Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Pentecost 23, Nov 16, 2014

Sermon for Pentecost 23, Nov 16, 2014

The sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below.

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Sermon for Pentecost 23 – Matthew 25:14-30

Heavenly Host, 2014

First, let’s make sure we know what a talent is.  So the Greek word for talent is, get this, talent.  That’s right, thisParable_of_the_Talents_002 word is a direct import into our language and the reason we use it to describe a natural skill or ability is because of this use right here in Matthew’s Gospel.  There’s an example of how influential the Bible was on everyday thinking in generations past.  Now, there’s quite a lot of information in study notes about how much a talent is and much of it is not so much wrong as outdated.  For a minute, we need to stop seeing this word in its modern English usage and go back to the world where a talent was simply a unit of weight measurement, somewhere between 56 and 80 pounds today.  You’ll read in some places that a talent was worth about a thousand dollars today.  Well, when that was study note written, it might have been.  But you remember the 1970s and inflation.  According to prices Thursday, silver was $15.57 per ounce, which puts the value of a talent just shy of $20,000.  Though, three years ago when silver prices were sky high, at just over $48 an ounce, that would have put us at just over $60,000.  Now a big caveat for us is the value of a talent in the ancient near east didn’t fluctuate like our commodity prices do.  It was really a measure of about 20 years’ worth of wages for a laborer.  So let’s do the math.  A conservative estimate would be, let’s see, a laborer’s wage, that’s $7.25 an hour times 40 hours a week, times 52 weeks a year, times 20 years, that’s $301, 600.  The servant given five talents was given charge over $1.5 million dollars in his master’s absence.  We’re asking about enormous sums.  Jesus is talking about a Master entrusting enormous amounts of wealth to His servants to carry on with in his absence.

Second, notice that these servants are given to each according to their ability but each of them is still given an enormous sum to be in charge of, to put to use in the master’s absence.   The real focus is not on which of the three servants you might be, the servant with five talents, or the servant with two talents or the servant with one.  The focus is on the generous Master.  He is not stingy and he trusts his servants completely with that which is His.  Let me say that again, because I’m not going to take two minutes and pull out the imaginary calculator to make the point.  The third servant, the one is lives in fear, has completely misunderstood His Master.  The Master is generous and He completely trusts His servants with what He gives them.  Got it?

I’m convinced that each of us are called to see ourselves as one of these servants.  Our Master, the Lord Himself, has gone away and left us in charge with great treasure and with that kind of wealth at our fingertips, great responsibility to put His treasure to good use.  Each of us, in our respective callings are to put what we have been given to good use.  Students, work hard at your studies.  When you slack off, you’re burying your talent.  Workers, same thing.  Bosses, same thing.  For us together as a congregation, same thing.  We need to put to use what we have been given and not live in fear.

So how do you think we are doing as servants of the master, both individually and as a congregation?  What do you think will happen when He returns?  Are we putting to full use the great treasure of the Gospel we’ve been given?

So, we’re not doing this either because:

  1. We’re not convinced we’ve been given a great treasure, or
  2. We’re afraid of risking that treasure we’ve been given, or
  3. Are we just unsure of the direction we need to go?

First off, we have been given a great treasure, citizenship in the kingdom of God.  Look at what little Marco received today.  Forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life.  He was drowned and died to his old self and raised too with Christ, that He might live with Christ forever.  There is no greater treasure we could be given.

When it comes to acknowledging that we have been given to by God, a question we need to ask ourselves far more often than we do is, “Do I appreciate what God did for me in Christ as I should?  Do we truly give God thanks, that is, do I acknowledge that God did something for me that I could not do for myself?  Do I reflect on it?  It is the source of strength and assurance for me that I know God wants for me?  And this applies to other gifts from God too.  The author of a book I read this week recalled a conversation on an airplane with Billy Graham.  At a break in the conversation, the man asked him, “Billy, you’ve never gotten over the surprise that God picked you, have you?”  And Billy replied, “Not only that, … but that God has protected me.”[1]  That’s Billy Graham.  He appreciates the gift as well as the protection to use the gift he’s been given.  We can’t waste any of the gifts of the Master by using them.  The only way we can waste them is by not using them.

So maybe, it’s simply a matter of a lack of direction.  Well, I can tell you how I am planning to grow personally, and where I planning on working with the leaders and the people of the congregation.  I plan on continuing to grow in the Word of God and formally participate in pastoral training and leadership institute over the next two years.

As far as the congregation goes, I can see this congregation growing to double the size we are now.  We certainly have the capacity.  And we could do it in the next 3 years if we wanted to.  But growing the number of people in the pews ultimately means nothing, if we are also not growing spiritually as disciples of Jesus.  I think that word, disciple, still trips us up a little.  We think of disciples as those people in the Gospels who followed Jesus.  Even though the Christian Church has been commissioned to make disciples, that is make more of them.  That means you and I are disciples and our task is to make more of them.  And so I’m certain that the church will grow, when we grow in Christ and when the Spirit of Christ grows in us.  It will grow in us if we would but take the gifts of the Master in delivered to us every week from the pulpit and altar, and today for Marco, from the font, put them to use.

And I’ll tell you a little more about how it can grow.  It can grow when disciples of Jesus can put their talents to use in the places God has prepared for them, when they can put their Holy Spirit given gifts to good use for the love of neighbor.  Look at how church families and school families have come together to help with the benefit for Brad this afternoon.  This is but the beginning of What God is going to do here through us.  And with that kind of growth, both spiritual and numerical, it won’t be an issue of arguing over whether we need the kind of space that a Christian life center can give us, we’ll be arguing over how many things can happen in it at the same time and how quickly we can to pay it off.

There is a great quote from our own Lutheran Confessions that epitomizes exactly what I’ve been saying and what the Master wants for His servants today.

“He will also strengthen, increase, and support to the end the good work that He has begun in them [Philippians 1:6], if they cling to God’s Word, pray diligently, abide in God’s goodness, and faithfully use the gifts they received” (FC SD XI 21).[2]  Our Lord is not harsh.  He has given us the extravagant gifts of His kingdom that we might faithfully use them.  Mario, Kelly that’s why you brought Marco here today, right?  That God’s kingdom might be increased.  And it is increased in you in the hearing of this message.  Do not fear.  God will strengthen you to use His gifts.  Amen.

[1] Smith, Fred.  Leading with Integrity: Competency with Christian Character.  30.

[2] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 1639.

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