Sermon for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, AD 2020

Matthew 25:14-30

Our world is full of distrust. We don’t have to look around much to see that trust seems to be at an all time low. Divided, polarized, split – all these terms are constantly used to describe the state of our society. Every election is the most important ever, more critical than the last, which was also the most important ever. Every change seems like it will bring doom, or every time things don’t change doom will come faster. What is the cause of this fear, division, and strife? Distrust. Distrust fuels division, it fuels contempt for others, it fuels competition to come out ahead.
Every authority seems to have largely lost our trust. The mainstream media, social media, the government, academic experts, alternative media – no one seems to agree in whom to trust. All have a credibility problem. This doesn’t say anything about anyone in particular. It’s a problem every human being has, a problem with sin. Everyone wants to be trusted, but no one wants to admit their faults. People and organizations will make mistakes. Some will even make egregious and terrible errors in judgment. Some may even purposely choose things which benefit them over others. Instead of coming back and admitting when they were wrong, many will continue as they were, justifying themselves, making excuses to drum up support of those who agree. Yet others take note of this lack of humility and refuse to listen the next time they disagree. Credibility is lost, and people become more divided.
This doesn’t mean people float around without trust in anything. Many times, in our sinful flesh, we distrust everyone else and ultimately trust ourselves. The question is never if we have trust, or faith. We always have faith; we are always putting our trust in something. So, to say things another way, the world isn’t full of distrust. It is full of trust – trust in many different things, and usually, ultimately us. When one person’s ultimate trust disagrees with another person’s ultimate trust, that is when conflict happens.
Now this is not a sermon where I intend to solve all the conflict in the world. That would be impossible. Let us instead look at ourselves and what we trust in. In humility and repentance examine our thoughts and actions and ask, “what do I fear, love, and trust in above all things? If it came down to the wire, what the last thing I would cling to and hope in?” Our God is what we fear and love above all things. This is what Jesus addresses in today’s parable.
 Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven as a man going on a journey who entrusts to his servants his property. This master gives his servants five, two, and one talent, each according to his ability. He is entrusting each with a significant amount of money. A talent is a large unit of weight, where one talent of precious metal would be worth about 20 years salary. So even the servant with one talent has quite a large amount entrusted to him.
Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.  So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.” We see the contrast between the first two servants and the last. The servants with five and two talents immediately go to work. They put what they have been given to good use and come back with double what they started with. The servant with one talent, by contrast, does not attempt to do anything but hide what he was given in the ground.
The master returns after a long time and settles accounts with the servants. The first two show what their work has achieved, the money the master gave them plus more. Both hear the same reply from the master, “‘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.’” But now, what we have been waiting for, the response of the servant with one talent – “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.
What is the third servant saying by this? He doesn’t merely say “I hid your talent in the ground, so I have only one, here it is.” He responds with an attack on his master! He is effectively saying, “Master, I do not trust you. I don’t like you or how you do things. You have no credibility in my sight. So I did nothing with what you gave me.”
We see this by the master’s response, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.” The master cuts through the lame excuse of the servant. “You were afraid? You thought I was I hard man? If that was the case you could have done something, anything. You could have at least put forth some effort and put my money in the bank. Yet you chose to do nothing.” The servant refused to help. He refused to anything for the master’s benefit, and by this shows his hatred for His master.
The servant worked against his master because he hated his master’s character. And the servant was wrong. For what did the master do to show such evil character? He entrusted his servants each with a great amount of money, showing generosity and love for them. He gave each servant according to his ability, showing he did not burden anyone with more responsibility than he could bear. And to the first two servants, we see continued and reciprocated generosity and compassion. For ultimately, this parable is about Jesus. And the master is Jesus.
While we were slaves formerly to sin, death, and the devil, Jesus died for us, and bought us with his own precious blood and innocent suffering and death. Believing in him who died and rose again, we are now slaves to Christ, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. He has given us many good gifts – life, family, shelter, food, good friends, good reputation, etc. These are not ours by right, for we sin greatly and deserve none of these things. Yet the Father, having compassion on us, gives us these good gifts for the sake of His Son, Jesus, who died for us.
So what are we doing in the places God has put us, with the things God has given us? Does our trust in God show in the work that we do? As parents, do we model fear and love of God to our children, showing them that hearing the Word, prayer, receiving God’s gifts are the most important thing, or do we make other things a priority? As citizens, do we work dishonestly, creating division and trying to boost our own opinions, or do we trust that it is God who watches over us and therefore do everything to love and serve even our enemies? Do we let fear of others, of authorities, of disease, danger, and death, keep us from confession of who we are in Christ? Repent. Everything good we have is from our loving master, and He ordains all things for our good.
I am not saying we shall not suffer. For another gift we receive from God is the blessed holy cross. Let us not turn this into a reason we, like the last servant, say, “God is a hard man, so we should be afraid and do nothing for Him.”  God does not promise ease, but He promises good. He gives us each according to our ability. And in that suffering, in that work, we are being tested, refined, made more like Jesus. As a loving Father, God disciplines us to make us better, more like Him. And this is where trust is needed the most. This is where we say, “Yes, Lord, you have given me many good things. And you have given me hard things because of my sin. But I know you are good, and you mean to work for my good. You care for me as a dear Father, greater than any human Father. You have not lost credibility with me. I will cling to you more!”
Our master will return to settle accounts. When Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, those who despise him, who show they distrust him and think he lacks credibility, will receive the reward for their wickedness. Those who chose not to have anything, who chose not to hold to the promise of God, the only important thing, what they have will be taken away.
Yet to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance. Do not think that the servant with two talents receives less than the servant with five. They have different ability, which produces different results, but they come into the same joy of their master. For ultimately it is not about the amount of our work, but that it flows from our trust in Christ. It flows from the resurrection life begun in baptism, is strengthened as we repent and seek forgiveness by word, bread, and wine, and will bloom on the last day when we like Christ are resurrected into new sinless bodies.

As St. Luke writes, “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28). Amen.  

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