Our November 15 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. Our social spacing seating arrangement assures minimal risk when you come in person.
The November 22 worship services will be held in our church sanctuary at 8 and 10:30 am with members and friends in attendance. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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Sermon November 15
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 | Psalm 90:1-12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 | Matthew 25:14-30
Aren’t all of the lessons today uplifting? And, like last week’s lessons, they are all concerned, really with what we call the “Day of the Lord,” but more likely it seems, “Judgement Day.” Is this a reoccurring theme? Does the Day of the Lord really sound like something to look forward to? From the lessons, it sounds more like what we call a Day of Reckoning – which is where that term comes from by the way – a day of calling in and justifying your accounts. How’s that for an image? You get to Heaven, and discover you are about to be audited, literally? Better bring your paperwork with you! And I’m pretty sure that a Divine audit is a lot more thorough than what an earthly accountant can do.
The only lesson that seems to have any good news is the Gospel text, The Parable of the Talents, a parable on the Second Coming, and yet, it too has its share of harsh words. Talents (which comes in handy for a Stewardship Sermon), as I’ve mentioned before, in this time period (and into the 18th century) was a brick of silver (usually) which was basically equivalent to 15 years wages for the average worker. The daily wage was a denarius, and one talent was worth 5,475 denarii (you may need to know that for your audit). That also means that the average person on the street had never seen a talent, may have heard of them, but never seen one. For example, how many of you have seen a $1000 bill? They exist. They just aren’t in common circulation. The highest bill ever issued by the Federal Reserve was $100,000. They don’t do either one anymore. For the purpose of this parable, this master must have been very rich, and very trusting, to entrust this huge, and I mean huge in terms of “unheard of,” amount of money to his servants. Jesus is obviously using hyperbole in this parable. No one would ever actually do this, except maybe the Congress.
He gives these three servants this enormous amount of money for an unnamed amount of time, also then hyperbole. We are told, “They are each given according to their ability.” They must have had some ability, or expected ability, and much more is expected of them. The first two, with the most ability, go out and invest it and double their money (must have invested in petroleum or pharmaceutical companies). The third is afraid and hides his money in a hole (not under his mattress) to keep it safe. He fears his master’s anger if he were to lose it. He’s afraid of possible consequences, he plays it safe. The master returns, calls in his accounts (see Day of the Lord above). He wants a reckoning of the accounts. He praises the first two servants, “Good and trustworthy,” his faith was well placed. They lived up to his expectations. But the third he calls, “wicked and lazy.” “You didn’t even put it in a Money Market account or a CD and make some interest on it (all of 1%), maybe!” Takes the talent from him, and presents it to the first servant. Then has the third terribly punished! What is going on in this parable? How is salvation like investing? I always thought that investing was more on the other side of the equation.
Let’s try parsing this story. The master is obviously God. What about the others? Looking at the setting of the story in Matthew, Jesus is speaking while sitting on the Mount of Olives, looking at the Temple. The faithful servants are probably Christ’s disciples, seated around him. While the third, who has hidden the talent, are the Jewish leaders who have done nothing with the wealth which God has entrusted to them. God has done a strange thing. He has entrusted us with a great gift, one which we do not deserve; and can in no way earn, the great gift of salvation, the Gospel with all of its qualities. It is in our care, we, the Church are entrusted with it. We are supposed to invest it so that it “bears much fruit,” returns a profit. It is in our care, and it seems if we follow this parable, we will be audited to see what we have done with it. Think about that for a moment.
For us, talent means much more than money. Talent, in English has other meanings, which also are reinforced by this parable. Either way, it is seen as a gift, and falls under the heading of Stewardship (sheets are now available in the narthex) – Time, Talents and Treasures. It still works in this setting. God has given to us talents, talents for the good of the Church, and the good of the community, to build it up, to carry on the work of the Gospel (like serving on the Church Council or one of the Committees – handy example). If we look at this parable even further, God has given us more than enough talent, much more than enough, a ridiculously hyperbolic amount of talents. What have we done with our God given talents? This is after all a Stewardship parable as well as Second Coming text.
Some go out using their talent, whatever they may be, for the good of the Gospel, double what they have. It is a gift which grows as you use it. Use strengthens it like muscles grow stronger with use, and weakens when not. But talents dwindle when they are not used, or hidden. It is a sad aspect of my vocation, when I see people who could have done or been so much more than what they settle for. And it is a terribly sad thing in our culture that so many people have gone from hoping and dreaming and aspiring for something; and have instead settled for something much less. They have literally sold themselves short (a stock market term). Or worse, when I have to do their funeral, and see how so much has been cut short from their possible lives. Talents are gifts, we even say of some people, “They are gifted.”
Well, we are all gifted. God has gifted all of us. You are all gifted. Each one has some talent, some gift which has been given for the good of all, the building up of the assembly. Don’t tell me you don’t, I know you, many for years. I have always been amazed by the gifts and talents of the members of this congregation. It is incumbent upon each of us to discern our gifts, and those of others, and encourage their use and development. (We can start by looking at, and filling out the annual Talent Sheets), helping with worship, music, teaching, helping the hungry, joining the bell choir, assisting the sick and infirm, etc.. Things we can do for God’s community here called Redeemer Lutheran Church and the surrounding community. They may take many forms, but all are best when put to good use. And go for the best use.
What is the greatest gift of all? That is reserved for those who share the Gospel in the context of God’s love, those who can speak the Word of grace to those who are without grace. It is those who live out their lives so that others look and see the face of Christ himself, standing out and shining through them into the world. Who has this greatest gift?, this greatest of all talents? It has been given to each of us: to share the Good News, the Gospel of Christ to all people, to proclaim God’s salvation so all will believe in him. And, it can be done in either word or deed. That gift/talent especially, we are to invest in the world and share with others. For that message, and that alone, Christ alone for us, makes the Day of the Lord a Day of Joy to be anticipated with exultation.