PENTECOST 23, A – November 19, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Psalm 143; Zephaniah 1:7-16; 1 Thess. 5:1-11; Matt. 25:14-30

“The kingdom of heaven 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. Then he went away.” Matt. 25

 

“The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey…” Most often in His parables, Jesus was teaching about Himself. In this parable He is telling us about how things will be for His followers, His Christians, after His death and resurrection and ascension into heaven.

Our Master has been away for a long time, hasn’t He? It’s been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus was last seen in the flesh, walking among us and helping us. Because He’s been gone so long, and especially with the many evils happening in the world and His Church declining, it’s easy to fall into thinking that He doesn’t notice or care, and so will not change anything or even expect much from us. It’s an old, very common, and very dangerous way of thinking. 2,500 years ago the prophet Zephaniah dealt with people thinking, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill,” and so getting complacent and accepting sins (Zeph. 1), not changing or doing anything to bring about change. “The great day of the Lord is near,” Zephaniah warned them. God is coming with power to judge! Jesus speaks of this in His parable.

And so, don’t become complacent or lazy! Don’t accept sins and become lazy in faith, thinking there is little you can do or need do. Your Master will return one day to settle accounts! His coming will be sudden and surprising, “like a thief in the night,” (1 Thess. 5). You must expect Him and so work and be ready for His return! And what does Jesus expect from you? Do what He has given you to do. Work with what He has entrusted to you. That’s what He says in His parable.

What has Jesus entrusted to you? When we hear the words, “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one,” it is easy to think of the natural abilities we have – talents – and also the positions in life – vocations – that we occupy. And yes, God does indeed expect us to serve with our natural abilities, and in our vocations, in the ways that He directs. To help us understand what God expects, Martin Luther (and others) added at the end of the Small Catechism a Table of Duties. It lists passages of the Bible that apply to various vocations, so that we can know what God expects of us. It is very useful, and so I have included it in your bulletin today (and appended it to this sermon).

A person’s natural talents, however, are not what Jesus is referring to in today’s parable. God is good to all people, even those who reject Him, and He gives natural abilities to all. But Jesus says that the master “called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” He has blessed you, His believers, above others by giving you that which is His own to use in your daily life! It is an incredible treasure that He has given.

Ø  A talent in Jesus’ day was a measure of weight. One talent of silver was worth about 20 years of wages. Gold was worth 30x more. The Master gave a huge amount to each of his servants!

And he gave it with no strings attached. His servants had his full authority to use it as if it were their own and do with it whatever they wanted.

What is this wealth of Christ’s that has been entrusted to you? Several times in His ministry, both before and after His death and resurrection, Jesus gave to His followers His authority to forgive sins. Do you realize the value and importance of this forgiveness?

Ø  It is a treasure that Jesus gained for the world by His own sacrificial death for us. No greater price will ever be paid for anything!

Ø  It changes people from being enemies of God to His friends, even His children.

Ø  It assures us that when Jesus returns, raises us from the dead, and judges us we will not be condemned for our sins and cast into hell but accepted and welcomed into God’s holy presence in heaven.

Ø  It changes people’s lives in this life, also, giving peace and hope and the assurance of God’s loving presence to help and to guide.

What a great treasure is the forgiveness of sins that Jesus has given you and entrusted to you!

Put it to work. As God has forgiven you in Jesus – before you asked for it, or even knew you needed it; freely, accepting the cost Himself and charging you nothing; and fully, so that none of your many sins will be remembered in the judgment – so you are to forgive others. Be generous with your forgiveness, as Jesus was generous! This is work, of course. It’s not always easy to forgive, and especially to put out of your heart and mind sins committed against you. Our society doesn’t do this.

Ø  I think here of the many, such as Sen. Al Franken of MN, whose sins from their past are being brought up right now. The sins are bad, no question. But, they seem to have been brought up more as a political club than out of concern for them.

When we see such things we’re tempted to do the same and think it’s ok. It’s not! Jesus served us sinners to the point of taking our sins, with their guilt and punishment, upon Himself, that He might rescue us from them. We are to do the same with others!

Will this change things, and/or change people? Don’t worry about the results, whether those who have sinned against you will admit their wrong and appreciate your forgiveness or not. The master in the parable wasn’t concerned with the amount of the results. Five talents or two talents gained, it didn’t matter. He was simply pleased that his servants put his money to work; so pleased, in fact, that he not only rewarded them with greater positions; he even shared with them himself. “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” This is what each heard from his master.

God’s Word says that it was for the joy set before Him – our being forgiven and brought into our Master’s eternal joy – that Jesus endured the cross and laid down His life for us all. He was glad to have done this, and is glad to share His forgiveness with you now. You enter into the joy of your Master here in His house and at His table! It is a foretaste of the joy to come in heaven! Jesus is a gracious and generous and loving Master, to be sure; but He is still our Master. In all things in our lives, then – but especially as we deal with those who sin against us and share with them our forgiveness; our Master’s forgiveness – may the words of Ps. 143, our Introit, guide us:

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me!

In the name of Jesus, our good Master and Savior. Amen. 

The Table of Duties

Certain passages of Holy Scripture for various vocations and

positions, admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities.

An appendage to the Small Catechism of Martin Luther.

Let each his lesson learn with care, and all the household well shall fare.

 

To Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers

The overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 1 Tim. 3:2–4

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 1 Tim. 3:6

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. Titus 1:9

What the Hearers Owe Their Pastors

The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Gal. 6:6–7

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Tim. 5:17–18

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 1 Thess. 5:12–13

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb. 13:17

Of Civil Government

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrong-doer. Rom. 13:1–4

Of Citizens

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Matt. 22:21

It is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Rom. 13:5–7

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior. 1 Tim. 2:1–3

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good. Titus 3:1

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 1 Peter 2:13–14

To Husbands

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her… In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Eph. 5:25, 28

To Wives

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:5–6

To Parents

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4

To Children

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and your mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Eph. 6:1–3

To Workers of All Kinds

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. Eph. 6:5–8

To Employers and Supervisors

Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him. Eph. 6:9

To Youth

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:5–6

To Widows

The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 1 Tim. 5:5–6

To Everyone

The commandments … are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Rom. 13:9

I urge … that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone. 1 Tim. 2:1