Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
September 18, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about friendship.
Do you remember the “Dear Abby” advice newspaper column? Where a person writes in with a question or situation seeking compassionate advice? Sometimes they are silly, while other times it is a more serious situation. Well, I came upon one Dear Abby article I would like to share with you:
Posted: Friday, August 26, 2016 12:00 am
By ABIGAIL VAN BUREN/For The Lufkin News
DEAR ABBY: My friend “Virginia” and I have known each other for 11 years. Five years ago she went into renal failure and was on dialysis for three years. It was hard on her and she needed a kidney transplant. Her three healthy siblings refused to be tested as a possible match.
Virginia is on the young side, and she was in such a bad way I agreed to be tested. After several procedures it was determined I was a “close enough” match, so we decided to go for it. She was scared to death right before the surgery. I convinced her that even though things might be rough for a while, she would be glad she went through with it.
It has been 18 months now, and I have not seen or heard from Virginia since the day after the surgery. I called her a few times to make sure she was doing well. She never returned my calls and has completely dropped out of my life. She lives only four blocks away, so I know things are going OK for her. I figured I’d give her some space, but that space has turned into forever. I haven’t heard from her family either. They visited Virginia at the hospital, but didn’t stop in to see me just three rooms away.
How could I have been so wrong about someone I knew for so long? My husband says Virginia is an idiot and I should let it go. My therapist says I’ll have to “adjust to the injustice.” I would have donated to a complete stranger without hesitation. But Virginia wasn’t a stranger. I never expected to lose my friend along with my kidney. Can you please help me handle this? — BLINDSIDED IN NEW YORK
Dear Abby’s response:
DEAR BLINDSIDED: I can see why you are hurt by the abrupt change in your friend’s behavior, and believe me, I empathize. The knee-jerk reaction of someone who hasn’t been through this would be to say what unfeeling and ungrateful people Virginia and her family are, because you literally saved her life.
However, it may help you to better understand what has happened if you consider that while you saved Virginia’s life, sometimes the burden of gratitude is more than someone can bear. For whatever reason, she may carry some guilt about owing you as much as she does, which is why she can no longer interact with you.
As to her family, that none of her siblings were willing to be tested as possible matches for her speaks volumes about them and the quality of their relationships, so stop feeling slighted. Listen to your therapist because she/he has given you some practical advice.
Advice that is what the parables are all about. Today’s parable often labeled, “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager”. It is a parable which is not as well-known as say the Good Samaritan and it even seems a little confusing. Let us recap:
We have a manager who works for a very rich man. The rich man learns that his manager is not taking the best care of his property. The rich man goes to the manager and tells him to write up a report of all the dealings he has done; include what has been borrowed and what interest is owed to the rich man. The manager realizing that he is going to be fired has to quickly make a plan. He knows he is not easily employable in other areas like ditch digging, so he goes to those who owe the rich man and rewrites what they owe, dropping it down by 50% and 20% respectively.
Now if I were the rich man, I would have been angry at this manager. He is cutting down on my profit! But really it is more likely that the manager is cutting out his profit from on the loans, his portion of payment. Thus the rich man commends the manager for what he has done. For his shrewd aka prudent or wise behavior. “So why is our dishonest manager shrewd [or prudent]? Even though he is often still labeled a sinner who is looking out for his own interests (6:32-34), he models behavior the disciples can emulate. Instead of simply being a victim of circumstance, he transforms a bad situation into one that benefits him and others.”  By cutting out his commission on the loan he is very clever and wise indeed.
“By reducing other people’s debts, he creates a new set of relationships based not on the vertical relationship between lenders and debtors (rooted in monetary exchange) but on something more like the reciprocal and egalitarian relationships of friends.” After all he needed to make friends in his dealings so that he might find a new job.
Jesus spoke in parables to his followers as a way to illustrate various lessons. As modern day Christians we must examine the parables and find how they might relate to us in this day and time. For today I suggest we use this parable as a metaphor regarding friendship and emotional spending instead of financial spending.
Have you ever held onto a grudge and felt like someone owed you something? Maybe you did something really nice for someone else, like donated a kidney as did our Dear Abby writer. Or maybe it is has just piled up over the years. You always agree to babysit, you always meet your friend at their house or their favorite restaurant, you always agree to drive your car and use your gas. It is a weight that you carry around and maybe the other person knows about it or maybe they have no clue at all. Either way you feel you are spending more emotionally than they are, they are emotionally loan sharking you.
How do we handle these types of situations? I believe this parable has a lot to offer. Allow us to imagine we are the manager in this story. We are the manager because literally the two debtors owe him and his master either jugs of oil or wheat.
So here we are knowing these two people owe us something…and I am telling you they are going to pay me back! Like the kidney donor, I at least want a thank you or acknowledgement. I have too much time, money and emotional energy invested in this situation to let it go.
But what happens? God (aka the master in our parable) steps in and brings us down a notch. We are too worried about what people owe us and all we have done, that we are missing the point. We are squandering away these possibly great relationships. So we, the manager is told…that’s it, enough you must stop.
All of that emotional energy has been wasted on counting what we are owed. On tallying up all the times we were:
went out of our way to visit our friend,
expected to babysit;
we have forgotten to focus on what is really important, where God is within our relationships. We have been spending more time and energy on emotions surrounding what we are owed and the unevenness of our friendships, that we are missing the point, we are missing God.
You see, when we have misplaced our emotional energy. We have run our tanks empty leaving us unable to foster God within our relationships and unable to build on our personal relationship with God.
So how do we resolve this emotional loan sharking? We go to our friends and speak the truth in love, for God is love. And we cut the debts, we let go of our commission, our share of interest and we stop holding on to the emotional baggage of “what is owed.” We reconcile what is going on, we talk about it and if talking about it will do no good, because sometimes it is better to just leave some situations alone, we release the emotional loan to God.
Today I invite you to let go of what others owe you. To release yourself or others of expectations and burdens because in the Gospel of Luke, the joy of the Gospel is the joy of God's healing of relationships, including even economic relationships.
The therapist in our Dear Abby story tells the writer she will need to “adjust to the injustice”. I would instead suggest, that we have faith. Faith that it is possible to have God in our relationships and if we have just a speck of faith that God is here, then we can have faith that God is also working within those relationships. For “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” v 12.