17 November 2014

Christ the King, the Last Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 29, 23 November 2014

Ezekiel 34:11016, 20-14
Psalm 100 or 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
St. Matthew 25:31-46

Background: The Feast of Christ the King
With the revisions in the calendars of the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches in the late 70s, this feast day was added as a celebration on the last Sunday of the Church year.  In the Roman Church it was first introduced as an idea in an encyclical, Quas Primas, by Pope Pius XI (1925) and was celebrated as The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe on the last Sunday in October.  In 1970 (Pope Paul VI) the feast was moved to the last Sunday in Ordinary time, the Sunday preceding the Season of Advent. The original encyclical that served as the theological basis for the feast day was not an argument based on liturgy, but rather on politics.  Pope Pius XI hoped the encyclical would be an adequate response to the growing secularism and nationalism in Europe following the First World War. Through it, the encyclical hoped to engage not only the clergy of the church but its laity as well. It aimed to see the focus human allegiance on Christ rather than the nation state. 

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

Although many of us would be hard pressed to say that we know an actual shepherd, all of us understand both the vocation and the concepts that surround it as a pastoral metaphor for ministry and service.  Perhaps it is the 23rd psalm that has engendered this and made it available to us.  Here however, we have a prophet, who with Jeremiah (23:1-8) uses this idea as a tool in making his message real and approachable.  In addition, it was an idea to be in use in a wider cultural context in the ancient near east, making it available as an appropriate metaphor to people beyond Israel.

Like Jeremiah’s words, Ezekiel’s are preceded by an oracle of doom (34:1-10), which indicts the present “shepherds” of Israel (it’s political and religious institutions) and accuses them of not tending to the flock. In the second oracle that follows (our reading for this day), the prophet pictures YHWH looking for the scattered sheep. “I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” It’s a fitting scene in this time of the year. In spite of the darkness and gloom, YHWH is determined to gather the scattered flock, and to bring them back. The passages that describe this are reminiscent of the 23rd psalm, “I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.”

The theme soon turns from the pasture and sheep to the ideas of justice and judgment, and then to the supreme example of sheparding and justice, David, YHWH’s servant.  David then takes on the shepherding task that earlier described YHWH.  Now it is David who feeds, and guides them. Thus is the notion of kingship introduced into this reading, so appropriate for Christ the King.

Breaking open Judges:
  1. What do you shepherd in your life?
  2. Who shepherds you?
  3. Whom do you need to take care of?

Psalm 100 Jubilate Deo

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The LORD himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the LORD is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

The shepherd theme appears in the thanksgiving psalm, but briefly, as it mirrors the phrase from Psalm 95 (see below), “we are his people and the sheep of his pasture”. Quickly we return, however, to the Temple as we “enter the gates” and “go into his courts.” These verses indicate the status of those addressed in the psalm.  We are invited into the courts and beckoned to enter the gates. Now we are not only pilgrims, looking forward to the courts of the Lord. Now we are standing within them – standing in relationship with God.

Breaking open Psalm 100:
  1. What does it mean to be a pilgrim?
  2. What does it mean to having arrived at the place of worship?
  3. Where are the “courts of the Lord” in your life?


Psalm 95:1-7a Venite, exultemus

Come, let us sing to the LORD; *
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the LORD is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
and the heights of the hills are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it, *
and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Any good follower of Morning Prayer or Matins will recognize this psalm or at least its beginning verses, the Venite. Like its ancient intentions, this psalm calls us to both prayer and worship, “Come”. What follows are a series of liturgical actions, thanksgiving, shouts of joy, raising a shout of praise. Here YHWY exists not in a divine loneliness, but rather in the company of other gods, “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” What follows are the deeds of God, as the wonders of creation are rehearsed – the caverns of the earth, the heights of the hills, the sea (which he conquered) and the dry land. What is mortal woman or man to do in the face of these divine deeds? That is supplied to us as well, “Bow down, bend the knee.” A final reference (in this pericope) brings us back to the shepherd image, and the theme, “the shepherd-king” for this day. “We are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.” One understands how this psalm made its way into the Morning Prayer office of the church. Its call to worship becomes the initial realization of the day, and the One who gave it being.

Breaking open Psalm 95:
  1. Who or what bids you to come and worship?
  2. How do you do that?
  3. How do you worship and pray during the day?

Ephesians 1:15-23

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Some see Ephesians as a summarization of Pauline teaching, a letter not given to one congregation alone (Ephesus) but rather given to all with an intention of grounding them again in the apostolic teaching.  What the author intends here is linked to the thanksgivings evident in both of the psalms recommended for this day.  The Pauline author is pleased that those receiving the words written have flourished in the Gospel.  What is wished for them is “a spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Thus the faith is seen not as a static practice, but rather as a continuing encounter with God. The promise of the Spirit is given “as you come to know him.” Then there is a vision of a triumphant and glorious Christ who has been raised by the Father not only from the dead, but also “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” One can see where Pius XI got his inspiration (See background). The present situation was that the Church, the body of Christ, the company of the believers lived in the shadow of the imperial dominion. Here they are bidden to think of themselves as living in the church, “Which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” It seems to be a participatory kingship>

Breaking open Ephesians:
  1. Do you have a daily encounter with God? How?
  2. What gifts does the Spirit give to you?\
  3. How do you react to the powers and dominations of this world?

St. Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

It is with a certain sense of sadness that we leave Matthew and these marvelous parables on the Kingdom of Heaven. However, Mark will treat us well in the coming year.  This particular parable is only found in Matthew, and is uniquely suited to this day. In Matthew we are on the cusp of the Passion Narrative, and here in this parable, we understand Jesus to be giving some of the final points of instruction to the disciples, so that they might understand the kingdom and its true nature. That might be a jumping off point for an especially fine sermon to edge us into Advent.  We are literally caught between the “Coming Again” and its Advent hope, and the final judgment of Jesus that comes with the passion. One wonders what those who followed Jesus thought as they lived these days. Jesus is clearly calling them, and us as well, to look at and to begin to understand “the end” to which we are all called. 

These are scenes of judgment, division, and (yes) shepherding. The judge asks us to reflect on how we have lived, whom we have seen in the lives of others, and what our response has been. The expectation is clear – Christ needs to be in all of them. Thus the example of our unknowing gifts, or our ignorance of the One who has expressed need, brings us squarely to the seat of judgment – a perspective that is known in our own hearts and minds as well. It is a sad statement that this parable has given place to the judgment of Christians by Christians, failing to see Christ’s presence in the midst of what seems to others to be our lack of faith and our ignorance.  That is for the Christ to decide, and it is for us to ponder.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What are your expectations of Jesus’ judgment of you?
  2. What are your expectations of other’s judgment of you?
  3. How do you judge yourself?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2014, Michael T. Hiller

10 November 2014

The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 28, 16 November 2014

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
Psalm 90:1-12

I Thessalonians 5:1-11
St. Matthew 25:14-30

Background: Judges
A pattern that is seen in certain of the prophetic books has its advent in the Book of the Judges.  It is known as the riv pattern - a series of actions: faithlessness on the part of Israel, judgment by an “enemy”, the emergence and anointing of a leader (Judge), the defeat of the enemy, restoration of the relationship with YHWH.  There are several judges who are remembered in the Book of Judges: Othniel vs. Aram, Ehud vs. Moab, Deborah vs. Hazor, Gideon vs. Midian, Abimelech vs. Israel in general, Jephthah vs. Amon, and Samson vs. the Philistines.  The riv pattern is reviewed in the prologue of the book (1:1 – 3:6). The remaining two sections review the actual stories of the judges themselves (3:7-16:31) and an epilogue (17:1-21:25), which is actually composed of an appendix to the main text, and reviews the stories of Dan and Gibea. What is of value here is not the historicity of the events or even of the characters, but really the theology of Accusation – Punishment – Confession – Forgiveness.

Track 1:

Track 1:
Judges 4:1-7

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, `Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin's army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.'"

Following the pattern outlined in the Background (above), Israel following the death of Ehud, again falls into a faithless way with YHWH, and soon falls into disfavor. A new judge is called to deal with the situation. The circumstances of the threat are drawn in expansive terms.  Jabin is not the king of Canaan, for there was neither such entity nor a kingship that ruled it. He is king of Hazor, a very important city, however, so the writer expands on his power.  To this expansion is added the description of “iron chariots”, which is probably hyperbole as well. Chariots were usually made of wood with iron reinforcements. Here, the author underscores Jabin’s power by describing the whole vehicle as being made of iron. A woman is called to be judge in this situation, and she is already pictured as practicing that ministry “under the palm of Deborah” located in the hill country of Ephraim. The gender of this judge is not lost in the Hebrew, where she is described as a “prophet-woman” which underscores her in relationship to the men who operate around her. She is not described as a shofet (a judge) but rather as a nevi’ah (a prophet). Thus the anointing is presumed, and the divine relationship already a known entity.  Here she functions as a judge (in our sense of the term) and not as a warrior. As a prophet she understands the whole context of the situation, knowing already the prophetic words of God to Barak, and what the results of the confrontation will be, “I will give him into your hand.” It is meaningful to note that the hands into which the man Sisera (the Canaanite General) is delivered are the hands of women: Deborah, the prophet-woman, and Jael, the woman who wields the deadly blow.

Breaking open Judges:
  1. What powerful women who are religious leaders do you know?
  2. What moves you to admire them?
  3. How do the women of your church move it in ministry?

Psalm 123 Ad te levavi oculos meos

To you I lift up my eyes, *
to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes look to the LORD our God, *
until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, *
for we have had more than enough of contempt,

Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *
and of the derision of the proud.

This psalm of supplication begins with the first person singular, but the subsequent verses are in the third person.  The initial intimacy is generalized.  What follows, however, are intimate gestures that indicate not only knowledge but relationship as well – slaves to master, slave girl to mistress, our eyes to God. What lies beneath the text is the implicit neediness of the look, expecting affirmation, but often receiving scorn.  The verse, “for we have had more than enough of contempt”, distinguishes the expectant look of the people to God, from the all-too-human expectation of rejection or scorn from masters and others. No punches are pulled in this psalm.  The expectation of such rejection is taken for granted when dealing with the “indolent rich”, or the “proud.”

Breaking open Psalm 123:
  1. What do people see when they look at you?
  2. What do you see in your supervisor’s eyes?
  3. How do you adjust your behavior accordingly?


Track 2:

Zephaniah 1:7,12-18

Be silent before the Lord GOD!
For the day of the LORD is at hand;
the LORD has prepared a sacrifice,
he has consecrated his guests.
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
and I will punish the people
who rest complacently on their dregs,
those who say in their hearts,
"The LORD will not do good,
nor will he do harm."
Their wealth shall be plundered,
and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
they shall not drink wine from them.
The great day of the LORD is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter,
the warrior cries aloud there.
That day will be a day of wrath,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.
I will bring such distress upon people
that they shall walk like the blind;
because they have sinned against the LORD,
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the LORD's wrath;
in the fire of his passion
the whole earth shall be consumed;
for a full, a terrible end
he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Zephaniah is often described in his similarity to the prophet Amos, who prophesied in the north.  Zephaniah’s work was largely in the south, in Judah.  The pattern discussed in the Background (above) is also evident here, as the prophet sees the error of Judah’s ways, and the punishment that will surely follow. This lesson follows closely upon last Sunday’s reading from Amos, “Why do you want the day of the LORD? It is darkness, not light.” In that “light”, Zephaniah writes accordingly, “That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness.” The day of the Lord might tend toward salvation, but its immediate effect is one of judgment.  Like Amos, Zephaniah, asks his hearers to look beyond their rituals and cultic life to see the realities of their relationship to and loss of faithfulness with God. But we need to be cautious here. In a reverse kind of universalism, the prophet’s words of doom are not only reserved for the people of Judah, but “the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.” Perhaps Judah was charmed by the fate that came with its engagement with other gods, their blessings, and their prosperity.  Here the prophet wants the people to understand that the God of all, judges all.

Breaking open the Zephaniah:
  1. How do you deal with dark themes in the Bible?
  2. Is there darkness in your life?
  3. What kind of light do you bring to it?

Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12 Domine, refugium

Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say, *
"Go back, O child of earth."

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.

You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.

For we consume away in your displeasure; *
we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.

Our iniquities you have set before you, *
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.

Who regards the power of your wrath? *
who rightly fears your indignation?]

So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

This psalm sets up Moses as a model, but for more than his piety and wisdom. It is also his mortality that attracts our author.  Whether it is all of time and space, day and night, or eon upon eon, it pales in relationship to YHWH.  So in the psalm we see with our human scope and limitations, but are also invited to view the same situation from the perspective of The Eternal One. Knowing that we are finite should grant us a modicum of wisdom, according to this psalm. That is the insight that comes from “numbering our days, and applying our hearts to wisdom.”

Breaking open the Psalm 90:
  1. What are the limitations of your days?
  2. What do you wish you had more time for?
  3. How do you use your time to gain faith and wisdom?

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

We seem to be caught up in a “time warp” or at least in a heightened sense of “times and seasons.” Paul has a very different take on “the Day of the Lord” than that of Zephaniah or Amos.  For Paul there is also a sense of sudden threat and destruction, but also a sense of the security that comes when we ally ourselves with Jesus. “For God has destined us not for wrath, but for obtaining salvation.” “…So that whether we re awake or asleep we may live with him.” Again we are in the Advent Shadow, and again we are asked to wait, this time with the assurance of the blessings that are to come, not the threat.  The protective elements of life are simple: faith, love, and hope. These Paul encourages his readers to take on in conjunction with their taking on Christ.

Breaking open Thessalonians:
  1. How does this reading give you a measure of assurance?
  2. When you think of God’s judgment, what thoughts do you have?
  3. How do faith, love, and hope operate in your life?

St. Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus said, "For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 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.' 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.' 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.' 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.' 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; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 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? 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. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 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. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "

Once again we deal with absence.  Last Sunday it was the absence and then the immanent coming of the bridegroom that made for Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. Here it is about the landowner who is absent in his person, but not in the responsibility that he has given to his servants. Thus the landowner is gone, but not quite.  There are expectations, and the time of waiting will be filled with dealing with these expectations. Perhaps we need to look at Paul’s vision of the Body of Christ in seeking to understand Jesus’ teaching. We are, in ourselves, a “talent.” Paul recalled that to some it was given to be a prophet, or a teacher and so on. The landowner has left us with what we are, and what belongs really to the Landowner (the Creator). It is this dealing with expectations (God’s and our own) that forms the crux of the problem here. Do we risk in the execution of our faith, or do we hold back and conserve. Luther said it best. Pecca fortiter – “Sin boldly.”  It is worthy of Poor Richard’s Almanac, and a common everyday bit of wisdom – “give it your best shot.”

What is it in ourselves that is first given to us via the Spirit that is of such great value that the Lord of Life expects a high return? Perhaps it is the truth that has been invested or inspired in us – the God loves us and saves us, that we are indeed already citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps that is why the Landowner is so harsh with the timid one. He doesn’t recognize the treasure that is already in him. Perhaps it isn’t even the resulting value so much as it is the effort to invest it in others.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What are your talents?
  2. How do you use them?
  3. How do you risk them?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2014, Michael T. Hiller