TEXTS: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30
Grace and peace to you my sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus, grace and peace. Amen.
Are you ready? Fill in the rest of the sentence. For some football? For your algebra test on Monday?
For Christmas even though Thanksgiving is still to come?
Are you ready? For Christ to come again…
Each one of our texts this morning focus on readiness, being watchful, and doing what God calls us to do in the waiting time. Have faith while you live – and live now – as one who looks to the Lord for refuge and strength, as one who seeks wisdom in order to number your days purposefully, as a child of the light destined for salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, living in the here and now as Christ’s disciple. It really matters.
So when we hear these difficult texts about the Day of the Lord, we often hear them through our American cultured ears. “It’s all about me and my salvation. It’s all about me and my life. It’s all about being worried if I have enough or if what I have will be taken away from me. And we become hoarders. Hoarders of God’s love. Hoarders of God’s grace. Hoarders of fear for the future that steals away the joy and blessings of the present moment.
These texts are a call to be ready and watchful, actively doing what God calls us to do in the waiting time.
Matthew’s parables of the talents and the three slaves is not the most comfortable of stories to listen to. Again, we listen through our cultural ears rather than with open hearts and minds. And, we need to look around the text to see what has been going on.
These past couple of weeks have found us toward the end of Matthew’s Gospel. In a sense, Jesus is numbering his days in order to apply wisdom for those who will be left with the responsibility of carrying out the Good News after his death and resurrection. This parable follows on the heels of a couple other parables that speak of the Day of the Lord, of His return. These parables are discipleship teachings for all who would follow Jesus – and, they were also directed at the “organized religious community.”
This parable causes us to look inwardly as well as look communally.
What if we were to read this passage again with the understanding that a “talent” was not limited to someone’s ability to speak well, be a great mechanic, an amazing athlete or an awesome singer? What if we thought of talents – not just in the monetary sense such as a day’s wages… What If we thought of talents as a “weight or measure of something.” Something that has been entrusted to the slave or servant. Perhaps something like compassion, or forgiveness, mercy or justice, or caring for one another, or love…or God’s forgiveness and grace. And what if we though of each of these three slaves as “communities of faith” rather than individuals.
Does that change how we hear this parable and how we hear the dire warning?
“For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
I don’t think Jesus is talking about food or money or prestige here. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s not what he meant! So use your imagination for a moment.
+ To one congregation is given 10 measures of love, joy, peace, patience and kindness.
+ To another congregation is given 5 measures of love, generosity, faithfulness, and gentleness.
+ To a third congregation is given love and self-control. [See Galatians 5:22-23 Fruits of the Spirit]
All three have received “measures” given by the same One who also understands their particular abilities. No congregation is judged on what they were not given. How might those measures be invested for the benefit of the Rule of God? And just what if, on the Day of the Lord’s return, how wonderful and amazing it would be for each congregation to be found sharing what they had been given, investing in discipling others in the way of Christ, simply being who they were gifted to be and joyfully celebrating whom God has called them to be! To those who have been given great love and invest great love, more will be given. To those who have sought out justice and mercy, more will be given in return. To those who have hoarded the measures of grace burying them deep in tradition or rules by saying, “We’ve never done it that way before!” Even what they have will be taken away. No congregation will be judged on what they were not given. They will be judged for what they were given and what they did not use.
Obviously, I am paraphrasing here. But there is indeed a challenge for us as a faith community to hear this parable in terms of measures of God’s grace and where God is calling us to use those measures.
None of the measures given to any of the congregations have to do with who gets to use church kitchen freezer space or who has the nicest parking lots or any of the other pieces of political debate that congregations often get caught up in. None of the measures have to do with making sure the building will be seen as a testament to the faithfulness of the previous generations. The measures have to do with how trust in the Giver of these measures leads to wise investing and honest accountability of the measures given and how they were used.
God cares for people through people. We are given the opportunity and the responsibility to care for this community, this area, and this world that God loves.
Here at Our Savior’s, we are experiencing a lot of change. Change can be unsettling at times. New people come bringing new ideas and energy as well as new ways of serving. Budgets vary and anxiety rises. The old days and ways of being a church made up of families with 6-8 children are long gone and families now come in many, many forms. But, we are still called to be faithful to the One who gives the measures according to our ability. No use to look at other congregations and be jealous or boastful. We are called to be faithful in the measures entrusted to us now.
Here at Our Savior’s we are also in a time of waiting. Waiting does not mean doing nothing! It means to be actively listening, actively watching for where God is leading us. It means to be actively supporting and encouraging one another to be faithful in our calling, to love and serve all of God’s people – whether they are inside these four walls or not. It means to not shirk in our duties or bury the gifts or put everything on hold. God has work for us to do – for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of our neighbors!
A very wise seminary teach once said, “When we are centered in Christ, we will not be threatened by allowing other people to share their gifts.”
That is especially true as we learn more fully what it means to live as a community of faith in a rapidly changing world. When congregations are centered in Christ, congregations are less fearful of the future, they are more in-tune to the needs of the other, more welcoming of others and the gifts they have to offer, and are willing to be faithful yet flexible in order to adapt and thrive in the sharing the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are living right here and right now in the middle of the mission field. What are the “measures” of God’s grace that have been given to us as a congregation? How are we utilizing those gifts to bring the light of Christ into an ever darkening world? Discipleship calls us to use the talents and measures God gives to us and to wait in obedience, trust and expectation – not in fear.
Now in this time of change and waiting, may we, as a faith community, take these words from the Apostle Paul to heart:
“But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness…
For God has destined us not for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live with him.
Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed…you are doing.”
Thanks be to God.
– Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry