11-20-11 Risky, But Faithful

Gospel Lesson: Matthew 25:14-29

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all 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.

Sermon

Let us, once again, get resituated with the circumstances in which Jesus is teaching. We began this series of Jesus’ teachings way back in the end of September, and we are still in the same day, the same place, and Jesus remains to be teaching. But Jesus is beginning to wrap us his teachings and he begins to do so with some very unsettling news of the end of the world. Last week, our district superintendent actually led us into some of this discussion of these unsettling realties. If you may recall, she shared with us the vision of the day of judgment that Jesus shared here in this teaching. She talked about the separation of the sheep and goats. Jesus instructing his disciples that those who were sheep were not those who gave absurd amount of money, nor even did they simply confess Jesus as Lord. That confession, although important, must have the follow-up of the good fruits. This is always been the battle between talking about how is one saved…are we saved by faith, or are we saved by our works. Well, the simple answer is by our faith. But one cannot stop there, we cannot say to ourselves, oh well I believe, good for me, let’s go enjoy life. No, rather, our works, our being, our lives must reflect that of our confession of Jesus as Lord. When those who were blessed by the Father heard about all these things, feeding the poor, visiting the imprisoned, they asked their Lord, when did we do these things to you? His reply, was that when you had done any of these things to any of these, you have done them unto me.

So here we are, looking at yet another parable of Jesus, in the same time, the same place, and during the same part of this teaching. What I mean by that is, you know how you can come into a long lesson with a professor…I’m talking about one of those 5 hour sessions. And if you come in on the first hour and leave and come back in the 5th hour, the subject of the material that the professor is teaching on has changed…at least I hope so. This parable of ours today is a part of the same lesson that our district superintendent gave us, and it is placed here at the end of the teaching for the day and Jesus is discussing end-time realities. These are realities that you and I are probably familiar with, but it is a topic that we rarely like to discuss. For I think for many of us, it is a scary topic. I remember on May 21st, 2011 there were many people who had fell susceptible to the fear of Mr. Harold Camping, the radio host who had predicted that the end of the world when Jesus would return was going to be on May 21st. This discussion of when the world would end has not only been one since Jesus mentioned that he would come again, but rather it was a topic that the prophets even before Jesus had mentioned. You could say, I suppose it is one of those age long questions. And so, here we are, sitting with this parable of Jesus’ in the setting of the Temple as he begins to close this day’s teaching. This lesson that simply began with the Pharisees questioning the authority of Jesus. 

Jesus begins by saying, “For it is as if a man, going on a journey…” Let’s start here…For it is as if a man. The first thing that we must question is what is Jesus referencing this parable to. For it is as if a man…what is as if a man? The subject to which Jesus is claiming this parable to be about is the same subject to which Jesus has been preaching about all along…the Kingdom of heaven. However, in this particular parable, Jesus is alluding not only to this kingdom, but to this kingdom in a certain time. That is the time when the master returns. So, let’s continue into this parable of Jesus’. Before leaving on this journey, the Master, according to their abilities gives a slave 5 talents, to another 2 talents, and to the last 1 talent. The one with the 5 talents, went off and began to trade with them, but in doing so, doubled the talents that the Master had given him. The one who had received the two talents, did the same as the one with the 5. The one with one talent, though went and buried what was given to him. Now let me again put this into perspective since of course we are talking in the money of the times of antiquity. The common way of purchasing and selling in the first century is not like our own at all. For instance, if we were to go and buy a loaf of bread, we would go and take out a few dollar bills and give it to the cashier and the cashier would take exactly what is required and then give back exact change. Well in the time of antiquity it was much more a barter system where people more often than not would barter so much volume of flour for so many eggs, etc. The system was by no means a perfect system, nor was it the most accurate. But one way in which they did measure wealth was often by volume or by weights. They would use scales to see how much silver, or in rare cases gold someone might have. This brings me back now to the understanding of what a talent is in this parable. A talent is the largest unit of weight in the New Testament time period. The talent is roughly in our day 75 lbs. This equaled to about 6,000 drachmas or to put it into terms we understand greater than 16 years wages for a laborer. Alright, so now back to this parable. The Master entrusted to the one well over 80 years worth of payment to the one with 5 talents, well over 32 years of payment to the one with 2 talents, and over 16 years worth of payment to the last one. So this may change our attitude around a little bit about this parable. Think about the riskiness of the one who had been entrusted with over 80 years worth of pay, to go and trade around with it. I have told most of you all, that this pastor is not a wise man when it comes to understanding the marketing and financial world. But what I do know, is that someone does not often double their principle by playing it safe. The master later points that out to the one with the 1 talent, when he said, you could have at least put it in the bank and drew interest on it. But to the one with 5 talents, that is a lot of money to be throwing around in the trades. This is some very risky behaviors. The same goes for the one with the 2 talents as well. We all know how this story ends, the one with 10 gets the additional 1 from the one who did nothing with it, and the two who doubled their talents were put in charge of many more things.

So as we now begin to pull this all together, we come to see a picture, a story of what God has entrusted to us. Let me ask you now. With what God has entrusted to us, how much is the grace of God worth? Is it worth 16 years of payment? How about 32 or even 80 years? If we do not use the gifts, the talents, those things in which he has set us stewards over with the faith that God will yield a great return, then we are doing no better than the one who went and hid his masters money in the ground. God has set before us a great mission, that began with Christ, that has now been entrusted over to this One Holy catholic apostolic Church. This past weekend, we did something whether you all knew it or not in our Charge Conference of great importance. We have begun to set our goals for the coming year by budgeting where our money is going, by looking ahead and beginning to think about where do we want to see this ministry go in the coming year. Some questions for us to ponder are Are these goals in alignment with what God has entrusted us to do? Have we set out goals to be the kingdom of God? And finally what type of congregation are we going to be in 2012, one who faithfully risks by giving of our full selves with our time, our money, our hearts, and our witness in trusting that the profit of spreading the kingdom comes, or rather will we just sit on this great treasure and tell no one about it? Should we be only wishing to double our missions, double our attendance, double our budget, double our spiritual journey’s with God or should we be hoping to by actively working towards such a goal.

I will be the first to admit, it is tempting to be afraid of putting yourself out there, to be risking your full selves for the sake of the kingdom. But let us remember first the question that began this teaching of Jesus…”By what authority do you say these things.” This authority is by the one who is the Author of all that has been, is, and yet to be. And by this same authority are we a people who have been given this very promise. I would like to close today with this passage from Romans 8: 14-17.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba!  Father!”  it is that very Spirit bearing witness  with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

 

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