Proper 28A (OT 33)
Not prosperity gospel
“Contrary to what might be modeled by some best-selling televangelists, the parable does not justify a gospel of economic prosperity. Instead, it challenges believers to emulate their Master by using all that God has given them for the sake of the kingdom.” (Carla Works, Working Preacher)
Common English’s “Valuable coin,” not enough. When we think of a valuable coin, we think of some gold piece that might be worth $100. This valuable coin, one talent, was worth 20 years wages.
Seems to fit too nicely with market-driven economy
If allegory with Jesus as master, Jesus seems more like Gordon Gecko then the Prince of Peace, or a poor migrant preacher.
Not much room for grace with the one that didn’t do anything.
Literary Context - NOT about stewardship
Part of the second Sermon on the Mount (sermon on the Temple Mount), this one starts in chap 24, comes immediately after predicting the destruction of the Temple.
Written by a post-Temple audience, these parables can be read as an explanation as to why the Temple was destroyed
This is the third of four parables about accountability and judgment
The parable of the slave left in charge
The parable wise and foolish bridesmaids (last week’s lectionary)
The parable of the talents.
The King divides the sheep and the goats
Apocalyptic discourse - Matthew is focused on the eschaton- the end times
After this second Sermon on the Mount is the plot to kill Jesus, and the beginning of the Passion.
Differences from Luke (19:11-27)
In Matthew, the value of the sum is drastically increased.
In Luke, each slave is given approximately 100 denarii. In Matthew, the value of a talent is about 6,000. One talent is the earnings of a 20 years of ordinary labor.
In Luke, each is given the same amount.
The three are given difference sums “according to his ability”
The talents are given out wisely, no one is given more than they should be able to handle.
In Luke they are given explicit instruction to “do business,” whereas in Matthew they are not given a mandate, yet it is implied.
In Luke this passage occurs in the midst of a economic discourse preceding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, here this is part of the Sermon on the Temple Mount.
Parable of the Third Servant
Not really about the talents or the first two servants- they are somewhat identical. in action, report and response. “They are not so much characters in the story as foils against which to compare the third servant, whose actions are unique, whose speech is unique (and fairly involved for a parable), and whose condemnation by the master serves as the climax of the story.” - Mark Douglas, Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).
Descriptions of the Master by the 3rd servant is not justified by the actions of the master- The Master is very generous (places great wealth at their disposal) and very rewarding (invited them into his joy, presumably changing the relationship to one of equals - Douglas)
Subversive note- the problem with the 3rd slave does not seem to be his actions but his fear. The slave sees the master as an immoral taskmaster to be feared and so the master became what he feared. Instead of being a parable to evoke fear (beware or be cast into the outer darkness) this is a parable of warning against fear (i.e. “for Matthew, the God we face is the one we imagine” - Douglas). If fear is what we imagine, then fear is what we will receive, BUT if grace is what we imagine, then grace is what we will receive.
Fear will keep us from risk
Fear will paralyze us
“The sin of respectable people is running away from responsibility” - D. Bonhoeffer
How often are we motivated by fear? What are we willing to risk for the sake of love, grace and forgiveness? God has entrusted much of it- are we willing to risk it? Are we willing to risk the future of the institutional church for the sake of bold grace?
What does it mean to invest our lives for the sake of the Kingdom?
“It is routine for Christians to excuse themselves by protesting that their gifts are too modest to be significant. This parable insists that the gifts are precious and are to be exploited to the full. ‘As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.’ (1 Peter 4:10, 1 Cor. 12:7, Eph 4:7).” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 288)
Allegory works if you see slaves are meant to emulate their master. The ones who did what their master did were rewarded. The one that thought of only his own interest is left outside the “joy.”
We, as slaves to Christ, are meant to emulate his work. It is not about the market-driven, capital gains, it is about following the will of the master.
We are given gifts by God, and are expected to do the work of God.
Motivation behind the slaves’ action is what drives their judgment
The motivation of the good slaves was to do the work of their master. The motivation of the bad slave was fear. When we act out of fear, we hide, maintain, and are reluctant to risk anything. Following Christ, doing Kingdom work, takes some risk. It means taking some chances, and not just hoarding the resources we cling to. All of our resources are a gift. All should be used for the master.
Only time Judges appears in the Revised Common Lectionary - a good teaching moment
Introduces a larger story about powerful women: Deborah and Jael
Talks about the dude our president was named after
Background on Judges
Twelve “Judges” or faithful leaders are presented
These twelve seem to be called by God to address a specific concern or situation facing the Israelites, but to rule over the Israelites
What is a judge? Called by God to free the Israelites, faithful to God, relies on God above all else
Judges over Kings - God alone is King
As we approach Christ the King Sunday next week- this is a good reminder that God alone is King. God calls people to save God’s people at times, but resists calling a king
See Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes”
Pattern of Judges (see Judges 3:7-11 for the Cliff Notes)
Israelites do evil
God allows them to be conquered
Israelites cry out to God
God hears and raises up a leader “spirit of the Lord is upon [them]”
Leader relies on God and defeats the enemy
God raises up individuals - from the least and the weakest (Gideon) to the mighty and strong (Samson), from wise women (Deborah) to sneaky men (Ehud)
Leaders are not called eternally but to address a concern at a certain time and place
Leaders are marked by their faithfulness and trust in God
Prophet (faithful follower of Yahweh who calls Israelites back to right relationship)
Wife of Lappidoth (may be mistranslated, could also be of Lappidoth which means fiery or torch basically meaning a “fiery woman”
Judging Israel….what does this mean? Most likely people came to her to resolve disputes
Recognizing the gifts in others
Barak recognizing he needed Deborah
Deborah recognizing she needs Jael
Sisera underestimates the power of Jael to his own demise
A lot of different paths - God in the unexpected (Jael), Faithful leadership, God working through women, calling leaders, being faithful to God, God’s faithfulness outlasts God’s judgement (see Judges 6:13)
Even after twelve times that the Israelites fail their duty to be faithful, God listens to their cry- raises a leader to call them back to faithfulness and delivers them. How often do we lose patience with one another, while “the steadfast love of God endures forever”?
The bad things that happen to the Israelites are a direct consequence of their unfaithfulness. Judges presents a balance of judgments/consequence and grace/deliverance/forgiveness how do we live out that balance in our lives? Our churches?
Eve of Advent. We are preparing for the season of preparation. Thanksgiving is this week, but there is still one more Sunday before Advent - feels a little odd.
First of Paul’s letters.
Earliest witness to the Christian community.
Two pastoral issues of this letter are clear: the beginning of persecution and the death of followers.
“Paul knows… that the promise of Christ’s Parousia always prompts the question of time. If Christ is to return, when will that be and how can people make sure that they are ready for him?” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 567)
“Paul wants to strengthen the Christian community at Thessalonica and to solidify his friendship with him and his team. He encourages them to stand firm during times of intense opposition and to maintain love for each other.” (Love L. Sechrest, Common English Study Bible notes on 1 Thessalonians, p. 390 NT).
Paul knew Jesus’ teaching as was eventually recorded in the Gospels in Matthew 24 and Luke 12
Matthew 24 is skipped by lectionary, but last week’s reading about the bridesmaids was a story about readiness.
Jesus tells parables about keeping lamps lit.
Master and the servants who weren’t ready for his arrival.
These sections are about preparedness and surprise. Being surprised by the time is no excuse to not be prepared.
“If Christians have no schedule by which to await and prepare for Christ’s return, the coming of that day should still not catch them by surprise.” (Gaventa, p. 567)
Children of Light
“Nothing good happens after midnight.” Famous words of advice from source unknown. For me it was my football coach trying to tell us to not get into trouble.
Children of the Night included those who worshiped Dionysus: “Dionysus, the god of wine, was worshiped in Thessalonica, and his nighttime celebrations had the reputation of being frenzied, ecstatic, orgiastic events. The Thessalonians, being called from the worship of dead idols to serve the living God (1:9), no longer should participate in such events. Instead of being unclothed they are to put on the specific clothing readying them for battle.” (Amy Peeler, Working Preacher)
Peace and Security
Peace and Security was the slogan of the Roman Empire - Pax Romana
These are words of comfort for a people who are threatened.
“And peace and security can’t be generic conceptualized thoughts or theoretical truths. They have to be lodged in something, someone. That’s exactly what Paul is suggesting. Peace and security really mean nothing unless they are connected to that which or to whom they can be realized or experienced. There is too much that creates only temporary peace. There is too much that offers only a false sense of security. This is why they are such powerful realities. We entrust them to other things and to other beings. Paul is saying, entrust them in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Given that God and that truth, there is no doubt that the security of those you love and the peace of knowing that truth are real.” (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher)
Peace and security become idols when they are searched for in anything other than God.
What else do we cling to for security?
Build each other up
This is the “So what” of Paul’s letter.
My paraphrase of Paul’s letter: “You all are suffering. It is getting difficult to remain a follower of Christ. Society makes it difficult. Our own expectations have made it difficult. We all thought that Jesus would be back by now. So now what? What should we do? Hold on strong. We’re all going to be okay. God is still with us, even if God isn’t here like we thought, God is still here. In the meantime, build each other up. Support each other. Be the Church together. Don’t worry about how long you have to do it. As long we do it together, we’ll be fine. You’re all so worried about when Christ will come again. Let’s just act as if he is here now!”
A few weeks ago I was walking with my girls in grocery story parking lot. They are 10 and 7, so I don’t always hold their hand when we walk in parking lots any more. I was in the lead. One was pushing the cart about 20 feet behind me.. The other was walking in between us along the backs of the cars. We always walk off to the side so as not to be in the way of cars wanting to drive up and down the parking lot lanes. As I was walking past a car, it started and its brake lights came on. Then the reverse lights. As I passed the car, my youngest (and shorter) daughter was walking directly behind this parked car, unaware of the precarious situation. I noticed though and became ready. When the brake lights turned off, I yelled “STOP!” as loud as I could, reached out and grabbed daughter, and slammed my hand on the trunk of the car as it started to back up. The car stopped abruptly right up against me, and about a foot from my daughter. A few minutes later, safe in the car with the groceries in the trunk, and the adrenaline wearing off, I started to cry.
Vigilance is hard. Especially as a parent with dangers all around. It takes but a few seconds of your guard being down for something terrible to happen.
I was only able to save my daughter because of the lights - I understood the warning lights. I understood what those white and red lights turning on and off meant.
I want to walk as a child of the light - as someone who sees the warning lights, and is able to respond. I want to see the lights of
Increased climate change
Deepening racial divides
Increasing gap between rich and poor
Women and children telling stories of assault and harassment.
Anxiety over economic fear and displacement.
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING AND GET IN TOUCH:
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).