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Preaching Mission for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost (November 19, 2023)

(Volunteers from Estamos Unidos Moravian Church sharing their time and talent to make a home a better place to live.)

The Joy of God’s Kingdom Comes from Sharing our Blessings
by Bishop Chris Giesler

Preaching Text: Matthew 25:14-30

The Gospel text for this week continues our reading from Jesus’ conversations with people in the Temple, arguments with religious leaders, and teachings to his disciples. All of this is happening just days before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.  While all of Matthew is full of Jesus’ teaching, it is often said that these last few chapters of the book are where Jesus does the heavy lifting of not only teaching but living the love of God into the world.

Today’s text comes from Chapter 25, and if you were following along with the Moravian Readings for Holy Week earlier this year, you might remember this comes near the end of Tuesday’s readings.  It is worth noting that Jesus’ triumphant entering into Jerusalem occurs on Sunday of what we call Holy Week. Since he arrived in town, he has caused quite a stir, not only with the unplanned parade but also with his teachings at or near the Temple.

Since Sunday, Jesus has:

  1. Kicked out the money changers and sacrificial animal sales clerks who were occupying valuable prayer space in the temple.
  2. He has had his authority questioned, whereby he begins to tell a series of parables condemning the religious authorities of his day.
    1. Parable of the two sons (one who said he would not work but did, and the other who said he would work but didn’t)
    2. The wicket tenants who were given a well-constructed vineyard but refused to give the master the rent and killed those who came to collect it, including the master’s son.
    3. The wedding banquet, where the first invited guests refused to come, so the outcasts are blessed with an invitation.
  3. Jesus is questioned about taxes, To which he instructs listeners to give to Caesar the things that are Caesars but give to God the things that are God’s. God’s things are stamped with God’s image, which is how we were created.
  4. Then, there is a discussion about the greatest commandment, which states, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  5. Then there comes the “Woe to you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites” part: Here, Jesus is condemning them for caring more about form than about matters of the heart and caring for souls.
  6. Then there is the parable about the bridesmaids, five of whom had enough oil for their lamps and five who did not. You must be ready, Jesus says, for his coming into your heart and life.

And now we come to our parable today, the parable of the talents. We will leave the gnashing of teeth and the outer darkness for another day…right now let’s look at the talents themselves.

Here, Jesus lays out a parable about three servants, one receiving five talents, one getting two, and another getting one.  In Jesus’ day, a talent was a measure of money. And today, we might figure that five, two, or one talent might not amount to much, but in this case, it is. A talent was worth about 6,000 denarii, and a denarius represented a day’s wage for a laborer. So, it has been estimated that a talent was equivalent to about fifteen years of labor.  So, we are talking about a rather large sum of money, fifteen years of anybody’s work is worth a lot!

To do the math here in Jesus’ parable, the first person gets five talents or seventy-five years’ worth of labor, the next gets two talents or thirty years’ worth of labor, and the last gets one talent or fifteen years’ worth of labor.  When we read this parable, we often get drawn into what happens to the poor soul who only gets one talent.  We don’t know why, but we know that he becomes fearful of losing what he has been given, so he hides the money and then dutifully returns it to the master at the parable’s end.

But this is not a story of scarcity for any of them; we are talking about hefty sums of money here. Money that the master has entrusted to these three servants.

If we come to see Jesus as the master in this story, and if we come to see the talents not as money but as the currency of love, mercy, grace, and peace, we come to understand that Jesus is giving these servants an abundance of resources with which to do ministry.  And the servants that have grown those resources of love, mercy, grace, and peace are invited into the joy of their master! What could be better?!

But there is fear with this last one, and wherever there is fear, there is paralysis. But wherever love, grace, mercy, and peace are shared and multiplied, the joy of Jesus Christ is to be found. And when that happens, exciting things happen.

This gives us a chance to stop and think about what we have been given. We are all blessed with different gifts and talents.  We have all been blessed with resources that can be shared. All of this comes to us as a free gift; let us not bury it in fear but use it to bring others into the joy of a relationship with Jesus Christ. As I write this reflection election results are now being announced following local and regional elections for things such as school boards, town councils, and statewide judicial positions.  The tenor of these elections is hardly graceful, hardly truthful, and certainly does not bring joy to one’s heart.  If Jesus is teaching us anything with this lesson, it is that sharing our gifts freely with others is an investment that brings joy to the world.

The bottom line is that our Lord is looking at us.  God sees a hurting world; God has heard the cries of injustice; God knows that the currency of love is in short supply.  And with that, God looks directly at us and says, “You go and serve others with what I have given you.”  Make the kingdom of heaven known and felt in the lives of others.  Coming up next week, we will see just how we can make all of this happen (see Matthew 25:31-46).