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Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 28

Track 1: The Character of God

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

Before Israel had kings, judges sat under God’s authority to help govern the people. One such judge was Deborah. We read today’s Old Testament:

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.’”   (Judges 4:4-7)

Barak believed what Deborah said. He went to Mount Tabor. There he defeated Sisera. Why did he trust what Deborah instructed him to do. He knew that Deborah was a prophetess. He trusted the word of God.

We need leaders who listen to God and follow his instructions. How many of our politicians do that? How many of our church leaders do that?

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus told the parable of the talents:

Jesus said, “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.’ ”  (Matthew 25:14-30)

Notice in the parable how the master promoted those men who proved trustworthy. They were trustworthy because they trusted their master. This was not the case for one of the master’s servants:

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.   (Matthew 25:14-30)

Why did this servant fail? He did not trust the master. Perhaps did not have a relationship with the master. Perhaps did not understand the character of the master. This was the master’s response:

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.   (Matthew 25:14-30)

It was not that the servant in the parable was unacquainted with the master. He worked for the master. But he did not know the master. He had a false concept of what the master was like.

Do we know the God we serve? Do we understand him enough to trust him? How many of us have a false concept of God. Many of our churches have not taught us who God really is. He is love. He is kind. He is merciful. Deborah knew this about God. She had a relationship with God.

We need some Deborah’s today in leadership. We need some Deborah’s in today’s church. We need some Deborah’s in our government. Maybe some of us should step up into a place of leadership. Is God calling us? Are we going to shrink back and bury our talents? Or are we going to be faithful with the gifts that God has given us? When we have proven ourselves faithful with a little, God will promote us. He will put us in charge of many things.

 

 

Track 2: Hiding Our Treasure

Zephaniah 1:7,12-18
Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

Our life is a great gift from God. The psalmist wrote:

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.   (Psalm 90:10-12)

Our lives depend on the breath of God. We are to value them. Do we realize that we are God’s treasure? He has given us some of his essence. He has invested in us. God must judge iniquity, but He has given us his Son Jesus to secure our salvation. By the stripes of Jesus we are being made whole and well.

The Apostle Paul has called us children of the light:

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.   (1 Thessalonians 5:3-11)

We are children of the God’s divine light. Jesus said:

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.   (Matthew 5:14-15)

Are we to hide our light from the world? That is what Satan wants us to do. He wants us to forget who we are in Christ. He wants us to live in fear. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus told this parable:

Jesus said, “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.   (Matthew 25:14-30)

Why did this one man hide the investment that his master made in him? Perhaps he did not realize what he had been given he was. It was a moderate one, but it was a stepping stone to a bigger one. All he had to do was to trust the generosity of the master.

But apparently he did not understand the nature and character of his master. He hid has gift. Are we hiding our gift? Has Satan convinced us that God is a harsh master? Are we afraid of doing the wrong thing? Those are religious fears. But Christianity is not a religion. It is a way of life that is ever expanding. Day by day we grow in God’s grace. But we must stay planted in his soil. He must remain to his word. We must hold on to the hope that is within us that God has given us.

We must not allow fear to take over our lives. The Apostle John wrote:

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us.   (1 John 4:17-19)

God is perfecting us in love. Only he can do it. Satan is not goinh to steal away our inheritance in Christ. Let us not forget hte true nature of God. Jesus said:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  (Luke 12:32)

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