on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://web.me.com/frsparky/iWeb/r066.htm
s066g11 Sunday 33 13/11/2011
‘enter into the joy of your master’ Matthew 25.21
The parable of the talents is a sanctification of our daily
occupations, the work we do during the week to provide for ourselves
and those we love. Significantly we are not
commended for the time we spend in worship, or how often we call on
the name of Jesus.
In the 25th chapter of Matthew there are three parables of
judgement, the parable of the five wise and the five foolish
bridesmaids which we had last week, today’s parable of the talents,
and next week we have the parable of the sheep and the
goats. And I note that none of these parables commend
persons for the amount of time they have spent on their knees or how
much time they have spent with their hands lifted high in praise.
The next message for me is that there are three parables of
judgement because one is not sufficient. This tells us
that God makes sure that as many people as possible are included,
rather than the prevailing attitude that God really wants as few
people as possible in the kingdom, so God makes it hard to
enter. If there was only one way to be included -
the one through Jesus - why would there need to be three parables -
side by side?
Following on my words last week, we could infer that the first
parable is the judgement for christians - that they have oil and
enough to spare to bless others; the second, the judgement for the
ancient people of God, the Jews, that they use their talents, and
the third; those who know not the king, the judgement of atheists,
agnostics and people of other faiths, that they have been charitable
So I would conclude that christians are those who have oil for
acceptance, healing and blessing of other people in this
life. But God also blesses those who use their talents
in this life, to provide for themselves and for others.
And finally God blesses those who are charitable to those around
us. ‘Christians’ are not those whose faith is so
personal that it excludes others. ‘Christians’ are those
whose faith recognises that God loves others besides them; people
like the ancient people of God who use their talents for the benefit
of all, and like people of other faiths and none who are
instinctively charitable, given the opportunity.
In all these, God’s concern is for the good we do in this life, our
incarnation into the society in which we are placed.
Eternal life is therefore something we make for ourselves in this
life, it is something that is essentially corporate.
And so eternal life is related to our personal faith and our
personal relationship to Jesus only as it impinges on others as
benefits and blessing. Where one’s personal faith or
supposedly personal relationship with Jesus separates us from other
people we are in the realms of delusion.
Recently I heard a preacher talk about the gospel of Mark, in
preparation for our sermons next year. And as he spoke I
noted how much the antagonism of the orthodox and the devout is
highlighted, how the disciples are described as people of ‘little
faith’, who consistently got the message wrong, and how Jesus found,
acknowledged and blessed faith in others, strangers he met along the
way. For me (and this was a quite different message than
that of the preacher) this highlights the snare even of following
Jesus. When we follow Jesus, as the disciples did, it
can be all about us and our relationship with Jesus.
This absolutely precludes us from being faithful! It
sanctifies selfishness, spiritual selfishness, which is surely more
reprehensible than material selfishness, which we are ever ready to
condemn in others. Following Jesus really means finding
faith in others, the strangers we meet along our journey in life,
people who have to work for a living.
Each of these parables calls us into the present, to not be
concerned about past generations and what they may have dictated, or
our past sins. Neither are we to worry about the future
– concerned with earning our way into eternal life.
For it is the person who hid his money in the ground because he was
afraid of the master (who he perceived to be harsh) who is described
as wicked and lazy. And for all they might proclaim that
‘the steadfast love of the Lord endures for ever’ (Psalms 136), it
is the orthodox and the devout who are often motivated by fear of
God. If they weren’t motivated by fear why are the
details of ritual, the interpretation of scripture, or the details
of one’s conversion so critical? It is the devout and the
orthodox who are so frequently worried about the dictates of past
generations or what might possibly exclude us from the kingdom.
It is those who are past worrying about what God may or may not
think of their daily occupations who have already entered into the
joy of the master.
And the rub is that Jesus associated with all, the white collar
workers (the tax collectors), the blue collar workers (the
carpenters and fishers) as well as the no collar workers (the
prostitutes). And he commends them all.
In the Genesis story, Cain perceives that God prefers the offering
his brother brings rather than his own. Jesus completely
contradicts this. The offering of the tax collectors,
prostitutes and sinners is acceptable as any other.
Indeed the offering of the poor widow is particularly commended
despite its seeming paucity.
If we affirm that no one comes to the Father but by Jesus, and Jesus
is the person who tells these three parables, then ‘through Jesus’
means we are commended not for the details of our faith or the name
we use for God, but for our living in the here and now, in our
incarnation into the society in which we are placed.
Jesus is not concerned with what we do in this world, or how
successful we are in the world, but only that we are in the world,
and not hiving off into a little holy huddle all by ourselves.
And it is when we get this message, that our God is the perfect
parent, caring for each beloved child without partiality whatever
their occupation; that we are motivated to ‘enter into the joy of
the master’, for we are allowing ourselves to be with others, and
hence with God here, today; here now.
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