+ In Nomine Jesu +
The message this morning is based on the Gospel reading from Matthew 25, the Parable of the Talents. This is one of the many parables that direct our attention to our Lord's 2nd coming. This type of parable is central to the Gospel themes in these last Sunday's leading up to Advent because these are the last few weeks in the churches calendar, the first Sunday in Advent being the first day of the New Year. As the year comes to a close we continue to confess, as the church has for nearly 2,000 years that Jesus will come to "judge both the living and the dead."
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, who knew!? God, it would appear, is a western capitalist! He gives His servants talents and He expects them to give Him back a healthy return on His investment. While people "occupy" New York City, Los Angles and other major cities across the country, protesting the evils of capitalism, it would appear, based on this parable from Matthew 25, that they object, not only to American capitalism, but, to the ways and the expectations of God as well.
I speak, of course, in jest. God isn't so much interested in Return on Investment and bottom lines, as He is in the faithfulness and service of His saints. The Master entrusted his servants with talents and He went away on a journey. When He returned, He praised the servant who had been given 5 talents because he put it to work and gained 5 more talents. The one who was given 2 talents was praised because he put his talents to work to gain for the Master 2 more.
Conversely, the last servant, the one who was given 1 talent, took it and buried it the ground. He did so because he knew the master "to be a hard man, reaping where he did not sow, and gathering where he scattered no seed." When the master returned the servant said, "I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here (he said) you have what is yours."
The master was not pleased with that servant. In fact, he decreed that he was "worthless," and that he should be "cast into the outer darkness, (where there) will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, (a euphemism, of course, for hell)."
This is really a bit of a chilling parable, isn't it? When the subject of our faithfulness to God comes up, the question has to arise in our minds, "am I going to the one who returns nothing to God on the last day?" Consequently, "am I the one who will be cast out into the outer darkness like the man in the parable?" "Have I done anything at all in the kingdom of God with the gifts He has given me?" "If I were to stand in front of Jesus today would He consider me to be a faithful servant?"
In the past, I've asked a probing of you about humility, namely, "do the humble know that they are humble?" In other words, if a person sees himself as humble, is he really humble? In light of this parable from Matthew 25 a similar question could be asked about faithfulness, namely, "do the faithful know that they are faithful?" In other words, is it fitting for us to hear this parable from Matthew 25 about the talents and to say to ourselves, "yes, I am the good and faithful servant who will give back to God a return on His investment."
There is no question that God calls us to a life of service for the sake of the Kingdom. He says that we should deny "ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him." He says that we should "love our neighbor as ourselves" and that we should "feed the hungry and clothe the naked," that we should tend to the needs of others, binding up, as it were, the wounds of the afflicted, the downtrodden and forsaken.
And He gives us, of course, the resources to do what He asks. In the case of the parable, we are told simply that we are given "talents." The word, in this case, doesn't mean special abilities. Rather, it simply means a monetary sum, a talent being equivalent to , a rather large sum.
The point being, everything we have is a gift from God. As those who have been enlightened by the Gospel, called by God's grace through baptism into the Kingdom, He calls us to be faithful stewards of those gifts. Our time, our abilities, our treasures, they all belong to God. He gives them to us that we might use them to glorify His name and to serve others.
Still, the question lingers. What about the man who wasn't a good steward? Or, to put it another way, what about the man who wasn't faithful with what the master had given him? Again, none of us should be too ready to claim the designation of a humble servant, or, a faithful servant. Instead, we should stand before God, and say, "Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner." We do so because "we have not loved God with our whole heart and we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We justly deserve God's present and eternal punishment." And God, who is merciful, looks at us through the holy wounds of His Son. As such, He sees us clothed, as it were, in a garment of righteousness that covers our sin, even our failure to be faithful stewards of what He has given us.
That very act of confession is what the faithful servant does because he knows, that is, you know, that God does and will forgive you in Christ, for, you know the master to be loving and kind, forgiving and gracious. You know Him to be the kind of master who would give up His life, who would die for the sake of His servants. As He said, "I did not come to be served but to serve and to give My life as a ransom for many."
The problem, you see, with the last servant in the parable, is not simply that he failed in his responsibility to be a faithful steward of what the master had entrusted to him. The real problem was, he didn't know the master at all!! To him, the master was "a hard man, reaping where he did not sow, and gathering where he scattered no seed." The last servant was an unbeliever, who, on the last day, had nothing to show for the master's goodness and trust. Knowing the master simply as a "hard man," he spent his life searching for the best way to appease the master's wrath, rather than living openly and generously in the master's super abundant goodness and grace.
Since this parable, as well as this season of the Church Year, is to prepare us for the coming and judgment of Christ, be aware that we are called first to repent of our failure to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us. The truth is, we have all wasted our time, our abilities and our money in one way or another. We have put them to work to serve ourselves, rather than to serve others. There is no justifying our actions. We are left only to acknowledge who we are and what we are, to weep, as it were, that we aren't better servants of the One who served and loved us unto death.
At the same time, we are confident that God's promises are true, and that we will be judged faithful because He has turned our hearts to trust in Him and to see Him as He is, the Lord and giver of life, the justifier of the unjust, the One is faithful even to the unfaithful. As we'll see in next week's Gospel reading, the separation of the sheep and the goats, it is Christ finally, who multiplies the good in our lives and who allows anything good to be said of us on the Day of Judgment.
"O Jesus Christ, do not delay,
But hasten our salvation;
We often tremble on our way
In fear and tribulation
O hear and grant our fervent plea;
Come, mighty judge, and set us free
From death and every evil."
In Jesus' name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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