Monday, November 15, 2004

Second Last Sunday of the Church Year - Luke 19:11-27 - 11-14-2004

Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 14, 2004
St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City
Luke 19:11-27, ESV
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, that parable ends on quite a harsh note. Doesn’t really seem to match the words we said right after it does it, “This is the Gospel of the Lord?” It just seems a little too hard for our ears. But, Jesus means it to be harsh. He’s talking about serious business. It’s not just a quaint story with a hidden meaning. It’s about a reality that is in the future for all human beings. These last few Sunday’s before Thanksgiving, before Advent starts we think about that reality. We mull over and think about the fact that someday, sooner than any of us may really think, Jesus is coming again. We have a tendency to not think about it too much; and even not want to think about it. But there it is in the creeds we speak every Sunday, “from thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.” And “he will come again to judge the both the living and the dead.” There are those harsh words again. Jesus is coming to judge… to judge us.

That thought might not be very comforting to you. When I think about God judging me, I get a little chill that runs up my spine. I know that most of the time, I can hide my faults from the people that I come into contact with every day the people who don’t know me very well, occasionally I can even hide my faults from my wife, but I can never hide them from God. He is a hard judge that doesn’t need any witnesses. He demands perfection from us and He knows the truth. He sees right into our hearts and he judges according to what he finds there. And what does he find… well our hearts fall far short God’s demands.
Most of the time when we read this parable, when we think about what it means we are drawn to the idea that it’s about stewardship of what God has given us. We might sum up that idea like this: “God gives us talents and abilities; if we use them wisely he will reward us. If we don’t we will be judged.” Because we don’t want to be connected with the last servant, the one who just put the king’s mina in a napkin, we are pretty quick to point out what we’ve done with the minas that God has given us; after all our church gives a great mission offering every year. We remind ourselves and anyone else that will listen that we strive to give our employer what he is due for our paycheck. We take care of our land, making sure to conserve it so that it continues to produce a crop every year. We work hard to raise our children and give them all the advantages a good education can offer. We make sure they have opportunities that that we never had. All that sounds pretty good. It’s a good stack of minas that we’ve built up from the one that God has given us.
And yet, while all of it may be true, do you see what we’ve done? We’ve turned the focus of the parable onto ourselves and the things we do. We’ve gone from God giving gifts to our using them. It’s only natural. That’s who we are, that’s what we’ve been raised to be.
It’s my mina! It’s my life! It’s my money! It’s my house… land… car… tractor… I worked hard to earn them I’ll do with them what I please. I get to decide how I will live and when I will die. I’ll eat, drink, sleep… and shop… after all there’s only 40 shopping days till Christmas. That’s the American Dream, to be successful, self-sufficient and independent. While we are pursuing wealth and our own self-interest, we forget that there is a King who owns it all… And that King is coming here to judge us, to see how we’ve used his minas. In reality, this parable isn’t so much about stewardship as it is about ownership.
Let’s look at it again. Jesus talks about a nobleman who is going to a far land to receive the right to rule over a kingdom. There are three different ways that the people in it react to the new king. There’s a group that outright rejects his right to rule. They send a delegation ahead of him to try to prevent it. There is a second group, called the king’s servants. They are each given some of the would-be-king’s money. “Do business until I return.” Most of these servants are faithful with what they’ve been given. That’s the second group; the faithful servants. The third group is the servant who puts the money in a napkin, and doesn’t do what he’s been asked.
The first group, Jesus says, “hates” him. Since Jesus is clearly telling this parable about himself, we can see that this is people who completely reject God’s rule over their lives. It’s easy to find examples of this around us. And although we sometimes resist God in our lives, Jesus isn’t using this group to describe His people. True Christians, those who have been claimed by God, and have faith in Jesus don’t “hate” him. Our sinful nature always struggles against God’s law for our lives, and causes us to continually fall into sin. But we are also God’s saints; purchased by Jesus’ blood. Washed and made clean in Baptism. Feeding on the food of Jesus perfect body and blood, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” While we sin daily, that sin doesn’t separate us from God because Jesus took the necessary punishment for it. The people who reject God face what Jesus describes at the end of the parable. “Bring them here and slaughter them in front of me.” For you and me, and all those who have faith in Jesus, that isn’t our fate.
Jesus is talking about us when he talks about the king’s servants. Look at the difference, instead of rejecting him, they serve him. When the king comes back they report what has happened while he was gone. Look again at the strong contrast. “Lord, your mina has earned ten more.” The first says. He doesn’t say, “Look at how good I did with my money.” He takes no credit at all but gives it all to the king. Your mina… has done this. The servant’s job is to serve and he does what he’s been given to do. His relationship to the king is never in question. The second example returns to the king only half the amount that the first did, and yet the king’s response to both is the same. “Well done good servant!” Both receive rewards that are far more than is deserved. The king’s concern isn’t the amount of their return but their love for him and their willingness to serve. The servants served because they love the master. Jesus is saying the same to us. We are given much from Jesus, but the question isn’t weather we are faithful enough with what we’ve been given. The question for us is “Do we love the master? Do we have a relationship with him?” We do! So we serve.
The last example in the parable really puts a fine point on the idea. The final servant isn’t faithful with what he’s been given. But it’s not because he wasted his time or because he was lazy. He himself says he does nothing with the king’s mina because he was afraid of the king. But he is mistaken about the king; he is gracious to those who are faithful. The unfaithful servant has no relationship with him. He doesn’t think the king has any right to rule over him. “You reap what you did not sow.” He’s saying, “You get what you don’t deserve to get.” Just like those who sent the delegation to prevent the king from becoming king, he hates his master. That’s what his unfaithfulness shows plainly. He doesn’t lose everything because he was unfaithful. He was unfaithful because he refuses the master’s place over him. When he rejects the king he rejects everything the king would give him. And again notice that the amount of the return isn’t important to the master at all. Even the smallest of interest that would come from the money being on deposit would have had a reward. It’s not that the servant wasn’t faithful enough; this servant wasn’t faithful at all, because he rejected the king.
So how does Jesus want us to react to this parable? Does He want us to be faithful with the gifts He gives us? Does He want us to “do business” while he is gone? Of course He does. The gifts He gives aren’t just our wealth and land. Naturally these gifts should be used faithfully. We should give in our abundance to support the work of the church. We should care for those around us who don’t have all they need. But the gifts He gives also include those that we receive right here. It’s easy to receive God’s Word about our forgiveness, give a sigh of relief and leave the wonderful message here in the pews, instead of taking it with us out the door into our homes and work places. It’s easy to remember the blessing of God in our Baptism and wrap it up in that napkin and never mention it again. How easily we take the Lord’s Supper for granted. Opening our mouths to receive forgiveness and not forgiving those who sin against us. Does our relationship with the King, Jesus, lead us to be faithful with these “minas” that he has given us here? If you are like me it all raises the question again of my own faithfulness, and my own faults. I certainly don’t live up to God’s standards. It seems that lots of times I’m a lot like the guy who put the mina away for a rainy day. And I’m sure you feel that way sometimes, too. There’s that little chill again, that realization that what God wants is perfection.
But, that’s not the point of the parable. It’s not about stewardship, it’s about ownership. The point is the relationship between the king and his servants. You see, the servants in the parable are already his servants. They already have a relationship with him. There love for the king shows in their faithfulness, they don’t have a relationship because of their faithfulness.
We have a relationship with God, our King. We are not going to be dragged in front of Him for slaughter. Jesus has suffered that fate for us. God called for His enemies to be killed in His presence, Jesus was crucified instead. When God demanded death for those who hate Him, Jesus cried out “it is finished!” When that was were we should be, Jesus stands and dies there for us. All the sin that separates is blotted out by the blood of Jesus. It is Jesus’ death and His great victory over death that binds you and me to God. He makes us His servants, and really so much more than that… We are guaranteed a reward, not because we are faithful, but because we are His.
That makes all the difference for us. Instead of looking at the King’s return and being afraid, we can look for the reward He promises. Weather the minas He has given have been very productive or only slightly productive. Our relationship with Him assures us that we have been faithful. We are not going to be slaughtered. We are not going to lose everything but we will gain it all. We are the faithful servants of Jesus. Saved from death, saved from punishment, saved to be with Jesus forever! When He comes again to judge the living and the dead He will say to us, “Well done good servant!” Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No comments: