Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (A—Proper 28)

November 16, 2014
Text: Matt. 25:14-30

            Stewardship is not about money.  God doesn’t want your money.  He wants all of you.  He wants you whole.  He wants you entirely and completely as His own, all that you are and all that you have.  To be sure, you already belong to Him.  After all, He created you, knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).  Before He formed you, He knew you (Jer. 1:5).  He redeemed you, body and soul, by the blood of His own dear Son, Jesus Christ.  He has written His Name on you in Holy Baptism, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He sanctifies you and keeps you in the one true faith so that you may be His own, as He says to you, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Is. 49:16; ESV).  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Is. 43:1).  You belong to God already.  But He wants you to realize this, that all that you are and all that you have are gifts from His infinite goodness.  And He wants you to trust that He is an unfailing fountain of good for you, that you can use what He gives you faithfully, give it away generously to your neighbor and for the work of the Kingdom of God, and you won’t run out, because He will give you even more.  In fact, you can give yourself, as Christ gave Himself into death for you, because Christ Jesus is risen from the dead, and He will raise you, too.
            Stewardship is actually about faith.  In our Lord’s parable this morning, the Master is God and the servants to whom the Master entrusts his talents are God’s people.  What the servants do with the talents is a direct reflection of what they believe about the Master.  The servants who put their talents to work believe in the goodness of their Master.  They believe He is gracious.  They know that He wants them to be faithful with His talents.  They understand that He has bestowed His gifts upon them as a trust.  So they put the talents to work.  The servants are not called to be successful.  They are simply called to be faithful.  If the work fails, if their investments lose, they know that Master will provide for them anyway.  After all, the talents themselves are evidence of His generosity.  A talent is roughly worth 20 years of labor.  5 talents, 100 years of labor.  2 talents, 50 years of labor.  Amazing amounts of money.  And even the servant who only received one talent, well, that’s still 20 years of labor.  And they are given freedom to manage the talents as they see fit, as if the talents are their own.  But they are to be faithful with them.  For the Master will return, and then they will be called upon to give an account. 
            But the servant who received only one talent believes the Master is hard, reaping where He does not sow and gathering where He has scattered no seed.  He believes the Master to be a cold, loveless, unmerciful, and demanding slave-driver.  So this servant despises the gift.  He doesn’t want it.  He certainly doesn’t want to be accountable for it.  So he buries it, like something rotten, something dead.  He buries it where it will do no work for the Master.  He buries it so he can return it to the Master, just as it was given.  But the Master doesn’t give His gifts to be buried.  He gives them to be used.  He gives them for you to demonstrate your trust in Him.
            What do you believe about God?  Stewardship is a fruit of faith.  It is a result of what you believe about your Master.  Do you believe He is a gracious God who will provide for your every need, who has graciously poured out His gifts upon you to be used for His glory and in service and love toward your neighbor, who will rescue you in time of need, who will reward you in the end for faithful use of the gifts He gave you in the first place and bestow upon you even more gifts?  Or do you believe He is a hard God, a loveless, cold, unmerciful, demanding slave-driver?  It’s a struggle, isn’t it?  “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief” (Cf. Mark 9:24).  All-too-often you do think you need to bury the Lord’s gifts, your time, your abilities, your money, your stuff.  You keep it for yourself.  You are afraid there won’t be enough.  You are afraid the Lord will demand it from you when you don’t have it to give.  Sure, you believe God is gracious, theoretically, but for all practical purposes you’re not so sure.  And you’re reluctant, therefore, to put your money, your possessions, your life, where your mouth is.  Repent.
            Do you think your heavenly Father is unaware of your needs?  Do you think He carelessly and capriciously leaves you in the lurch when you’ve trusted Him too much?  Do you not remember Jesus’ words: “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on… For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:25, 32-33)?  Has God not been faithful to you in the past?  Are you not alive this very moment because He has fed and nourished you, housed and clothed you, protected you from all harm and danger, surrounded you with people who care for you, kept your heart beating and your lungs breathing, and added to you manifold other gifts besides?  Do you think He will suddenly stop doing these things for you?
            Or don’t you know how precious you are to Him, that He would give His Son into death to purchase you to be His own?  Talk about faithful stewardship.  Our Lord Jesus received the stewardship of the Church from His Father.  He is our Steward.  And of those whom the Father gave Him He lost not one (John 18:9).  For when a sheep strays, He goes after it.  When a coin is lost, He scours the house until He finds it.  When a prodigal son wastes the inheritance, the Lord Jesus anxiously awaits his return, and when the prodigal repents, the Lord runs out to him to embrace him and welcome him home.  He throws a party, a feast, with great rejoicing, for this sinner was dead, and is alive again, was lost, and is found.  So precious is the Church, so precious are you to Jesus, that He gave His life on the cross as the ultimate act of stewardship, that you might not perish eternally where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, but that you live with Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity.  That is why you belong to Him: His blood and death.  “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  Put your talents to work.  Give yourself for your neighbor.  Work faithfully in your vocation.  Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick.  Come to Church.  Serve in Church.  Yes, give money to the Church.  Fight, work, and pray for the Church, for your family, for your community.  Die for them.  You can.  In Christ, you are free to do this very thing.  For Christ is risen, and He will raise you, too.  He will not forsake you.  He will not leave you destitute.  Don’t bury your talent.  Trust your Lord who died for you. 
            He bestows His gifts, and to each He gives the right amount.  To one he gives 5 talents, to another 2, and to still another, 1.  He gives different gifts, in different quantities, but the gift is always generous, it is always undeserved, given by grace, given because of Christ, and He always gives it in wisdom and for the good of those who are His.  He gives you what He wants you to have, what He knows you need, no more, and no less.  Sometimes He bestows a cross with His gifts, and this also is a gift of His grace, for your good.  He gives you what is advantageous to your salvation.  He gives you gifts, and He desires you to use them.  He gives you what you can use faithfully.  And then He rewards you with even more gifts.  He says to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).  He invites you into the joy of His Kingdom.  He brings you to heaven.  He raises you from the grave. 

            Stewardship is watchfulness for the Kingdom, watching and waiting for the Master’s return, putting His gifts to work before He does.  Jesus is coming back.  The end is near.  Judgment Day is when all are called to account.  Those who believed the goodness of the Master, who trusted in Christ and therefore put their talents to work, they will be eternally rewarded.  Those who believed the Master to be hard, unloving and unmerciful, and therefore buried their talents, will be cast into the outer darkness.  Notice that the difference is not work, but faith in Christ, which produces the works.  On that Day, what you did with God’s gifts will only be evidence of faith.  Faith is your righteousness before God.  Christ is your righteousness before God.  In Christ, you have eternal salvation and the favor of the Master.  And knowing that, you are not afraid to be a faithful steward over His gifts.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

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