil fuels we use—at home, in this church, in our city, in our state, in our country? What habits do we need to change? Where are our voices needed so that policies chance? So that new regulations are passed? So that new leaders who understand this crisis are elected?
It’s a huge task, but we must do something. And I believe what Greta believes:
And once we start to act, hope will be everywhere.
Greta's Ted Talk: