Sunday, November 16, 2014

Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 25:21
Theme: Servants of THE Servant

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Jesus Christ is the servant of servants. That truth does not stand in contradiction to the fact that he is also Master and Lord. Christ was exalted through humiliation; He was glorified through suffering. “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered, and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”1
You, as His baptized children, are privileged to be His servants. Today’s parable teaches what a great honour and responsibility that is. To His devoted disciples He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master;”2 a preview of the greeting at heaven’s gate.

They are significant words and should compel us to consider what they imply and how we value them. How highly do you prize the affirmation of God? Do you cherish the certainty of His favour or do you take it for granted? Are there other commendations you desire more? Does your need to be liked, or in control, or seen to be right motivate and drive you most? The world is like a fast-moving river whose current is endlessly trying to pull us along. It is like a persistent wind that never rests. Like the tide moving back and forth the temptation to conform to the latest trends in culture are always there. They are “in our face.”

Today Jesus teaches about faithfulness through the parable of the talents. The contrast is between the faithful servants who invest the money entrusted to them and the unfaithful one who does not. Each servant was entrusted with a very large sum of money. Essentially, the owner gives them complete control. The master, who represents Christ, was away for a long time. The first two put the money to work- they invested it, probably in things relating to the master’s business. The third, in fear and laziness, buried his master’s money in the ground. The climax is reached when the master returns. The faithful servants are commended and share in the master’s wealth but for the wicked servant the punishment is harsh and swift. These words of Jesus are not for the faint of heart.

Consider momentarily the reason why any place depicted as outside, in the darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,”3 is so commonly avoided, re-interpreted, or flatly denied (even in spiritual conversation and preaching). There’s no secret or mystery here. Eternal punishment is an affront to our sensibilities and the politically correct ideology of our culture. More importantly, it’s an offence to our nature. And it wouldn’t appear to be too helpful to the mission of Christianity. Who wants to be associated with a God whose judgment is harsh, swift, and final?

Therefore, the temptation to manage and manipulate God’s judgment against sin is always present. Better if the pastor is allowed to mention the problem of sin (that’s part of his job), but to do so without too much specificity. Otherwise we may be shaken from our comfort zones and called to honest repentance. If we were completely candid we’d admit that often we deem our own sin to be so minor that we have embarrassingly few things to repent of. It’s like the little girl who kept her room so spotless that when her parents told her to clean it she had to go mess it up a little first.

God knows better. The truth is our struggle as sinners is tied up inextricably with the love-hate tension with have within ourselves, towards others, and towards God Himself. We are redeemed but we remain powerfully self-centred. But, dear friends, God does not get confused by complexity or confounded by disorder. He can clearly differentiate between the sin and the sinner. The Holy Spirit is impeccably discriminating. He knows the perplexity of our motives; that our intention to love or help or obey is also tainted by hope of praise or fear of reward. He knows that we can be at the same time overflowing with sympathy and yet burning with rage. He knows our hope is often mingled with despair; joy with sorrow. He knows that we are simultaneously saints and sinners.

And He loves us despite of what He knows. His love is intentional and precise. The love of God is not nebulous. That is, it is not vague or ill-defined. Divine love is not a generic feeling of good will or unspecified sentiment of kindness. God is concrete, purposeful, and specific in His actions. God hears your prays, they’re not heaped on a common pile or filed away in a unnamed folder. He knows the thoughts and desires of your heart.

His intimate love is grounded in the tangible work of Christ. The cross was not arbitrary; a mere coincidence of historical context. The crucifixion was deliberate and definitive. Sacrifice was the only way in which God could fully show His love for us. Pardon from sin, freedom from Satan, rescue from death could not be accomplished in any other way. The Holy Spirit does not leave people guessing, wondering how God can be approached or salvation can be secured. The Scripture says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”4 It says Christ, “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”5 When you receive His body and blood at this alar you receive both the benefits of His death and the power of His life.

The message of the parable is clear: Faith has consequences; as does unbelief. Faith never exists in suspended-animation. Luther teaches us that faith is a living, active, and busy thing. It is continually ‘at work’ for the benefit of the kingdom. The promised return of the King reminds us that we are only stewards, not owners. We are not the proprietors, the landlords, or the title-holders. In a culture in which we are accustomed to possessing an abundance of material things we must be reminded that they can just as easily become the cause of stumbling and idolatry as being recognized as God’s blessings. Were we to own nothing at all-if even the very clothes we were wearing were borrowed-we would still be rich in Christ. As the apostle says, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”6

Think, dear friends, what it means that we are now co-inheritors of the kingdom with Christ. We are cherished citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. We were by nature outcasts; sinners from conception with no legitimate entitlement to the inheritance. We were doomed to face the unmitigated judgment of God. Yet God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”7 We are baptized, we are justified, we are sanctified, and we will be glorified. We are freed from the power of death. “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”8 Christ is the Servant of servants and we will be His benefactors for all eternity. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 Hebrews 5:8-9
2 Matthew 25:21
3 Matthew 25:30
4 1 Peter 2:24
5 Romans 4:25
6 Philippians 3:7-8
7 Colossians 1:13
8 1 Thessalonians 5:10

Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
16 November 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

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