TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY after PENTECOST
15 November 2020
GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH
660 Frances Lane
Ashland, Oregon 97520
The Rev. James A. Kabel, Intentional Interim Pastor
“Talents to Invest”
A warm welcome to all who have gathered to worship this morning through our Zoom Service broadcast. May this hour of worship and thanksgiving make us eager to share the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ.
AS WE GATHER “Use Them or Lose Them”
During these COVID-19 days of isolation and distancing, when was the last time you took an inventory of your talents and abilities? Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Talents reminds us that even in these pandemic days, God gives us resources in varying degrees. Yet on the other hand, he will take away the little that one has if it is not used to this glory. So? Be alert, teaches the Second Lesson—encourage one another by using the gifts God has given to build up the Body of Christ, and to serve others. The alternative is the Day of the Lord described in the First Lesson.
PRAYER BEFORE WORSHIP
Lord God, your gifts are unique to each of us. You bless us with many varied ways that we might glorify you. Teach us to use your gifts wisely so that your Church might be built up through us. Gift us with your Spirit who will direct our eyes to see the opportunities which you lay before us; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
+ THE ORDER of CELEBRATING +
WELCOME & THEME of The Day
Our readings this morning continue the theme of the end times. Zephaniah proclaims that the coming of the LORD will be filled with wrath and distress.
Paul says it will come like a thief in the night and urges us to be awake and sober. Jesus tells the parable of the talents, calling us to use our gifts, while
we still have time, for the greater common good. In a world filled with violence and despair, we gather around the signs of hope—word, water, bread and wine—eager to welcome the good news of Christ’s coming to us.
ORDER of CONFESSION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Just as parents have compassion on their children, so the Lord has compassion
on all who fear him.
If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins,
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What have you done with what the Lord has entrusted to you?
+ A Brief Silence for Reflection +
Most merciful God, we are not worthy of all the kindness and all the love which you have shown unto your children. We have responded with disobedience and indifference, neglecting to use your gifts in your service. We truly deserve your wrath and punishment. For the sake of Jesus Christ we turn to you for forgiveness. Forgive us, renew us, and let your light shine on upon us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.
Our heavenly Father does not forsake his dear children. Jesus Christ was given to die for us, so that we might escape God’s wrath, and enter into the joy of our Master. For his sake, your sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In peace, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For the peace from above and for our salvation
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of
The Church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray
to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For this holy house and for all who offer here their
worship and praise let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
Help, save and defend us, O God. Amen.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Almighty and ever-living God, you own the earth and all its peoples, and you give us all that we have. Inspire us to serve you with justice and wisdom, and prepare us for the joy of the day of your coming, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
[Like last week’s first reading, today’s lesson revolves around the concept of the Day of the LORD, the day of destruction of the LORD’s enemies and of salvation for the LORD’s faithful. This little-known prophet declares to
the people of Jerusalem that sin without repentance will lead to destruction.]
Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is at hand; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who day in their hearts, “The LORD will not do good, nor will he do
harm.” Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.
The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there. That the day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and destruction, a day of darkness and, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth will be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
SECOND LESSON 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
[Paul encourages the Thessalonian Christians to look forward to the return of Christ as a day of salvation.]
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and loe, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through out Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
HOLY GOSPEL Matthew 25:14-30
[In the second of three parables concerning the second coming, Jesus indicates that merely maintaining things as they are is not sufficient. As Christians await his return, we are to use wisely the gifts of God.]
Jesus said to the disciples: “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
After a long time the master of the servants came and settled accounts with them. Then
the one who has received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of
your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what is my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless servant, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
HOMILY God’s Managers
Text: The Gospel Lesson Pr. Jim
GOD’S MANAGING PARTNERS
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
In the parable that forms today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus calls us to believe that the meaning of your life and mine lies in using our enormous gifts to join with God in finishing His world.
Let me repeat that: Jesus calls us to believe that the meaning of your life and mine lies in using our enormous gifts to join with God in finishing His world.
He doesn’t need us to do such amazing things. Yet, He invites us to do amazing things. It’s an invitation filled with grace … purpose … and plenty of hard work and sacrifice.
Enormous gifts! When hearing this parable, we well might have identified with the poor guy that only got one talent … in comparison the other two who got more. No wonder he wanted to hide. But a talent … according to the parable … is not like playing an instrument … being a computer whiz … or pitching no-hitters. According to Jesus’ story, a talent is first of all money … a huge pile of it. This fellow … on his way for a trip … turns over his entire fortune to his servants. He gives one the equivalent of 30,000 silver pieces, the second 12,000, and the third 6,000. Think of it—even the third servant received a huge sum of money. 6000 pieces of silver equaled 20 years’ salary … well beyond the wildest dreams of the average man or woman of that day. The servants don’t get the same, but all get a bundle. Enormous gifts!
But it’s easy to miss the real meaning of enormous gifts. That’s because we’re dazzled by money … even in midst of our current economy. We’re dazzled by money … or brainpower … or athletic ability … or a beautiful face or body. Think about what we telegraph to those around us … young and old alike … when it comes to enormous gifts … the things that make people special. What messages do we get from TV or the movies? Not what Jesus is talking about, I’d venture.
So, what’s Jesus talking about? He doesn’t mention them specifically, but they surely have something to do with all the dimensions of personality … abilities … simple acts … anything about us that we can give to share in God’s work to finish His world. Enormous gifts from the Creator are at the fingertips of every human being made in His image. They have to do with the sheer miracle of being alive … of walking … doing … speaking … smiling … caring … loving … creating … forgiving … and so much more. It’s up to us to recognize all these enormous gifts and when we do … to celebrate them.
To put it simply: “God takes a hand wherever He can find it and just does what He likes with it.” Sometimes that means the hand of a mother or father … a neighbor welcoming a new arrival … a pastor placing a hand of blessing on the head of a child at the communion rail.
The pieces of silver … talents as the parable says … are whatever you can be or do day by day that will help another make his/her world what God means it to be. That means that we sense that the world isn’t finished yet.
Living with that conviction means accepting an inevitable risk. To give whatever we’ve got to join with God in moving His kingdom along in the world means the willingness to go beyond ourselves and our own security.
There is, you see, such a thing as aggressive faithfulness— that is … lively discipleship and creative imagination that risks all in the service of God and others. If our purpose in life is to give all we have to join God in His ongoing work of finishing creation, it means having faith to risk traveling through unfamiliar territory … rejection … misunderstanding … failure, and yes—even the loss of money.
During these COVID-19 days, as we take stock of the talents God has blessed us with … each of us here at Grace—regardless of age—needs to honestly ask himself/herself, “What are my talents for?” How can they be used? To be sure, more is involved than funding ministry with money. Motive and creative use of one’s time and abilities are called for.
The Cross before us on our chancel’s wall shapes our motive and creative use of time and abilities. His Lordship … in your life and mine … came about at the cost of the Cross. On Calvary, He willingly gave Himself for us. He defeated the terrible curse of sin and the selfishness that wants us to turn everything in toward ourselves and selfishly keep it all for our own. His love is the motive that lasts … to give of ourselves because of what God has first given us—His Son, our Savior.
God’s love brings about our response. His love lifts us beyond giving in order to get. Giving out of Christ’s love means fulfillment … knowing who we are … what we were created for … and how our lives are to be shaped. Daily, you and I need to put that grace-filled love to work against apathy … weariness … thanklessness … and the ever-increasing demands that life places on us. The love of Christ keeps us going until we, as faithful managers of God’s enormous gifts, breathe our last.
A number of years ago, a colleague of mine shared an epitaph he had found on a tombstone …
What I gave, I have.
What I spent, I had.
What I kept, I lost.
On this Second Last Sunday of The Church’s Year of Grace, God again invites us to join Him in the on-going work of finishing His world. His invitation is filled with grace … purpose … and plenty of hard work and sacrifice. Yet, keep this truth uppermost in your heart and mind: It is God’s love in Christ that keeps us faithful … keeps life eventful … and satisfies us as nothing else ever can or will … even in these pandemic days.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life + everlasting. Amen.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
Longing for Christ’s reign to come among us, we pray for the outpouring of God’s power on The Church, the world, and all those in need.
A Brief Pause
Holy God, we pray for The Church that through its proclamation and witness it may be a lamp of hope for all who live with darkness and despair. Rouse us to deep praise as we gather for
worship, and sustain the work of all church musicians and artists who lead us in praise and prayer. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of every place, the universe proclaims your greatness from generation to generation.
Bless the work of naturalists, conservationists, and park rangers who train our attention to the wonders of the world you made and how to manage it well for future generations. Provide the needed rains and weather conditions to bring all wildfires under control. Protect all firefighters and first responders as they seek to manage any further devastation. Bring strength, comfort, and relief to those affected and displaced by the Almeda Fire especially: Pat & Penny, Lyle & Sandy, Richard & Doris, Norm & Marilyn, Pam, Sharon, and Linda (Vernia’s caregiver), together with those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of every nation, guide this country in these post-election days. Kindle hearts eager to understand our common needs and seek our common good. During these post-election days, calm our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Grant that all world leaders seek your wisdom and guidance for the good and welfare of all people so that divided nations and communities may be restored with your reconciling truth. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of life, shelter all who are vulnerable in body, mind, or spirit especially your servants: Kristel (whose surgery was postponed), Steve (lymphoma), Marguerite (MaryAnn’s mother), Rusty (under hospice care), and Shari, together with those we name in our hearts … brief pause … raise the spirits of those who are homebound in our parish, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and acts of service and love. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God our protector, be with all that were honored and remembered on Veterans Day. Guard the lives of active duty and retired military personnel. Comfort all who mourn those who have died in the line of duty. Heal the wounds, both physical and mental, experienced by service members. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of every blessing, we pray for ourselves and this congregation that we may seek to be wise in the use of our gifts and talents, living with our eyes open, watchful, and alert to the signs of your grace in the world and in our lives. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Holy and immortal God, we pray in thanksgiving for the lives of all the saints who have gone before us with the sign of faith and now rest in your loving arms. Remind us of the frailty and shortness of our own life and inspire us to use them for the building up of your Kingdom. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior, until that day when you gather all creation around your throne where you will reign forever and ever. Amen.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take and eat; this is my + body which is given
for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
And gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my + blood
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness
of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.
Our Father who art in heaven
hallowed be Thy Name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The peace of the Lord be with you always. And also with you.
PRAYER of THANKSGIVING
Shepherd of Israel, you have gathered us and fed us richly with the bread
Of life and cup of blessing. Open our eyes to all who hunger and thirst for
food and justice, that in them we may care for Christ, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.