November 14, 2014

Faith-Full Christians Grow Their Gifts (Proper 33, 2014)

We are at the end of the liturgical year. Next Sunday we celebrate the Reign of Christ. Jesus is teaching us about the End Times also known as the “Day of the Lord”. The question is “who will be included in the Kingdom of God? – and who will be excluded?”. The Readings give us three answers:

·         Judges 4.1-8 would include the Nation of Israel if it remained faith-full to its Covenant with God

·         1 Thess.4.13-18 includes the ‘people of light’ who die ‘in-Christ’ i.e. are faith-full to their Baptism into Jesus Christ

·         Mt. 25.14-30 includes those who grow their gifts

 1. There are consequences for rebelling against God
In the Judges Reading the People of God – the Nation of Israel have been “sold into the hands of Jabin, King of Caanan. The Hebrews were in a ‘Covenant’ relationship with God. God owned them and could punish rebellion by withdrawing His protection and using a pagan king to oppress them until they repent.
In the Parable, the consequences for the unfaith-full, “worthless servant” are:

·         What he has – the gift entrusted to him, is taken away

·         He is cast out of the Kingdom into a place of ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth” i.e. the hell of separation from God

 2. The Covenant of Jesus is individual – not national
The Apostle Paul, writing a letter to the people in Thessalonica (Greece) defines the difference between people of light and people of darkness. The “people of light” are awake and have an approach to life of faith, hope and love. In contrast the “people of darkness” have an approach of fear, distrust and rebellion. The former are spiritually alive and awake – the later have a Slumbering Spirit and may be spiritually dead.

3. Parable challenges us to grow in our gifts
Most translations use “talents” – the point is the Master – Jesus gives each of us something that we are to work with and increase – not hide in the ground. Our gifts include our natural talents as well as gifts of the Holy Spirit. I have worked with two small parishes recently to help people discover their gifts for ministry – wisdom in leading / administering, playing music, teaching, interceding, pastoring and serving. Many people do not know what their gifts are so much of my ministry has been helping people discern their gifts and support them in growing in their gifts as part of a parish ministry team. The critical difference is that faith-full believers love God and others enough to overcome their fears and take risks in growing in their gifts.

 The “good and faith-full servants in the Parable:

·         Loved their master and trusted other people

·         Appreciated the gifts and responsibility they had been given

·         Took risks and worked hard to double the value of the gifts

·         Were rewarded with a place of happiness and greater responsibility the their master’s Kingdom

The “wicked and lazy” servant in the Parable:

·         Feared his master and distrusted other people

·         Criticized his master to justify his laziness

·         Took the easy, lazy and apparently safe path of burying the ‘gift’

·         Failed to ‘own’ and take responsibility for the gift

·         Failed to grow the gift

 We will all have to give an account of what we have done with the gifts God has given us
      The Bible is very clear about who is included and excluded from the Heavenly Kingdom – there is no “somehow”

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