PENTECOST 23, A – November 16, 2014

 SCRIPTURES – Psalm 143; Zephaniah 1:7-16; 1 Thess. 5:1-11; Matt. 25:14-30

 

“The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” Matt. 25

 

How’s your patience? Well, seeing as patience is hardly encouraged by our society – we’re already rushing headlong into the holidays, after all. Order it now! Buy, buy, buy! Get, get, get! – patience may not be one of your best qualities.

 

I’m actually a pretty patient guy (especially when my wife wants me to do something!). But, I confess that lately I’ve been getting rather impatient and fed up. I’m fed up with the flaunting of our laws and the unwillingness of our elected leaders to do anything about it. Shoot, they’re often complicit in it! I’m tired of hearing about all the ways our society is rushing headlong into decadence and depravity. We’re legalizing pot and not only enabling all kinds of immorality; we’re celebrating it! I’m saddened to see, and hear about, declining church attendance, which is happening nearly everywhere. How long, O Lord! How long will You allow this to go on?

 

“How long?” is a cry heard often in the Bible. Psalm 94 says it well:

O Lord, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage. They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; and they say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.’

The prophet Zephaniah points out that many people are complacent and say, “The Lord will not do good, nor will He do ill.” God won’t do anything, so there’s no need to repent and turn from sin. Who cares? Well, we care! Does God?

 

Yes, He does. Jesus speaks of Him as being away on a journey, and He has been away for so long that it may seem that He will not be returning. But, He will return. The Day of the Lord, of Christ’s return, will come, and He will act with irresistible power. He will bring wrath and distress and darkness and gloom upon all evildoers and those who scoff with complacence, but will give the joy of His salvation to His people. How long, O Lord? How long until You come in power and deliver us?

 

While we wait, know this: God is present and is working right now. He is doing so through you. For, you are His servants, and to each of you He has entrusted His property. To some of you He has given five talents, to some two, and to some one, to each according to your ability.

 

What are the talents He gives you? In the parable a talent was an amount of money, and each servant was given a different amount to use. The point is that God has blessed each of you, His servants, so that you might put His blessings to work.

 

It is clear from the parable that God expects each of us, no matter who we are and no matter how much we have been given, to put His talent to work. There’s no excuse for not doing so! It doesn’t matter if you seem to have less ability to do so than others – God is just as pleased with the work. Notice that the man who received two talents was given the same praise and reward as the man who had been given five talents. To each the Master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” I know that we like to compare ourselves with one another. Our service is often on the basis of what we have – skills, or money, or time, or strength – or we excuse not serving because of what we don’t have. It is easy to find reasons for saying, “I can’t.” How about not leaving it at this but going on to say, “But, I can do this instead.”

 

God has given to each of us, who are not only His servants but, in Jesus, His children, so much! Martin Luther points out in his explanation of the 1st Article of the Apostles’ Creed that each of us can and should say:

God has made me and all creatures; He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

But, above and far greater than all of this, God has given you the special gift of the Gospel of His Son. You have the wondrous assurance of the forgiveness of all of your sins and the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven for you. This gift is freely given! St. Paul assures us, “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” (1 Thess. 5) How wonderful it is to know this, and so to not be filled with fear and worry when dealing with difficult times, thinking about the day of Christ’s return, or when facing the day of your own death!

 

“Encourage one another and build one another up with this,” Paul urges. This is the greatest thing that each of us can, and should, do. This encouragement begins with prayer. Don’t tell me you can’t pray, you don’t know what to say or who to pray for! Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Pray the Psalms. Take your bulletin home and pray for the people listed therein.

 

And then, after speaking to God, speak to those for whom you pray. Maybe it’s someone in a hospital who needs comfort and encouragement in Christ. Perhaps it’s someone in a nursing home, or just sick at home. Put Christ’s talent, the comforting assurance of His mercy, His love, and His presence to work! This is how we serve others and battle against the complacency and the depravity of our day. Don’t let the evils you see and hear of in the world weigh you down and keep you from serving. Christ Jesus, God’s talent, is mighty! On the day of His return this will be seen when, gathered before Christ, people hear you say, “Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more,” and the Master is heard to say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

 

This – the joy of our Master – is what lies before us in Christ! Until that joyous day comes, make the words of Psalm 143 your daily prayer:

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

He will lead you to blessed growth and life in Jesus. Bring this about, good Spirit, to the praise of our good Master, Jesus Christ! Amen.