From the Gospel according to Luke:
[Jesus said,] “I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Luke 16:9 (NRSV) – May 30, 2013.)
In August of last year the American Dental Association launched a campaign to get people to brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. It was called “2min2x” and it even has its own website by the same name.
I recently discovered that if one sings the “Happy Birthday” song eight times while brushing your teeth — to yourself, in your head, I mean — singing it out loud would be messy — if you sing it eight times, you will have met the ADA’s goal. It takes two minutes to sing “Happy Birthday” eight times. I do it by naming all the singular and plural pronouns as the birthday greeting recipient – Happy Birthday to me . . . Happy Birthday to you . . . him . . . her . . . it . . . us . . . y’all . . . them . . . Two minutes. Teeth done.
Today, I mention that in this meditation inspired by the reading from Luke’s Gospel . . . because I have no idea what the hell Jesus is trying to say here, and I want to post something, so a useful dental hygiene tip seemed as good as anything else!
Every three years this story of the dishonest steward and Jesus’ advice to “make friends by means of dishonest wealth” rolls around on the Sunday lectionary (it’s Proper 20C in “Episcopal speak”) and every year I struggle to make some sense of it in my sermon. And every year I walk away from that sermon shaking my head and wondering, “What the hell was Jesus trying to say?” I don’t know; I honestly do not know.
And let me tell you . . . I don’t think anyone else does either. Like every other preacher, I read the scholarly commentaries; I read the annotations in the study bibles; I pull out my copy of the Greek New Testament and I try to find maybe an as-yet-unexplored meaning in the original language; I read other people’s sermons. None of it helps. Interpretations and exegeses are all over the board! In 30 years (that’s ten sermons) of preaching this text I got nuthin’ . . . . There are just times when Jesus doesn’t make sense! Or maybe it’s Luke who doesn’t make sense; after all, he’s the only gospeller to tell this story.
Every three years in the Sunday lectionary . . . and every two in the Daily Office lessons. And here it is again, and I’m still unsure what make of or do with it.
I do believe that Jesus is right about making friends. And I believe that one of the best things you can do to make sure that people will like you is not have bad breath. So remember when you hear the parable of the dishonest steward . . . “Happy Birthday” eight times while brushing your teeth, and you’ll have brushed them for two minutes!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.