Monday, November 20, 2017

Rev. Riley's sermon from November 19, 2017


In today’s gospel, Jesus continues to teach about the kingdom while he has a captive audience. His days are numbered. The cross is looming in the near distance. He has been challenged by the religious leaders of the day both politically and according to the religious traditions of his own people and has withstood their attempts to trap him. The kingdom of God remains the focus of his teaching.

Last week’s parable of the bridesmaids was one in which Christ stressed our need to be prepared for His coming again at an unexpected hour. In today’s parable of the talents, Jesus is reminding us of our eventual accountability for the use of the gifts God has entrusted to us.  It is a parable of stewardship in light of the unexpected return of the owner.

I have often heard it said, “I have no gifts.” This, however, is not true. God has created each of us with certain gifts and talents for the sole purpose of using them for the benefit of others and as Christians, for the building up of the Body of Christ - the Church.

Look at the story again. One steward was entrusted with five talents, one with two, and the other with one, each according to his ability. What did they do? Two of the stewards “invested” what was entrusted to them in ways that garnered a return. The steward who was given only one talent was afraid to risk losing it, so he buried it. On the day of accountability, the owner returned and the stewards were asked one by one what they did with what was given to them.

The two who invested what was entrusted to them were able to report to the owner that they had doubled the gift and were rewarded with a well-done and increased responsibility. However, the one steward who was afraid to use what was given to him handed it back to the owner with the excuse that he was afraid to risk losing it, so he buried it.

Instead of receiving the same reward as the others, the talent was taken from him and given to the one who had ten. If that was not enough, he who was afraid to invest found himself cast out from the presence of the owner.
 “For all those who have, more will be given, and they will have abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

I dare say we have all envied other people because of the perceived gifts/talents they appear to possess. It is only natural for us to look at such people, compare ourselves to them, and see ourselves in a lesser light, thus convincing ourselves that we do not possess any gifts or talents at all. That is a “cop out.” There is not one of us who are void of gifts.

True some people have more than others do. Jesus’ illustration points to that fact. It does not matter how many or how few talents we possess, even if it is only one, it is to be used for the “greater good” and not “hidden” for whatever reason. Our gifts are gifts of grace.

God has consecrated the gifts he has entrusted to us. Through we vary in our several capacities, the spirit of faithfulness and dependability in the use of our trust is equally required by all.

A steward is one who is in possession of resources/gifts/talents that belong to another, in this case, God. That is a hard pill for some to swallow. From an earthly point of view, what we have we deem as ours. It’s mine. I earned it. It is only when we think of it in terms of our relationship to God that we begin to see that what we have has been entrusted to us for a purpose.

As a steward, we have the responsibility to use it wisely for the benefit of others less fortunate. In addition as Christians, we have the awesome responsibility as “stewards of the mysteries of God.” That is, we are to share the faith that is within us, once delivered to the saints; to make disciples, baptize and teach, and to welcome others into the kingdom in the name of Him who died and rose again.

All of which is a part of our accountability in response to the generosity and love of God. The emphasis in today’s story is on the third steward. He was afraid because of his misconception of the owner (God), the feeling that he was hard and demanding. His misconception of the owner caused him to begrudge the labor and the sacrifice, which was asked of him.

When these two things exist, there is always fear and the “burying” of the talent. In contrast, the “good and faithful” servant is well disposed toward his master and so finds faithfulness easy. His labor is a labor of love in thanksgiving for all that has been given to him.

The gospel message is clear: each of us is of great worth in the eyes of God and is of value in God’s purpose.  Each of us has been entrusted with certain gifts and talents to be used for the good of the whole. Our gifts are gifts of grace.

It doesn’t matter what our particular talent maybe. What matters is how we use them. God never demands from us more than our abilities allow. You are not going to be asked to sing in the choir if you cannot carry a note!

What God does demand of us is that one uses to the fullest what one possesses. As servants of the Servant of God, we are expected to return, with interest, the talents that have been entrusted to us. It is not our purpose to compare our gifts with others enviously and to limit ourselves to meager tasks. We are to use what God has endowed us with for His glory.

Devotion and faith require risk. It is better to venture forth with what one has and fail than to try nothing and live an empty life. The one-talented man in the story could not see that his talent was of value to God. The other two dared to invest their gifts. The good and faithful servants received surprising rewards and with the rewards came greater risks.

Such is the reward in the new covenant in Jesus Christ. The reward of the “joy of the lord” is fellowship with Christ, to stand before His face forever in the glory of the kingdom. God does not show partiality in the ultimate reward, for all are invited to share the same joy. It is faithfulness that matters.

In the final analysis, God will call each of us to give an account of ourselves. Not just in the use of the gifts, He has entrusted to us, but in the sharing of our knowledge and faith in him. Did we share it? Or did we hide it? On the other hand, were we afraid to use it?

Any gift of grace provides an opportunity for divine investment. There is not an individual, or congregation that has not been blessed with the necessary gifts, that when used individually or collectively, can accomplish much for the glory of God. AMEN+

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