Sermon, Day of Fulfilment 21 November 2010. Ocean Forest
TEXT: v26 The king replied, “Those who have something will be given more. But everything will be taken away from those who don’t have anything.
As we sit here on the end of another church year and look over the way to see another Christmas, end of year and new year on the horizon, we do so with a timely word from the Master about life and our calling for now and the new year. It is a ward of affirmation and challenge.
As Jesus draws ever closer to the fulfilment of his earthly mission which will end in Jerusalem, the crowds are gathering and wondering what is going to happen when the guy who is proclaiming himself to be God’s own Son, arrives in the Royal city and clashes head-on with the powers that be.
Will Jesus the King rise up and create a new political landscape? Will he overthrow Pilate, the Roman governor and Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest? Will he challenge the Jewish Council? Will he challenge and overthrow even Rome?
Many want this. Many want triumph without suffering. Many want Jesus to do it all and fix it all without any cost or personal investment by them. We can tell this from some poignant words spoken by those few depressed followers, who talked with the strange traveller on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection,
“What are you talking about?” asks the stranger (who actually is the risen Jesus). “About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to save Israel….” (Luke 24:21)
As he has done before, Jesus re-directs the mob with all of their excited banter and wild imagining of new power and peace without any risk on their part by telling a memorable story about a young prince who heads off to a royal city to get his stamp of approval from those above him to rule his local kingdom.
The Prince gives each of his servant’s different and moderate sums of money with the instruction to make a profit with the money until he returns. He tells his servants to do business; to trade with what he has given them.
The reckoning occurs when the Prince; now the King of his kingdom, returns. The first two servants are generously affirmed and rewarded by the new King for trading in his gifts; for doing business with what they had been given by the King. Their success in using what they had been given is rewarded with them being appointed governors over towns in the King’s kingdom.
However, it is the third servant who gets most of the attention. It has not gone well for him. If he had actually traded or done business with what he had been given and lost it all, that would be one thing. But he has not even tried to trade or do business to profit his King. He only has hid what he had been given.
Why didn’t he have a go? Why did he hide the gift away? Why didn’t he take a risk for his King and do his King’s business?
He says he was afraid of his King. This fear seemed to paralyse the man. He was unable to risk losing, unable to risk trading and doing the King’s business. He describes the King as a “harsh man”. The servant has misunderstood the King’s intentions and his goal, and now the King will be indeed harsh on this unfaithful, ‘untrying’, ’safe’ servant. This person will have no share in the King’s rule.
The King does not withdraw his gifts to himself but gives them away again to the person who took the risks, made the effort and actually did the King’s business.
Friends, I hear Jesus now affirming us for the many times we may have done our King’s business with the gifts he has given us this year. I also hear the King telling us that we need to take risky responsibility for the coming of the kingdom of the King n our times and places.
I hear Jesus affirming us for all the times we have dared to do his business of living and speaking of Jesus and the forgiveness and love found in him to people of all sorts.
I know there are people here who almost daily risk a lot – their reputation, their emotional well-being, there professional practice in the attempt to bring the Good news of Jesus to kids and parents in this college.
I know there are also parents here who put it all on the line to keep their kids growing up in the fear and favour of the Lord. To those have traded in the gifts of the Spirit Jesus says, ‘Well done faithful servant. I affirm you and I love you”.
There is another message here: preserving what we have received is not being faithful and it is not enough for the growing of God’s kingdom of life in this world of death and darkness. Playing it safe is not what God is calling us to.
What will help us take risks in kingdom work? What will help us move further out from the shadows into the glare of people? What gives us the confidence to put our gifts from God to work for God’s purposes of drawing all the world into the grace and love of Jesus Christ – where we live?
It seems that trusting God as being an affirming, loving, rewarding giver of gifts is the foundation to taking risky responsibility for God’s work in our world.
The third servant did not seem able to trust that his King was any of these good things – but viewed God as harsh and possibly unfair and untrustworthy. How are you viewing God?
Before we blame the third servant for being silly too quickly, let’s not forget that sometimes we find it hard to trust that God’s intentions and character are good. Maybe we are the third servant at the moment. Maybe we have been him in the past. Lord knows, we may be he in the future.
But as we look over the hedge at a new year coming, we might need to ask the King for mercy and for direction and a renewal in trust. We may need to ask the King to show us again that his intentions for our life and his church, and this college and our families are good. We may need to ask God to show us again that he loves us and wants the very best for us.
We need to ask God to show us his generous character again this Advent and Christmas so that we hit the New Year with trust in him for our year ahead.
We need each other to be “risky God-business people”. We need to learn the lessons of how to be faithful with a little so that we may be faithful with much.
We need plenty of people around here who will take on the risky responsibility of trusting in God’s power and goodness and then using the gifts he gives to bring more into the grace and love of Jesus.
Will you take some risks for the Kingdom? Will you ask the Lord to show you the many gifts of home, money, means, people, skills, character you have and direct your life in God’s service in this community and where you live.
• Parents, will you keep on parenting and bringing up your children in the Lord’s way? • Grandparents, will you keep encouraging your kids to seek the Lord and encourage them to keep on parenting in the way of love and truth? • Workers, will you work your job as a calling from Jesus and do it in his name? • Young people, will you seek God’s direction in your heart and give your life’s dreams and goals into his hands for his purposes and follow his lead? We need young people to commit their lives to God’s business of bearing witness to Jesus in their vocation and their personal lives.
The thing is that the most successful “risky God worker” was also the most rewarded. The more we risk “losing” anything for God’s name and work, the more we are rewarded by his affirmation. And what I am hearing here is that God is lavish in his giving and in his affirmation and rewarding!
We can trust this as we ponder the coming of the Saviour again this time around…
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. …18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
….so live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God; 11 be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and give joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[b] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:10-12)