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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Nov 19, 2017  SERMON TEXT

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost, Matthew 25:14-30. There we read these words:

"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. Then he went away. 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. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’ 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.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown 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. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

So are you a Have or a Have Not? In other words, will you be welcomed "into the joy of your master," or will you join this parable’s "worthless servant" in "the outer darkness… [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"?

Stop. Do not rush into your answer! Today’s Gospel does not ask you to question whether you have been given God’s fabulously rich gift of salvation. You have been baptized into Christ.

In your Baptism, Christ Jesus Himself poured out upon you all the rich benefits of His salvation, earned for you by His cross and death. In your Baptism, Jesus gave to you a rich treasure that far exceeds those gifts that were given to the three men in today’s Gospel. They were only given money! You have been given forgiveness of sins, and with it, eternal life!

Today’s Gospel does not ask you to question whether you have been given God’s fabulously rich gift of salvation. Today’s parable asks you to think about what you have done with the gift of salvation God has given.

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. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

Jesus tells you these Words so that you will examine yourself. Jesus wants you to question yourself, saying, "Forget about the talents of gold these men received! What have I done with the far richer gifts—the baptismal gifts of forgiveness and salvation— that I have been given? Have I made good use of my Lord’s grace and generosity, or have I lived in fear?

Stained Glass Baptism Window

At this point, a little honesty would go a long way. As much as you would undoubtedly like to say you have done well with your master’s rich gifts, you know better than to lie to Jesus. Your position might not be so extreme as the third guy in today’s Gospel, the one who "dug in the ground and hid his master’s money," but you have not doubled the investment, either.

Everyone present here is so far away from these first two servants in this Gospel—both of whom made fantastic use of the gifts they had been given—everyone present here is so far away from these first two servants in this Gospel, that we would be wise, each of us, to evaluate our lives and make some major changes.

Praise be to God! Alleluia! Jesus is speaking today’s Gospel to you TODAY, while it is still daylight and before the night comes, when no one can work (John 9:4). Jesus is speaking today’s Gospel to you today, so that you have time to make your changes of life and to do better than that "worthless servant… [who] dug in the ground and hid his master’s money."

Your position might not be so extreme as the "worthless servant" in today’s Gospel, but that guy will nevertheless help you understand why you have failed to double the investment, so to speak; that is, why you have not done better with the rich and immeasurable gift of grace and salvation that your God has given to you.

The servant who hid his master’s money tells his entire story with these words: "I was afraid." Doesn’t this sound very similar to the way our forefather Adam likewise attempted to defend and excuse his own sin while still in Eden? "I was afraid...."

In both cases, only three words matter: "I was afraid." With these Words, God has written the explanation why you have failed to do well with the rich gifts God that has given to you. You are afraid. So am I.

Why do you lack generosity? Are you afraid that, if you give something away, you will not have it any more. Why do you lack courage? Are you afraid of what others might think of you? Why are you slow to forgive? Are you afraid your neighbor might get away with something, or he might not get punished unless you do it.

Why do you fail to do good works toward others? Are you afraid that you might be forgotten, exploited, or others will not return with good works done toward you. Why do you feel insecure about yourself and your future? Do you not fear, love and trust in God anywhere near as much as you should or could.

Why do you bury God’s gifts in the ground, so to speak, acting as though you have never received anything good from Him? Admit it. You are afraid. You are afraid that God might prove to be less gracious, less merciful, less constantly attentive, less generous, and less faithful than He claims to be.

Shame on you. Return with me to today’s Gospel. Look again and relearn the immense gift that your heavenly Father has given to you through His Son Jesus!

"It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants." Mark it well! Jesus does not say here that the man called some of his servants or a few of his servants or only his most trustworthy servants. Jesus simply says, "A man… who called his servants." Every servant in the house was given a share of the property.

This is good new from God because it means that not one of you here has been overlooked. When you were baptized into Christ, you were given your share of your master’s rich gifts along with everyone else.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

In other words, forgiveness is yours, given personally to you by your Lord and Master, in the same way that this man in today’s Gospel called not a few of his servants, but ALL of them.

"… and entrusted to them his property." (This is poorly translated! I hate to criticize the words you read in God’s Bible, but our ESV translation should have done better here.) This man did not entrust his property to his servants, as if he expected to get it back. This man GAVE his property to his servants.

He handed property over to his servants in the same way that Pilate handed our Lord Jesus over to be crucified. Pilate did not entrust Jesus to the executioner (Matthew 27:26). Pilate handed Jesus over and he did not expect to get Jesus back.

In the same way, the man in today’s Gospel did not entrust anyone with his property. He handed his property over. Forgiveness of sins, life, salvation: What God has given to you is yours and He has no desire to call in the note, so to speak, or demand it back from you.

If you bury God’s gift in the ground and pretend you never received it—don’t worry, God will take back your gift and give it to others. Nevertheless, God has given forgiveness and salvation to you. His gifts are yours, not as a trust, but as a gift to be loved and enjoyed without fear.

Now let’s return to the original question: Jesus says in today’s Gospel, "To everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

So are you a Have or a Have Not? Asked another way, will you be welcomed "into the joy of your master," or will you join this parable’s "worthless servant" in "the outer darkness… [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"?

Jesus wants you to know that you are a Have. Jesus knows that you are a Have because He has given everything to you. Jesus wants you to live as though you are a Have, and not a Have Not.

Jesus also promises you that, in addition to what you have already been given, more shall yet come: "To everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance." Because of what you have been given, your Lord Jesus shall one day say also to you, "Enter into the joy of your master."

Christ is Risen.

Luther Rose
Christ Is Risen
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