19 November 2023

This week continues the Matthew 25 parables, and, in the Old Testament continuous section, moves to the Judges, but the connections are clear and actually quite simple. The basic New Testament context for this week’s reading – the Parable of the Talents – is of God’s coming, and of the Old Testament is Israel’s need for a liberator – two strongly connected ideas. So, this week, the call of our worship is to be alert for God’s coming, to assess our resources, and to step up and be participants in the work of God’s reign in our world.

May our worship challenge us to be participants and not spectators of the coming of God’s reign into our lives and communities.

Judges 4:1-7: At a time when the Israelites are oppressed by the Canaanite King and his army led by Sisera, Deborah, the prophetess, instructs Barak to assemble an army, and she promises to help him to overpower Sisera.
OR Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18: A prophecy of judgement warning that the day of the Lord will come with fury, and that those who believe they are safe because of their wealth and influence will find their lives devastated.

Psalm 123: A psalm affirming trust and devotion to God, and pleading for God’s mercy in the face of the shame and mockery that has been endured.
OR Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12: A song in praise of God’s eternal nature as God, recognising that human beings are short lived and struggle through life, and pleading for wisdom in using our time well.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11: A reminder that Christ’s coming will be like a thief in the night, and an encouragement for God’s people to stay alert and live sober lives protected by love, salvation and faithfulness, in union with Christ.

Matthew 25:14-30: Jesus tells a story about a wealthy man who entrusts some of his wealth to his servants. Two of them increase the money, while one simply buries the money & gives it back when the master returns. The master is angry and rejects the third servant, giving his small amount of money to the servant who made the most.

This week we are still reflecting on the coming of God’s reign through Christ. In the letter to the Thessalonians, the believers are encouraged to stay alert and live Christ-like lives in order to know union with God both now and in eternity. In the Gospel, the parable of the talents is a difficult challenge for us to reflect on how we are making a contribution to the coming of God’s reign into the world. In the Old Testament readings this call to alertness and to utilising the resources God has given is emphasised still further by Deborah story in which she challenges Barak to be the military commander Israel needs, and in which (in Zephaniah) the wealthy and powerful are challenged not to trust in their wealth and power to save them from the coming of God’s reign. Finally in the Psalms, faith and devotion go along with the recognition of our human frailty and the need for us to use our time and our lives wisely. The word to us this week, then, is for us to use our resources – time, talents and treasures – mindfully in service of God’s purpose in order to share in the coming of God’s reign into our world. In addition, we are to recognise that whatever wealth or influence we may have does not “protect” us from the confrontation of God’s new order, but rather must be used in service of God’s reign.

GLOBAL APPLICATION: It is always easier to make ourselves small in the face of global challenges, and to claim that we are powerless to make a difference because are “just one person.” This week, though, the Scriptures do not allow us this refuge. Rather, we are called to be alert to what God is doing in the world. As we remain mindful of global shifts and events, we are able to assess them in the light of God’s reign, and decide how to respond. Then, we are called to assess the resources that we do have – the gifts and abilities that we have been given – and how they can best be used in service of God’s liberating, saving activity in our world. What is clear is that, whether it’s using our wealth, our influence, our voice, our creativity or just our presence as part of a movement, we all have a role to play and a contribution to make, and as we all obey the call, we do make a difference because we become, together, a force for change. In this way we are participants in bringing God’s reign – God’s coming – into manifestation in our world. This is a “realised eschatology” that does not wait for some other-worldly kingdom in the future, but that begins to live the truths of the Gospel and the reality of God’s principles and purpose right now in the world we find ourselves in. Whatever the coming of Christ may mean for eternity we can only imagine. But, what the coming of Christ means for us now is clear – we cannot hide our contribution and just wait for the end of the age or of our lives. We have work to do, and we’ve been given the resources to do it. Now, we just have to choose to act.

LOCAL APPLICATION: Every community has struggles that need addressing. In every church there are people with great need who long for healing, support and help. In every society there are jobs that require the skills and talents of ordinary people in order for a difference to be made. The challenge this week is not to see church or worship as an escape from our responsibility to act. Rather, if we believe in the coming of Christ – past, now and in future – we cannot avoid the call to put our faith into loving, serving action. This may mean using our wealth to support those who have too little to meet their needs. It may mean offering our time to befriend or serve those who are lonely or shut-in or weak or ill. It may mean using our influence to fight on behalf of the marginalised, voiceless and poor. It may mean using our creativity, our attention or our insight to help someone else heal their lives or relationships. Whatever it may be, we only find life when we step up and do what we can as participants in the world. As we do this, we become those who help to bring the reality of God’s reign into being with those around us in our neighbourhoods and churches. If, however, we refuse to contribute and we keep our resources for ourselves, we inevitably find that we lose life’s joy and vibrancy, and we end up disconnected and depressed. The good news, though, is that when we do respond and seek to act, we have resources beyond just ourselves, because God and God’s people join with us to make a difference in our world. It is also not hard to know where or how to act, because if we just look around us, we will discover opportunities at every turn.

Help As We May
Admitting My Gifts
Our Small Difference
Love In Action

Hymn Suggestions:
Give Me The Faith Which Can Remove
When Our Songs (Have mercy)
Mighty To Save (Link to YouTube video)
God Of Justice (Link to YouTube video)
Lifesong (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Eucharist

Video Suggestions:
Psalm 123
Parable Of The Talents