Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost + November 15, 2020
A Reading from the book of the prophet 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.
We pray Psalm 90:1-12
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, “Turn back, O children 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 them away like a dream, they 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 are consumed by your anger; we are afraid because of your wrath. 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.
A Reading from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now 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.
The Holy Gospel, according to St. Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus said to the disciples: “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 listen in a certain fear and trembling, as Jesus tells yet another tale of the Kingdom. This time, God is the giver of talents, in his time, a measure of monetary wealth. But, whether we choose to continue with that metaphor, or consider all the gifts and talents each human being is given, we can appreciate both the affirming reward, and disappointed condemnation that ensues when the master returns to measure both the profits generated, and more importantly, the creative imagination, willingness to make careful investments, recognition of the balance between abundance and scarcity, and decisions each person has made. Once again, in considering the way parables can be interpreted, I invite you to consider the three persons as one. A human being who is capable of both wisdom and foolishness, industriousness and laziness, as well as hope and despair. Each of us is given a certain talent, whether in generous or scarce measure, and entrusted with the task of making the most of what God has blessed us with, so that the Kingdom, and all who inhabit it, can benefit. There are times and circumstances in which we respond by employing every positive aspect and skill we have to grow and prosper, trusting that our effort will yield what God’s grace has empowered. I believe that the returning master is not a much angry with us, as with those negative forces that assail us, paralyze us, and sap our strength to prevail. It is these enslaving evils, and the parts of our self that are threatened and crushed by them that are stripped of their power, so that we can be free to prosper.
Trust the Master, trust the talents given, and trust the saving power of the One who entrusts us to build and become the Kingdom! Amen