Remembrancetide has passed and the last sunday of what we in the Church of England call 'Ordinary Time' has arrived we come to one of the most well known of the parables in 'the talents'. This combined with the Zephaniah reading brings, especially with Christmas just around the corner, an especially timely note to the Gospel. Let me explain:
In the parable of the talents the Boss leaves, but not before he entrusts to those who work for him the responsibility of being profitable. Each is expected to bring forth fruit and to present themselves before the Boss, upon his return, as a 'good and faithful servant. It is here that the words of 1 Thessalonians add something that needs to be added in capital (and perhaps even bold) letters:
'For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.'
Yes indeedy people, read and mark that sentence well - for the return of Jesus, will come at a time when no one expects. And take a look and see what 'the day of the Lord' is all about in the Zephaniah passage? It's about judgement and retribution and a settling of accounts - and that brings us nicely back into the parable before us.
Each of us has a responsibility to be fruitful before, and for, The Lord and yet, like many of those I have studied with who put aside the need to have projects and coursework and other stuff done because, "There was loads of time!" It doesn't take long before the time is gone and the deadline is reached and yet, even when the date and time were know, they failed to bring forth anything good. Now imaging that we don't know the when - doesn't this mean that we ought to get our behindsides into gear and be in a place where we have something to show should the Boss return tomorrow (or even today)?
'Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom' wise words from the Psalm - that call to be counting the days and ticking them off, for indeed the time if the Lord's return is nearer now that it was when you stared reading this!
And whatever you have had entrusted to to; whatever roles, challenges, tasks and the like you ( and especially I) have taken upon myself in service of the Boss - what profit have I achieved for Him?
This is the challenge for today in that Jesus is going to return and we don't know when but when he does accounts will be settled! wrongs will be made apparent (and dealt with) - now doesn't that make you think about being ready?
It does me!!
And the Collect for today helps us to focus on that marvellously:
Heavenly Lord, you long for the world’s salvation: stir us from apathy,
restrain us from excess and revive in us new hope that all creation will one day be healed in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Indeed Lord, stir us from our apathy and help us to fix our eyes on what is right and important to the wellbeing of this world and those upon it and for the Kingdom of God.
Help us to see past self and to work for others,
Bringing peace, righting wrongs and reconciling the world to God.
Help me to overcome my daily struggle to free others from theirs,
To look in the mirror and see the people behind me as the focus of my life.
Help me to be ready for the day when The Lord returns,
And to help others to be in that same place. amen.
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 say 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 day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 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 shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and the world were formed, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust and say: ‘Turn back, O children of earth.’
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday, which passes like a watch in the night. You sweep them away like a dream; they fade away suddenly like the grass. In the morning it is green and flourishes; in the evening it is dried up and withered. For we consume away in your displeasure; we are afraid at your wrathful indignation. You have set our misdeeds before you and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our life are three score years and ten, or if our strength endures, even four score; yet the sum of them is but labour and sorrow, for they soon pass away and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath and your indignation like those who fear you?
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
1 Thessalonians 5.1-11
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 of 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 labour 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 love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our 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.
‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves 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 the 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 had 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 those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had 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.” uHis master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; 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 over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy 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 that 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 slave! 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 was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Post Communion prayer
Gracious Lord, in this holy sacrament you give substance to our hope: bring us at the last to that fullness of life for which we long; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.