Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Matthew 25: 14-30
November 19, 2017
“Here now these words from the gospel according to Matthew, chapter (25) twenty-five, verses (14) fourteen thru (30) thirty.”
14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 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.’ 21 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.’ 22 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.’ 23 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.’ 24 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; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 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? 27 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. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 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. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“May our hearts, as-well-as our ears hear the deeper meaning of this parable from the teachings of Jesus.”
Today, marks the beginning of Thanksgiving week! Last week we spoke about how many of us – have learned to write a gratitude list, for everything we are grateful for in our lives! I may not have clarified why it was suggested I write one. Seems, I am very human and at an earlier stage of my life, it was noticed by a friend that I seemed ungrateful about a lot of things. So much so that it seemed to permeate my attitude and my interactions with most everyone I knew. No, I was not a very humble person at that earlier stag of my life. But, with a little help from loving friends I learned to see the world differently, take a different attitude and I started to feel a deep sense of gratefulness for the abundance of my life. This was even before I meet our friend, Pastor Winston Matafwali, from Kitwe Zambia in Africa. Pastor Winston would have been quick to point out how even our poor people, here in the United States are rich compared to the poor in his part of the world. I once asked him how could he make such a claim? His response was instantaneous: “Even your homeless have clothing and they do not have extended stomachs because of starvation!” His thoughts on the subject have caused me to rethink my understanding of poverty, at least when we discuss it on a global basis!
Yes, there is a lot that we Americans can be grateful for! Lois and I own our home and have a car; granted, the banks hold the title to these things, yet this is true for a large percentage of Americans. The point is, we are able to do this; and we have plenty of cloths, food and access to a healthcare system. We realize this is not true for everyone, therefore, we are truly grateful for all which we have. Yet, we have way more than that! We have the fellowship of this church, we have the love of God, and we have the clarity of heart and mind to realize how priceless this is. Because of this, we have developed a style of living which has offered us ample opportunities to reach out to our friends and neighbors, within the community we live. We do this with an attitude of gratitude; and offer the hand of compassion when needed. We are able to reach out to our family with love and support, offering the example of our lives for others to live by. A great many of you, here gathered, have clearly been living your own lives in a similar fashion.
Why have I put forth this personal testimony of our gratitude at a time such as this? Two reasons: one, it is Thanksgiving week! It is a time when we Americans all acknowledge our heritage and how the early settlers set aside a time to break bread with Native Americans and give thanks for the bounty of their harvest. There was plenty to share with everyone and they were grateful! And we have set aside this day on the calendar, making it a national holiday. Thanksgiving has become a national tradition! It is a day set aside to feast and share with others that which we have in ample supply! The second reason is because this is the heart of our lesson this morning! Therefore, I wanted to be sure everyone was looking at this from the point of view of thankfulness, rather than some of the behaviors being displayed within our scripture text!
Let us look to the attitudes displayed by the servants in this parable. Which one do you most identify with? As we each consider this question, let us step back for a moment. In retrospect I am making a presumption that some of you do realize that this parable is the continuation of the original statement Jesus made, way back in verse one of this chapter. “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this,” said Jesus. /Matthew 25:1a/ Those of us whom were here last Sunday have perhaps noted that this parable directly follows last week’s lesson about the ten bridesmaids, which followed that opening remark. Just to recap, our preceding parable ended with an admonishment that we “Keep awake therefore, for (we) know neither the day nor the hour.” /Matthew 25: 13/ Today’s lesson picks up by continuing Jesus’ conversation beginning with these words of instruction; “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;” /Matthew 25:14/ Therefore, we must assume that Jesus is still talking about what heaven is like and how we are expected to prepare before arriving. Clearly, the variety of ways, in which Jesus leads us into considering how we are to live our lives, strongly suggests that there are many variables in daily living to which we must focus our attention; if we truly want to strengthen our relationship with God. Bearing this in mind, we need to be willing to place ourselves into the role of one of these servants, thereby deepening our understanding of this particular lesson. Keep in mind, that it is not the amount of money or treasure entrusted to us; no, this is not the issue at hand. Rather, it is the attitude by which we use what is given to us. Here in lies the essence of today’s lesson. Now we simply need to interpret it for our use here in the Twenty-First Century!
In our parable it may be difficult to determine the attitudes of each servant except for the third servant. The one whom buried the money in the ground out of fear. What was driving this fear? Sounds like he did not have any gratitude for being entrusted with even the level of money he was given. Perhaps, within the parable we could speculate that there were hidden issues contained in this allegory, yet Jesus usually picks simply understood stories to structure his parables around. The mystery is usually determining the parallel meaning meant for us to learn from. Therefore, I believe it is best if we keep this simple. The third servant did not trust his master: this servant believed his master to “be harsh and that he reaped what he did not sow.” Unforgiving and very brash words coming from this lowly servant. True, it was common and still is for the ‘Master’ the boss ‘in charge’ to delegate responsibilities to those under his or her authority. If you were an investment manager, you would expect those that worked for you to invest and manage the financial accounts, under their care, to the best of their ability! You would ‘reward’ those with good returns on these investments, and ‘demote’ or ‘fire’ those whom did not do well! The fearful servant did not trust his employer. Without trust there can be little accomplished. Neither did he respect his master, thereby leaving their relationship broken and unusable!
If we want to model ourselves after any one of these servants, we certainly would not align ourselves with the fearful one! Rather, we would follow the example of the servant that displayed an attitude of respect and trust for the one to whom he owed his elegance. “Living (as we do) in the (in between times), we should be faithful with the resources given to us. Rather than burying them, we should be investing them. That is, we should look at life through the lens of abundance rather than scarcity.” /Bob Cornwall/ The theologian that said this was trying to give us a simple explanation regarding our parable’s ultimate purpose. Clearly, this analogy is helpful. In our parable we hear of three servants whom each receive a given amount of money. Two of them worked with that which was given them and doubled their value. In the same manner, in our lives today we each have talents, gifts which are part of who we are. As we make this transition to realizing that our gifts from our Master, our Lord God, are not received in cash; consequentially, we need get in touch with what these are. For each of us have received different abilities, various attributes that suit whom we are and accordingly, what we can contribute for the common good. Subsequently, we need to make an effort, and try to do as these first two servants did, making a sincere attempt, giving it an honest try and see what we might accomplish! In most cases we will not be able to measure the results in dollars and cents. But, then again, it depends on the task at hand.
“How about you? When you look at your own performance, where are you doing well? Where do you need to do better?” /Steve Godfrey/ A simple question of this sort may be a way to review how you are doing. If Jesus were looking over your shoulder what would he observe? Would it be a proud moment when you would be overjoyed to have the Son of God, seeing what you have accomplished on his behalf? A simple observation, as I look to some of the tasks that many of you are doing, this tells me that some of you are way ahead of me on today’s scripture lesson! Thank God! Clearly, there are a lot of good works already being done in the life of this church! This is the attitude of willingness which our parable is pointing us toward! No one of us stands judge over another. This is left up to our Master, our God, the One to whom we do owe elegance. Yet, we do owe each other the opportunity to prove ourselves in the eyes of God. As each of us have been entrusted with something or some attribute that is different than what we ourselves possess. Therefore, we need to respect and support one another as we each strive to offer up the best effort we are capable of!
When we look to the parable we see that the attitudes of the servants toward their superior made all the difference in how they worked through that which was their ability. In like manner, we each give back to God, give back to our church and give back to society that which we feel we have been given. This is almost always a measure of our attitude of gratitude! If we have a low level of gratitude for what society has given us that is how we shall respond or not respond! In like manner if we are in good relationship with God and trust God in our daily lives we will be more willing to follow the teachings of God’s Son, Jesus. The quality of our relationship with our Creator will be the quality of the effort we put into using our God given gifts, for the purpose of doing that which God is clearly directing us to do! This morning we will hear the third testimonial from a member of our church as to what this church means to them. As you listen to this individual, consider how you would respond if asked to do the same. Our relationship with our faith family is crucially important, just as our relationship with God is.
We each need to look carefully, evaluating our personal attitudes. Let us pray that as we enter this Thanksgiving week, we shall each feel an appreciation and a sense of gratefulness for that which nourishes us and fills our hearts with the abundance of God’s love. May we be gratefully willing to share our thankfulness with others. Amen.