Monday, November 24, 2008

Proper 28 of Series A (Matthew 25:14-30)

“For to everyone who has more will be given, and he will have an abundance.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning is the Gospel lesson read just a few moments ago from Matthew chapter twenty-five. Dear friends in Christ, we have just recently elected a new president. Today, a president-elect can travel throughout the country in a flash, he can go back and forth between his home and Washington in the same day. This was not the case a hundred and fifty years ago. Abraham Lincoln had to make a long trek across the heartland of the nation he had been chosen to lead, making many stops along the way. There was no triumphal entry for Lincoln- war was on the horizon. Instead he was almost smuggled into Washington to take power. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was much more dramatic, with giant crowds singing and waving palm branches, the people turned out to praise the one who would be their king. But Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. He did not enter Jerusalem to take the reins of power, He instead entered to depart. Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem to be crowned alright, but with thorns. He came to do battle against sin and Satan on our behalf, to slay them with all of their cruel power. Jesus came to die, and to die for us! He therefore told the parable in our text today to remind all people that He must depart, but that He would return.

But Christ did not leave us alone. He instead left us with His gifts, as He states in our text: “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Jesus may have left us visibly, but He remains with us through means. His promised Holy Spirit continually preaches Christ to us, He works to keep us focused on the king who departed. The Holy Spirit brings us Christ through the gift of the Word, both heard and read. He brings us Jesus in the waters of Holy Baptism, where He raises up a new person to live before Christ in His kingdom. In the Lord’s Supper the Holy Spirit brings us Christ’s very Body and Blood, Christ’s own physical presence. Even though we cannot see Him with our physical eyes, we know that Jesus is fulfilling His promise: “I AM with you always, to the end of the age.” The ‘ability’ that Jesus speaks of is not our own human ability, but instead, the word used here indicates the power given by the Holy Spirit, the very power given in those gifts, the power to live as Christians, as children of God. His grace overflows to us, from the cross through the Word and Sacraments to each and every one of us. This ability is the gift of faith, the gift of living a Christian life, if even in a weak and stumbling way. We are made able to live as Christians through the Holy Spirit- this ability is a gift of God. Without all these gifts, we would not be able to endure His departure, we would not be able to survive until His return. The Word and Sacraments are the beating heart of the Church, because through them the Holy Spirit strengthens your faith and continually forgives your sins. They are food for the journey, as we make our pilgrimage in the time between Christ’s first coming and His second.

Christ has given us gifts according to the overflowing grace and power that is given to us by the Holy Spirit. What do we do with such great gifts? “He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.” Like the servants in our text, we spread the gifts we have been given to others, we multiply the gifts that have been given to us. We have the beautiful, wonderful Gospel message that Christ died for our sins, and not only our sins but the sins of the entire world. This message we show forth before others, we proclaim it to all whom we come into contact with. This message cannot stay trapped within us, but instead must get out to all people. In doing so, in proclaiming the Gospel entrusted to us, the Holy Spirit gains other people for Christ. God’s Word does not return empty, but instead works in the hearts of sinful people to create faith, to claim them for the kingdom, to bring those same gifts to them. He takes the gifts that were given to you and multiplies them, bringing others to the Savior.

But the last servant did not wish to proclaim his gift, he did not want to multiply what had been given him. “But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.” How often are we like this last servant!? We have received such amazing gifts from God, gifts that give us life and forgive our sins, but yet we often hid them in the ground. We do not speak of the hope that is within us, we do not even show with our lives that we have such a hope. Our faith becomes a private thing, something to be hidden and only spoken of within these walls. We gather here to receive the gifts of God, but do we take these gifts back with us into the world? Or does this place become the only place that we talk about Jesus? How often do we avoid opportunities to spread the Gospel to our friends and family, how often do we not even seek out such opportunities?

That final servant showed that he did not want the gift of the master, he showed that he despised his lord and all his gifts. “He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’” We also have many excuses for burying the gifts given to us, but the master will have none of it. “But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” And that is what we all deserve for not spreading the gifts of God into a world of darkness, we only deserve to be a part of that darkness, forever.

Thanks be to God that we have a Savior who is the Light, as Paul tells us in our Epistle lesson for today: “But you are not in darkness, brothers… For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” How can that be, since we have not only failed to spread the Gospel, but have rebelled against God in every other aspect of our lives? Paul once again gives us the answer: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.” Jesus Christ bled and died on a cross for our sin, He shed His blood in our place, granting us life and salvation. On that Friday which we call Good, the Light was surrounded by the powers of darkness. When the sun was snuffed out that afternoon, it was only a picture of the Light of the world being smothered and snuffed out, it was a picture of what we deserve. We deserve to be cast into outer darkness, we deserve to spend eternity apart from God, but instead the Light was cast into the outer darkness for us. Those who love the darkness thought that they had won, but instead three days later light once again shone forth from the empty tomb, and the Light, Jesus Christ Himself, God in the flesh, rose victorious over all darkness. And now Christ makes us children of light. Whether we are asleep or awake we live with Christ, we shine forth as children of light not because we ourselves are light, but because we have been illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

As children of the light, the grace of God for the sake of Christ comes into our lives each and every day. Every time that we sin, every time that we fail to share the gifts given to us, every time that we do not let our light shine before others, we repent and are forgiven by God. Because the Light died on the cross for us, because He has made us children of light through Holy Baptism, we are forgiven each and every time that we repent, and grace comes to us, overflowing like a spring.

As our text states: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.” Because we have been given those gifts, because the Holy Spirit has worked faith within our hearts that grasps onto the grace of God through Christ, we are given ‘more.’ Now, ‘more’ in our translation is much too weak. The Greek word here is the word used for ‘all.’ We are given all things for the sake of Christ, His gifts deliver to us everything, all the inheritance that He earned on the cross. When the king, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, returns, He will say to us as the master said to the first two servants in our text: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Because the Light was crucified for us and our sins, we will enter into the joy of our Lord. We will be a part of heavenly joy, the joy that can only come at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, the joy that comes on the Last Day, where we will rise just as Christ rose and will dwell with God forever. Christ sets us over much in heavenly glory, Christ gives us a seat at the feast, Christ has won us a place in the joy of eternal life! Christ has done all that for us! He did that by dying on the cross and rising again, and He delivers to us the benefits of that death and resurrection in His gifts, the Word and Sacraments.

Because we have a seat at the feast for the sake of Christ, because we are given forgiveness in this place every day through the abundant and overflowing grace of God, we then go out and live as children of the light. We do not need to be prodded or threatened to speak the Gospel to others, but instead it is simply something we do because of who we are, those redeemed by Christ. A living faith within us simply cannot keep the Gospel bottled up- it must get this message out into a world that is still living in darkness. May the Lord shine His light through you into this dark world, strengthening you to bring the message of the Gospel out to people who so desperately need its comfort, assurance and salvation, Amen.

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