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O’ Christmas Tree (Sermon November 30, 2014)

Mark 13:24–37 (NRSV)

The Coming of the Son of Man

(Mt 24:29–31; Lk 21:25–28)

24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25            and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

(Mt 24:32–35; Lk 21:29–33)

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

The Necessity for Watchfulness

(Mt 24:36–44; Lk 21:34–36)

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

This time of year is probably the most exciting, it is the holiday season! It begins with Thanksgiving and for the next month we look forward with the anticipation of the coming of our Savior. There is much to celebrate when we look toward God. Yet often times we get caught in despair and hopelessness. So as we start off this Advent season I want to take a look at some of the traditions that many of us have held so dear.

The Christmas tree is probably one of the most memorable tradition in most of our houses. Most of us have memories of the excitement we had a children of putting up the tree. It has become so engrained in our cultural celebrations of Christmas that it is hard to imagine a time where Christmas trees were not popular. The use of a tree to assist in our celebrations in America is younger than the concept of our nation, but the roots go deep into history.

Winter is a very dark and sometimes scary season, especially if you lived in the far northern areas of the world where during the winter months the sun barely peaks over the horizon if it rises at all. People that settled in those northern places, in countries we now know as Finland, Sweden, Norway and others often lived their lives in fear because there was very little light, and the weather was fiercely cold. But they saw something that gave them hope, a tree. During the winter everything seemed to die, the plants died, animals died, and even people because it was just too cold, but there was one thing that did not die the fir tree. This tree would stay green throughout the harsh winter months so it became a beacon of hope for the hopeless. They would hang a fir tree from their ceilings with the hope that whatever power kept it dying during the winter would be poured out on the family living in the house. We know this to be superstition now, but we must remember that this was a dark time. So the evergreen tree made its debut as a holiday tradition in the homes of the Vikings or Norsemen, but it was redeemed by God like some many things.

The redemption came when a monk named Boniface was called by God to travel all over Europe to share the Gospel and build churches. On one of his journeys he came across a group of men who were about to make a sacrifice according to their traditions, but Boniface ran up to them to save the life of the one they were going to kill. Of course they did not want to listen to him but God has a way to turn hearts to Him. The legend says that Boniface punched the trunk of an oak tree that they were going to use for their sacrifice rituals, and the oak tree fell to the ground. Then when the dust from the fallen tree settled a lone fir tree stood, Boniface then used the illustration of the Fir tree to teach the Vikings about the everlastings hope and love of God that is offered through Jesus Christ, and like St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish people of the Trinity, Boniface used the triangular shape of the fir to teach the Vikings. It is said that those men converted and the hope surrounding the fir tree was shifted from pagan superstitions to the hope we have in Christ.

I tell this story because the evergreen firs gave hope in a dark time. In today’s passage Jesus is telling those that will listen that there are dark times in the future. This is not exactly a passage most of us would associate with this holiday season, but it provides us with the reason Jesus came to dwell among mankind.

Jesus was born during a very dark time for the people of Israel, not too distant in their history they had returned from exile, gained their freedom, only to find themselves again under the rule of an empire that rejected God. The people were yearning for deliverance yet for centuries they had not seen the answer to their collective prayers. Just prior to this passage Jesus was teaching that in this earnest hope many would be lead astray from the truth by people claiming to be the messiah or a prophet. Most of these prophets were not sent by God and were actually more concerned with profit than being a prophet.

There was tension in the air, everyone knew that something was about to happen, and that excited them. I say excited, but it was not necessarily a joyous excitement. They knew that things were going to change. Jesus is warning them that this change will not necessarily be what they were expecting, Jesus was telling them that there will be great suffering.

Suffering usually proceeds revival. Revival is a compound word that has the prefix “re”, these two letters have a simple meaning when they are attached to a word. Those two letters tell those of us that read or hear the word that whatever the base word means is going to happen again. The term vival is a word that means life, so revival speak of having life again. To have life again, life must end. Suffering, hopelessness and darkness.

The people were looking to the future hoping that someone was going to change the course of their culture but Jesus is telling them that there will be great suffering first. This is not exactly how you draw a crowd. But there is more to this. Jesus uses apocalyptical language, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the heavens, and powers in the heavens will be shaken. These are not the words of revival but the words of exile. Jesus is telling them that everything they hold to be important will be demolished and their world is about to be turned upside down. Darkness is on the way, but the “son of man” will gather his elect from the world.

I want us each to be very careful with how we read this passage. We may be lead to believe that this is a passage about the return of Christ, but that may not be the meaning especially when in other gospel narratives Jesus says that this will all happen within one generation. When we put all our interpretation of this passage on the second coming of Christ we will run into a problem because we are just a few generations away from the time these words were spoken. Trying to make this passage only represent the second coming leads us into error. Do not get me wrong I do firmly believe in the return of Christ.

About forty years after Jesus spoke these words, the culture of Israel was turned upside down. In 70 AD the Romans totally conquered Israel, their temple was torn to the ground and all the vast wealth of the society was taken out of Israel and used to satisfy the whims of the emperor. The sun will be darkened, the moon will fail to give its light, and the hope of Israel will fall. But through all the suffering God will emerge.

I want us to now consider our own time. Throughout our nation we have seen a continual decrease in the influence of God as we know it. The church as a whole has seen a steady decline in attendance, and it seems as if the culture is falling away from God in every possible way. The sun is darkened and the moon fails to give light. The church is left with a crisis, do we continue down the same path, do we fight, or do we withdraw. Consider this for a moment. Are we on the verge of the second coming, or do the signs we interpret point to something else entirely? Change is in the air, and that change has many people crying “how long”!

Jesus did not return in 70 ad, but something definitely shifted. When the Romans tore down the temple it forced the faithful to rethink how they worship and how they engage the world around them. Without a temple what do we do?

Our world is again being engulfed in darkness, the very things that we as the church have held as important for so long, seem to turn people away from the gospel. But does that mean that the time is near for Jesus’ return? I do see that there are signs all around us, but the signs could mean different things. Our culture is increasingly turning away from God, at least away from the church, but does that mean they do not desire a relationship with God? We again must rethink and approach how we engage the culture. Just like the Christmas tree, once pagan icon, was redeemed by the Church to reach out to an ungodly culture, like the shamrock was used to convince the Irish, we too must understand our culture and use the tools God has given us to assist in the redemption of our culture. Some say the church is dead, I say hardly. Some say that our culture is forever lost, I say our mission has just begun. Some have given up hope but I believe we are about to enter into the largest revival the world has ever seen. But how do we get there? We can crusade around trying to force people to act Godly, but is that what Christ has called us to do? We could withdraw and build a colony separated from the darkness, but does that bring hope to those sitting in their houses hopeless? Now more than ever we need to look to Christ, follow in his footsteps and participate in the Holy rhythm of life he showed us. Now more than ever we need to live a life of prayer so that we can be directed by the Spirit to minister to our community. Now more than ever we need to share the hope we have in Christ as we minister to the people stuck in the darkness. God Father sent his son into this world not to condemn the world but to redeem it, so that His will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. The joy of advent, the hope of the resurrection and the return of Christ is just that, the hope of a restoration and redemption the hope of the revival of people, cultures, and our world.

As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends, I want us each to look at this Christmas tree before us, reflect on the history of this symbol and the memories we have had around such a tree. And let us not forget that God has, can, and will redeem our culture if we are willing to be a person and a church devoted to loving God, embracing His Spirit, and Living the love of Christ with others.

Are We Sheep or Goats? (Sermon November 23, 2014)

Matthew 25:31–46 (NRSV)

The Judgment of the Nations

Mauve, Anton, 1838-1888 1850 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA, United States of America

Mauve, Anton, 1838-1888
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA, United States of America

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

What is our role, what is our purpose? I think most of us have thought about those questions at least once in our journey through life. Many of us have thought about those question this week. We get frustrated for a moment and in that frustration we begin to question everything that we have thought we have known. Should I have taken that position, should I have retired, should I have become a parent, should I forget about faith, should I quit school…The questions continue to rise, but why do we question ourselves so much?

The answer goes all the way back to the garden. Our first parents were tempted by knowledge. They were tempted with the knowledge of good and evil. When they decided to bite into that temptation they sent humanity into a spiral of questioning if the knowledge we are acting on is good or evil. From that moment on there was a choice, there was an option to choose evil or good. Prior to that moment our first parents only acted in a mutually beneficial way, after that moment each person began to act out of selfishness. Does that mean we can no longer do good? Not at all, it simply means we struggle. We struggle with self-preservation or community building, we struggle with over extending ourselves in the community or isolating ourselves from others.

Prior to the fall there was balance. Mankind tended the garden and the garden provided all that was needed. But the balance was tipped and suddenly pain and toil entered into human life. Since that moment people have rejected the idea of God because evil exists in the world, but evil exists only because humanity allows their own selfish ambitions and desires to overpower them. We make choices that affect us personally and also that have a deeper more lasting impact. We make a choice, but how does that choice affect the people around us or the people that buy our products, working in our facilities, or those that have yet been born?

This is the question and the judgment that Jesus speaks of in this passage. He speaks of the day of glory when all nations are gathered before Him. He will separate them from one another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. This one statement is very interesting. A sheep and a goat are similar in many ways, biologically, but are also very different. Sheep were one of the first domesticated animals, they have been cared for and bred by humanity for so long that the animal will struggle to survive without assistance. A sheep requires the herd and a shepherd, but a goat is different. A goat is course, stubborn, and independent. A goat will look out for itself.

Jesus says that he will separate the people of the nations like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are the ones that follow their shepherd. They listen to His voice, they follow His leading, they entrust their very existence into His hands. This is why Jesus came to dwell among mankind, from the time of the fall mankind has strived to do the best that they could, but they had these constant questions tipping the balance. What is good, what is evil, what is our purpose? Jesus came to teach and show us how to live as humanity was intended. He lived the perfectly human life, he showed us how to live, and through and with Him we too can live the life God intended.

Jesus was born into a family, a family that was not perfect but was perfected by love. They took on the ridicule of the community as Mary and Joseph raised a son that everyone else called a bastard. They loved him and treated him as their very own, because they loved Him. Do you think this was easy? They did this because they had faith, hope, and love. They raised Jesus, made Him part of the family, so much so that when Jesus was an adult the towns’ people knew him as the carpenter’s son. Jesus grew in strength and wisdom, He began to teach and act. His actions began to draw attention from others because he acted toward the least of community. The least, the rejected, the meanest, the lowest, the ones with very little standing. He came to the ones that did not have the privilege to stand alone.

Jesus came for the sheep, but there are goats in the herd as well. The goats as I mentioned before are stubborn animals, they have an independent streak in them that makes them think that they know what is best for themselves. There is a reason the sheep need to be separated from the goats, because the goats can cause harm. I have had the privilege of caring for a goat. As far as goats go, our goat was a good goat, but it was still a goat. We had to make sure she stayed in the pen because if we allowed her to wonder she would eat something that would cause her harm. We also had to watch her closely because if you were trying to make her do something she did not want to do she would ram you if you gave her the chance. Even when the things I was doing was for her own good this goat would act as if I were trying to kill her. That is the difference between a goat and a sheep, the goat does not listen but acts according to their own desires at that moment.

Jesus speaks of the sheep and the goats, he separates the sheep from the goats sending one to the right the other to the left. One walks to share in the glory of the Son, while the other is sent to experience the fires of rejection. What exactly is the difference between the sheep and the goats of humanity? A couple of weeks ago I said that the main purpose of the church is to serve, when I spoke those words there was some resistance to them and a statement was then made that our number one purpose is to worship. But I want us all to understand that both are right and both are the same. Jesus came to show us how to be human, he showed us that there is a holy rhythm to life: the meeting for worship, prayer, and service. This rhythm is what brings balance to our lives, and to be a true disciple of Christ we cannot separate these three things from one another because if we do so we would then tip the scales once again. There is a problem though,  to truly make this rhythm our own we first have to let go of ourselves and entrust every aspect of our being to Christ, who is the only one that can truly keep the scales in balance. The moment we take one of these things in our own hands we run the risk of toppling like a jenga tower. But when we entrust our lives into the hands of Christ, when we make his life our life and allow Him to guide our steps, we begin to change.

The change is subtle at first, but eventually if we continue to seek and follow Christ our identity glows with His spirit instead of our own. As we worship and pray we are drawn to become a blessing to the least. This is the holy rhythm, this is what faith, hope and love does when it is lived out. This is what the garden was like and what the kingdom is. But why do we not see it? Why after 2000 years of church history are we still faced with the horrors of war, dehumanizing poverty, and the exploitation of mankind and all of creation? We still have a lot of goats in the herd that like to push and ram around the sheep.

A goat is a person that may say all the right things, but there actions do not reflect the words that they speak. A goat is a person that is more concerned with their agenda or their reputation than that of the community in which they work and live. A goat is someone that demands respect but does very little to gain the respect they desire. There are goats in all aspects of life, they are republican and democrat, Baptist or Catholic, and yes there are many goats among Friends. A goat will look at the problem in a community and be unmoved or are unwilling to get involved personally. A goat relies on their own strength and power and rejects the possibility that God may provide for something far greater. At times I am nothing more than a goat, I am hard headed and stubborn, and often I am also on the receiving end of a goat’s charge.

I say these things to let us all realize that most of us can exhibit goat like qualities. It is part of our culture, we are the offspring of people that had to work hard to get where they ended up in life. We are proud of our heritage, but that does not make it Godly. Jesus looks to the sheep and says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” They responded to Jesus with a question, “When did we do this?” They did not realize that they had done these things because it was their nature, it had become their rhythm. They were just listening and following their shepherd so closely that they did not realize that they were doing great things and they never would have known because they were not doing them for the recognition. Their desire and their joy came from the relationships that they had with God and those around them. They found their place and their identity with the herd and the shepherd.

They found their place and their identity with the herd and the shepherd. They found their joy and their purpose living the holy rhythm of life with Christ. Making it their custom to join together in worship, withdrawing to the isolated places to pray, and going out to serve wherever they were led. Their purpose in life was to Love God, embrace the Holy Spirit, and to live the love of Christ with others. If I can teach only one thing to this Meeting this is it. I do not care if this meeting house is filled to capacity or if we have ministries that make headlines, but my one desire is that everyone knows this holy rhythm that Jesus lived. That every one of us would simplify our lives in such a way that this lifestyle would take form in all that we do, and so that if anyone was to have a conversation with any one of us that they would witness this type of lifestyle not only on a Sunday morning but every time they would see us.

Jesus looks out at the people of the nations, and he begins to separate us to the right or left, sheep or goat. That is what is important. It does not matter if our theology is right on that day, what matters is if our theology produced in us a lifestyle and life that reflects Christ in everything that we do. Call me simple, call me un-academic, call me whatever you want, all that matters is that as each of us walk this journey of life we reflect Christ giving hope to the hopeless, and shining light into the darkness right here and now.

The questions still remain, and as we learn more even more questions emerge. Are we sheep or goats? Are we good or evil? Are we light bearers or foolish bridesmaids? Are we wise servants investing our lives in areas that would overjoy our master or lazy? Every one of those questions revolve around one central theme, who is Jesus? How we answer that question and how we let that answer saturate our every aspect of our lives determines how we will react when the time comes to invest our talents, or illuminate the path of the bridegroom, or if we enter heaven or hell. As we enter into a time of open worship and holy expectancy let us examine our lives and let the Spirit of God soak into the crevasse that maybe we have stubbornly rammed Him out of. Let us soak in the spirit and listen to his directions so that when we leave this meeting for worship we will enter into His service and bring life to our dying world.

How Are You Investing Your Life? (Sermon November 16, 2014)

Matthew 25:14–30 (NRSV)

The Parable of the Talents

(Lk 19:11–27)

JESUS MAFA is a response to the New Testament readings from the Lectionary by a Christian community in Cameroon, Africa. Each of the readings were selected and adapted to dramatic interpretation by the community members. Photographs of their interpretations were made, and these were then transcribed to paintings. See: www.jesusmafa.com and www.SocialTheology.com.

JESUS MAFA is a response to the New Testament readings from the Lectionary by a Christian community in Cameroon, Africa. Each of the readings were selected and adapted to dramatic interpretation by the community members. Photographs of their interpretations were made, and these were then transcribed to paintings. See: http://www.jesusmafa.com and http://www.SocialTheology.com.

14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 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.’ 21 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.’ 22 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.’ 23 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.’ 24 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; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 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? 27 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. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 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. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Sometimes the worst thing about the parables of Jesus is that there is just too much information packed into a seemingly short story. Like last week’s story about the ten virgins. Who would have thought that we as a group would be discussing it for a good thirty minutes after the service? But during that discussion something very interesting was brought up, the idea of why the five wise virgins did not share the oil that they had with the foolish ones. That very question leads up to the parable that Jesus spoke just after that story. I want us to consider the oil as Luther suggested, as faith, or in deeper terms the source of faith, which is the very Spirit of God. That Spirit of God that was breathed into mankind on the sixth day of creation that separated us from all other living creatures, setting us apart to be stewards of all creation. The oil that burns in a lamp is the source or the fuel that allows for the energy of God to enlighten us, to burn within us without destroying us. It is drawn through the wick and the light shines all around, the flame, the oil, and the wick all relate to the triune God working together within a vessel of clay. A simple story that we teach to the youngest of ears, yet so deep it can puzzle the greatest biblical scholars, if they are honest enough to admit it.

But even Jesus knew that the story of the virgins could be twisted in some degree to the point that the true message would not be heard. Those ten virgins in the story waited and fell asleep, throughout history many groups have looked at this story and have said as long as you have the oil everything is good. This has left the church peddling a cheap grace, and a distorted form of discipleship. This is the very type of grace we so often hear about in our contemporary culture. As long as you have said the right prayer or attend the right church you are ok. It does not matter if your actions are right, or even if you are awake, the virgins were asleep. Yet Jesus ended that parable and transitioned into his next with one very important statement, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Keep awake. A lamp is worthless unless it is actively burning, oil is just a potential fuel until the flame ignites it, and a wick is just twisted fiber quickly devoured unless it is saturated. Without the flame, oil, and wick a lamp in the first century is just a fancy piece of clay, no life and no purpose only to broken down returning to the dust from which it was created. If the lamp is worthless asleep what does that say about us?

This is where today’s passage picks up. “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, and to another one, to each according to their ability. Then he went away.” The first thing that is striking when we look at this passage in context with the parable just prior to it, is that this basically says we have a purpose for being here. We are here for a reason, to take care of the master’s property. This has been the role of humanity from the dawn of time, this is why we were created in the image of God and given the breath of life. We are the caretakers of His property. Each one of us has a role to play, it does not matter if you believe in God or not, that is our role and our purpose. Have we ever really thought about that? In our ever present quest to redeem the world for the cause of Christ have we actually boiled our purpose down to the very core of why we exist in the first place?

To each of the servants the master entrusts a portion of his property, entrusting them with only enough that he deems they are able to handle, but I want us to consider just how much he has entrusted each of these servants. A talent is a form of currency, its value is approximately six thousand denarii. The denarii in ancient times was a day’s wage, so one talent is almost worth 16 and a half years of labor. In classical Roman times, the age encompassing the time Jesus taught, the average life expectancy was thirty years. So a talent would basically represent the wages an average individual would expect to earn in their lifetime. Think about that for a moment. You thought that this parable was about money, really it is about life.

Jesus goes on to say that the one that received five talents, enough money for five families, quickly went out and used what he had in trade and made five more talents, as did the man with two talents. The man with one talent went off, dug a hole, and buried the talent he had received. At times it is difficult to think of this story beyond what we perceive as economics, but I would really like us to think outside the traditional box we put this story in and think about it as life. One servant was entrusted with the livelihood of five families, another with the livelihood of two families, and the third was given his livelihood. The master granted them with the portion of property that he thought they could handle, what Jesus is saying is that lives are in our hands.

This is what my theology teacher would refer to as God’s economy. An economic system that was not regulated in currency but in something totally different and much more valuable. Jesus did not come from heaven to be born of a virgin, to live among humanity so that we could have a financial return on our investments, but so that mankind could be redeemed from death to life. God dwelt among mankind to restore humanity. Humanity and life is the economy that God cares about. All of our perceived wealth and wealth creation is worthless in the eyes of God, if what we invest our lives in does not promote life.

The servant that was a steward over the livelihood of five families was able to invest the resources he was given to provide for an additional five, the one with two could provide for an additional two. Suddenly the community grew from eight to fifteen, consider that for a moment. We have each been entrusted with life, we each have at bear minimum one talent to invest into this world. We have our one life. The question is how are we going to use it?

How are we going to invest our lives? When we consider our individual lives thing begin to get more complex. How we invest our lives reflects what we hold as most important. Consider a conversation you may have had with someone you did not know before, what are the things you talked about? You probably exchanged names, more than likely right after names were exchanged the discussion moved toward our employment or what we retired from, and generally the conversation dwindles from there. Our identities all too often are attached to our careers, our identity and our social standing is derived from a twisted economy where value is measured by currency and the ability to amass more currency. That part of our lives are tools that we use in bringing about who we truly are. Currency is a tool, wealth is a tool. It is no different than any other tool when we look the bigger picture. The dollar is like a shovel, how many people have devoted their lives to the savings of shovels? But a shovel is an important tool a shovel when used properly can dig the foundation for a house for someone to live in, it can provide an opportunity to make clean water available to a remote village, and it can give someone a way to feed their family.

I bring this up because the resources, every resource we have available to us is important. They are important only because those resources can be invested into lives. And life is what God is interested in. Are we investing our talents into the lives of our community or are we burying our talents in a hole? Along with that question is another, are we actively participating in the investment or are we just speaking words?

This is not cheap grace or easy discipleship, but an actual cross to bear. So often our words are gilded with scripture but our actions speak something totally different. How often have we heard words spoken saying, “I’m Pro-life” yet have not opened our homes to house a child whose parents’ are unable to support them? How often do we hear that we should help the poor from people that would never open their doors or tables up to someone in need?

We are stewards of the master’s property only stewards. We have been blessed with talents to invest not in ourselves but into the lives of other. What will the master say when he returns? To the ones that expanded the influence of the master he said, “Enter into the joy of your master.” But to the ones that bury their resources and refuse to invest in life, those are wicked and lazy servant who will lose everything. What does it cost to be a disciple of Christ? What is the cost of being a friend of Jesus? It takes belief that the belief goes beyond knowledge and trust, the belief that we will entrust all we have and all we are into our master’s business. It takes us learning that business by participating in the very life that Jesus himself showed us. It takes us investing all that we have to bring light into the darkness, hope to the hopeless, and healing to the broken. To be a disciple of Christ our actions and our words reflect each other, our careers are tools that we use to minister, and our very lives are lived so that His will will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. And that starts with each of us individually turning to him, it continues by us corporately walking together and encouraging each other to walk that journey with Christ, and it returns when we share in the joy of service.

As we reflect on this story that Jesus told and examine our lives during this time of open worship. I ask again, how are we investing our lives?


Meeting Times

Meal at 6pm
Bible Study at 7pm
Bible Study at 10am
Meeting for Worship 11am
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