“Living The Collect”
Pentecost 24A, Proper 28 November 19, 2017
Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30.
Today I want to say some things about the Collect of the Day and Stewardship.
The collect reads like this: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect directly connects our salvation – the blessed hope of everlasting life – with the Bible – all holy Scriptures … written for our learning. Let’s examine exactly what this prayer is saying to us.
Breaking Down The Collect of The Day.
The very first thing the collect teaches us is that our Blessed Lord caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: … . In his second letter to Timothy, St. Paul set the stage for this principle when he wrote: 3:16 (NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the [person] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Each Sunday morning, I urge us to take a moment and invite the Holy Spirit – the breath, the wind of God – to come and fill us; to be in us and with us and assist us in worshipping God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit was the agent of God who worked with human beings causing the words of Scripture to be written. So, without the assistance of the Holy Spirit we can never fully comprehend what the Bible is saying.
To fully appreciate the salvation Jesus won for us we must fully discover and understand him in the words of Scripture. It is a mystery; but one that is best understood by doing it God’s way – reading the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As Paul says in today’s letter to the Thessalonians, “We are children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness” (:8). We have the Holy Spirit with and in us to shed light and truth to us when we are engaging God through the words of Holy Scripture. Don’t neglect such a great gift!
That’s the intent of the next line in the collect: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life…
The words of Holy Scripture should be Heard: That is why we have lessons that are read each week – so we can hear God’s Word. In Romans 10:17, Paul wrote that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” If we want to hear from God we must listen as we read the Bible. Again, this is a work of the Holy Spirit with us. God the Spirit speaking to us from the written words of Scripture.
Hearing the words of Scripture we are next instructed to “mark” the Bible. How many of you treat your Bible like a text book? In my experience Text books are treated three ways. One way is to own it but ignore it. It just sits on your shelf unopened. Whatever is learned comes from lectures. Some of us own Bibles we have never opened and whatever we know about the Bible has come from sermons. Therefore, you know about the Bible but you don’t know personally what the Bible says because it has never spoken to you.
The second way we treat the Bible like a text book is to barely open it. I had text books that I tried to read but never finished, or never opened them. Too many of us treat the bible that way. We barely open it, barely read it, and don’t get much out of it. It is like reading someone else’s mail. It seemingly wasn’t written to us personally. That’s because the Bible usually doesn’t become real until Jesus is real for us.
The Bible is a spiritually based book. So the best way to develop interest in it is to ask the Holy Spirit’s assistance each time you open it. Ask that your mind and your spirit be guided to the truth God wants you to receive. Most of us learning to cook need a recipe or someone to guide us as we learn. The Bible is your recipe and the Holy Spirit is your guide.
The third way to treat the Bible like a text book is to read it, study it, meditate on what it says, and mark it! Do you mark your Bible? You know, use a pencil, a pen, a yellow marker to underline or check, or write notes in the margins? If not, why not? It is God’s text book to you for you to study and learn how to thrive in this life. Don’t just sit in the lecture and learn about it. Read it for yourself. When you do the Holy Spirit will speak to you out of the words, the stories, the lessons of Scripture and you will be changed for all eternity. Mark those moments.
Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.
Let’s think about the intention of this opening prayer and look at today’s Gospel lesson,
The Parable of The Talents.
It is interesting that a number of Bible translations use the word “talent” whereas the NIV uses “bags of gold”. The Greek word is a term of measurement, or weight, as in a “talent of oil”. In either case – whether “talents” or “bags of gold” it certainly fits with our Stewardship emphasis.
The way Jesus presents the parable the issue can certainly be understood as being about money since three servants were each given a portion of their master’s wealth to steward – “each according to his ability”.
We’ve been saying for the past two weeks that each of us owes God an accounting for how we use our Time, our Talent, and our Treasure. I know we all have 24 hours each day, but I also recognize that there are different pressures and claims on our time depending on the different demands on our lives (family, job, church, health issues, etc); yet we still owe God an accounting for our time.
None of knows how much time we have on this earth. Our time on earth really belongs to God. If God needs you at 3:00 a.m. to get out of bed and go help someone, would you answer the call?
So today’s parable deals with Talents or “bags of gold” and each steward’s ability and faithfulness in providing their master an increase in the talent given them to steward. The Stewards who had received 5 and 2 talents respectively were able to double the master’s wealth. They were judged as ‘good and faithful’ servants and promised increased future responsibilities. On-the-other hand, the one who had received only one talent didn’t operate by faith but by fear. He buried what the master entrusted to him to avoid all apparent risk.
When the master returned and held each steward accountable for their faithfulness he complimented those who took risks and achieved results, and condemned the one who let fear overtake him. Even the talent he had was taken from him and given to another. There is a general lesson in this parable for all Christians. The general lesson comes from the servant who buried his talent rather than risk using it. Being a Christian Is Risky.
It is risky saying you have an on-going relationship with a man who lived and died over 2,000 years ago. People who do not accept the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or reject it out of hand, will look at you as intellectually sub-par and/or emotionally needy and vulnerable. By saying you do believe what the New Testament says about the person of Jesus Christ is risky. That is a legitimate issue and you need to weigh it carefully. The greater risk though is to fear the ridicule of unbelievers instead of fearing God’s approval.
Fear can make you a one talent Christian. If, for example, you are afraid to witness to anyone about their need for a relationship with Christ, but you are not ashamed to say to family, friends, co-workers, or fellow students, “I am a Christian and I go to church every week to worship almighty God”, you have not buried your talent. And God will use that measure of faithfulness to bring increase for the Kingdom of God. But if people see shame and fear in your witness and it turns them off to consider believing in God through Jesus Christ then God will take your stewardship away and give it to someone else. You will have no impact in this world. No one will say, “Thank you God for so and so. That person helped me to know you.” I thank God for Bryant Reynolds. Who do you thank?
At a corporate level this parable also helps us understand what is at stake for Holy Cross and what the work being done here really represents.
Our Mission Design Statement says our Mission is to intentionally make disciples for Jesus Christ. Our Children’s Ministry is an example of intentionally making disciples. Deacon Betty telling Cub Scouts and parents about Jesus during the God and Family classes is intentional. Children’s Chapel and my time with the children are intentional. Our Youth Group is Intentional. There is nothing accidental about what we are trying to do through these programs. Behind this mission is an impossible vision we think is from God. We can never accomplish it on our own. It requires five talent stewards. This is
That one day everyone in our community will worship God. Think about that. We have a vision that says we won’t quit proclaiming and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ until everyone in our community is worshipping God. How presumptuous is it? But, if we believe that vision is from God and choose to live by faith in God and not in fear of this world’s approval and the limited resources we currently have at our disposal, then we become a dangerous threat to the kingdom of darkness and to the demons of fear. Why? Because, we are believing God for the impossible: one day everyone in our community will worship God.
This Vision is a ‘talent tester’. Will we use what God has given us to try and make an increase for the kingdom of God, or will we (as it were) hide our ‘bag of gold’ in a hole and just sit on it out of fear?
The 5 and 2 talent stewards were ‘all in’. They risked it all and God rewarded their faith.
In each of our neighborhoods there are souls to reach with the love of God and the Good news of Jesus Christ. Will we love our neighbors and invite them to come and see; to taste and know that the Lord, He is good? Our options are to step out in faith or live by fear. Let’s be risk-takers for the Lord.