Text – MATTHEW 25:14-30
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
On this next to the last Sunday of the Church Year, our focus continues to be on the Second Visible Coming of Christ at the end of the world. Last Sunday we looked at how we are responding to the question “Are we ready?” Today our attention turns to the basic response that can be summed up in one word - - Stewardship – our stewardship of those Divine Investments Jesus is making in our preparation.
Many stewardship sermons begin and end with a discussion of finances – well important as the financial needs of churches are – and, make no mistake about it, they are essential – true stewardship is much more basic and larger than that.
One of the most important prayers we pray each non-Communion Sunday is that offertory prayer paraphrased from 1st Chronicles 29 - “We give Thee but Thine Own what’er the gift may be. All that we have is Thine Alone, a Trust, dear Lord, from Thee.” We pray with commitment about those gifts we offer with joy and thanksgiving on Communion Sundays - gifts that God has first given us – our selves, our time, and our possessions – those signs of God’s gracious Love that God has placed in our stewardship - our selves (our very lives which belong to God Who created us and makes us stewards of those God-given lives) - our time (those precious hours and minutes God has given us to live our temporal lives with and under God) - our possessions (our finances and other material possessions given into our stewardship by God). As we confess on those Communion Sundays it is the whole package – who we are, who we hope to be, what we possess. Dear Lord God, “We give Thee but Thine Own what’er the gift may be. All that we have is Thine Alone, a Trust, dear Lord, from Thee.”
As our Gospel text begins, it was the most important week in all of human history. In less than three days, Jesus would be arrested, tried, condemned, and crucified. The active days, the pleasant evenings, the words and actions of love and hope from their visibly present Jesus — all that was about to come abruptly to an end.
Jesus was trying in the quiet of the Mount of Olives to prepare His disciples — to tell them He knew full well what was about to happen and that it all had to happen for their eternal salvation and ours … to tell them that the most tragic of executions would be followed by His Resurrection and eternal life for all who believe in Him … to tell them He would return after death to be visibly with them a little longer before returning to His Father in heaven … to tell them He would, at the right time, visibly return to take His followers home with Him eternally.
And Jesus was preparing His disciples for the time between His Post- Resurrection Ascension and His 2nd Visible Coming — for those days when He would no longer be visibly present with them. In His death and resurrection, Jesus accomplished everything necessary for our eternal Salvation. There is nothing left that we or they need or could do for our Salvation.
The only thing left to be done by us is to believe in Jesus and all He did – and God through His Holy Spirit even gives us the Faith to believe and to live that Faith. God enlightens, enables and equips us to be the true stewards of our new life in Christ that Jesus was calling His original disciples and us to be.
In those days between Jesus’ Post- Resurrection Ascension and His 2nd Visible Coming, Jesus’ resurrected Voice would never be silenced – and those disciples and each of us would be channels through which Jesus would continue to speak and to act. God was making Divine Investments in them – and in us - expecting a good accounting of the stewardship of those Divine Investments.
God has many tasks and responsibilities for us as individuals and as a congregation. God is still investing those signs of God’s gracious Love - – our selves, our time, and our possessions — expecting a good accounting of our stewardship of those Divine Investments.
Teaching His original disciples and us by means of a parable we can all relate to, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven – the Kingdom God makes us a part of from the moment of our Baptism and through all eternity – that Kingdom of Heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to the one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.”
Seated around Jesus in the garden and hearing His prophetic words and warnings, it must have been obvious to the disciples – as it is to us - that the man traveling to a far country was Jesus Himself –ascending into heaven. That being true, his own servants are those who have committed our selves, our time, and our possessions to the discipleship and stewardship to which Jesus calls us. His goods are our selves, our time, and our possessions which He delivered to them – and entrusts to their care and use and ours.
In Jesus’ parable, I am reminded of a sharecropper system. The man traveling to a far country owns the land, the seed, the tools and the crop. As part of a debt that is owed, even the sharecropper belongs to the man traveling to a far country and in the end a full accounting must be made to the owner by the sharecropper servants.
The debt owed to Jesus by His original disciples and by us is far greater — beyond comparison — to any sharecropper’s debt. But God’s ownership of our lives and resources is not based solely on a debt – though we do owe God our divinely created and redeemed lives. In faith, we freely place our lives in God’s loving and faithful hands and our stewardship of what God has given us shows the depth of the faith God has produced in our lives.
In Jesus’ parable, the man has three servants — to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. A talent was originally a measure of weight. Later the word came to denote a fixed amount of silver or gold, approximately $1,000.00 by our standards. Our own English word, “talent”, comes from this parable. More precious than silver or gold, our talents are our God-given faith and our selves, our time, and our possessions - raw materials to accomplishment in Jesus’ Name.
In Jesus’ parable, there is diversity in the way the talents are distributed — as there are, of course, in our lives. I know you are glad that with my musical abilities I did not tune the piano or even play it and that with my carpentry skills I did not build the pews. I am even more certain you are glad that the people who did those tasks did so well with the talents God has invested in them.
God asks that I use any preaching or teaching skills He may have given me to the best of my ability and effort.
Jesus tells us that “he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.” Each made a proper use of the investment and made a 100% profit. When we use our God-given selves, time, and possessions, God makes Himself responsible for the results and they prosper beyond what even we can see.
To both the five-talent servant and the two-talent servant, He said, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” He is saying, “I am going to increase your joy and your involvement in My kingdom. There will be more talents — more enlightenment and empowerment from the Holy Spirit … greater maturing in your faith and in your ability to serve and contribute.”
It is the basic nature of every talent and resource God gives us that the gifts are given to be used. We show a total lack of gratitude and thankfulness when we fail to acknowledge the Source of our resources and when we fail to use those resources. The first two stewards acknowledged, “Lord, you delivered to me five talents …” — “Lord, you delivered to me two talents ..“. As we ourselves confess “Lord, We give Thee but Thine Own, what e’er the gift may be; All that we have is Thine alone, A trust, dear Lord, from Thee.”
The five-talent servant and the two-talent servant truly caught the vision of what the man traveling to a far country was doing in their lives and acted accordingly – acknowledging the giver and using the gifts according to his will – as we are called by God to do with His Divine Investment in us.
“But he who had received one talent went and dug in the ground, and hid the Lord’s money.” We are like the proverbial ostrich burying our God-given selves, our God-given time, our God-given possessions and, yes, our God-given Faith for like the one talent man in Jesus’ parable, we show a total lack of faith in the Giver when we fail to use all that God gives us and equips us to use.
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.”
The fact that he had only one talent is no excuse. God only gave him as much as God knew he could handle. Of what value would additional talent be to the man who could not even make use of the one talent he had?
It is all too easy to relate to the one talent steward - so human to make excuses. “I’m really not very good at that. I don’t have the time. People don’t respond to what I do.” As human beings, we have so many ways to return The Lord’s Divine Investments to God unused.
As JAMES (2:26) wrote, “Faith without works is dead”. If faith doesn’t change and empower our lives and increase our stewardship, it isn’t faith.
The Lord did not bother to refute the steward’s slander – that wasn’t the issue. Instead he said, “We’ll let your own words be our starting point. If what you say is true you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. If you believe I am that difficult a master, why did you not share those resources with those who would have properly used them? At least then the gifts would not have been wasted.”
Then The Lord took even the one talent from the slothful steward. If we don’t use our God-given faith, we lose it — it lives in spiritually active lives or it dies. If we don’t use the life, talents and possessions God has given us, we lose our ability to use them.
As William Barclay reminds us, “The best way to prepare for the Coming of Christ is never to forget the Presence of Christ.” Jesus died on the cross to restore the relationship God has established with us – and He daily gifts us with all we need to live in that relationship. When we are open to Him, Jesus never fails to work through us. How abundantly God has gifted us to follow Him as we lovingly and faithfully proclaim and share The Word of God as revealed incarnately in Jesus Christ and inerrantly in The Holy Bible.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS — OUR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOUR — AND GREATEST GIFT. AMEN.
24th Sunday After Pentecost
November 19, 2017
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio