Our parable this morning challenges our sensibilities about right and wrong, the very nature of justice. It used to be that the most skilled athlete, the hardest worker, the best employee, or the smartest student received the highest accolades. Well, it used to be this way. Now every athlete gets a ribbon or trophy, even if it is only for participation. Employees and workers expect, even demand, pay raises and rewards, regardless of their performance. And grade inflation in our schools and universities has made an “A” almost meaningless. Grade point averages balloon even as the air of scholarship and knowledge deflates. Participation ribbons, unearned raises, entitlements, and grade inflation rub against the ethos of the Protestant American work ethic. Hard work, dedication, superior skill, intelligence, and ingenuity should be prized. It only seems fair, doesn’t it? Rewards should be based on performance. The hardest working, most productive employee should get the raise and promotion. The students who master the subjects and score highest should get the best grades. The highly skilled, devoted athlete who wins the race should get the prize. It only seems right for people to be rewarded based on their work. Justice almost demands that people are measured based on their performance.
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
St. Paul’s exhortation to Titus is clear: a pastor must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. The pastor is tasked to instruct the people in the solid teachings of the apostolic Christian faith and to rebuke those who teach contrary to the faith, or reject it. Paul had offered a similar exhortation to the pastors in Ephesus, charging them to pay careful attention to themselves and Christ’s flock and to care for God’s Church, which had been purchased by the precious blood of Christ. This was important because there would be those who would speak twisted, deranged things and draw disciples after them and away from Christ. This is no insignificant matter. In Christ, there is life and salvation. Departure from Christ leads to death. Heresy is a choice to reject the teaching of Christ and leads to destruction.
Homily by Associate Pastor Chris Tiews, 10/25/2010
As a ship captain plying the Atlantic for many years, he had transported thousands of captured Africans back to England to be sold into slavery.
Yet after a series of ironic circumstances he had a spiritual conversion and realized the error of his ways.
He quit the slave trading business and did an about-face and became an evangelical lay minister.
After applying himself to Biblical studies, he was even ordained an Anglican priest.
Some years later, the former slave trader now-Anglican-priest devoted much of his energy to support the growing abolition movement in his homeland.
But despite his major contributions which put an end to slavery in his homeland, this famous Saul-to-Paul figure by the name of John Newton is probably best remembered for penning one of Christianity’s most beloved hymns, Amazing Grace, which we just sang….
When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified
It was the summer of 1984 and our family was traveling through Italy in our pop-top Volkswagen Vanagon. We stopped at a military base in central Italy to stock up on food from the Commissary. We also needed to do laundry. So my parents dropped my brother and me at the movie theater to watch a matinee showing of DC Cab, that timeless movie classic starring Mr. T. My parents and sister then made their way over to the base laundromat. About thirty minutes into the movie, the entire theater began to shake. We had no idea what was taking place, but people started to get up and run for the exits. Everyone was suddenly filled with fear. I stood up and started to run. I’d like to say I waited for my brother, but I think I elbowed him at one point to get ahead of him. The theater emptied in a matter of seconds. As the people gathered outside, they began to talk about the earthquake. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it was a significant one. When we looked at the theater, and there was a large crack right down the center of it. The terror of the moment remains fresh in my memory twenty-six years later….