Ezek. 34:11-16, 20-24 Ps.100
Eph. 1:15-23 Matt. 25:31-46
These are good sermon ideas, I've worn them out many times but for today, I'd like to presents some insights that this parable provides for people who have no choice but to live in time, and what does time mean? It means continuous change. I would like for us to understand this parable as wisdom insights regarding the stewardship of time and change.
In life people are dealt different situations in life, and some of what we are dealt are gifts which can be invested and developed. Some have five talent occasions, some two talent occasions and others one talent occasions.
The five talent guy took his five and not only retained his original five, he added five more. The two talent guy, did the same. He kept his two and added two.
But what about the one talent guy? The parable says that he acted in fear and buried his talent in the ground so that he would not lose it. No matter what happened, he thought he would always have the same.
Let us consider the one talent guy with this illustration. We all know what freeze-frame is when it comes to videos; we can stop a video and have it frozen so we can cherish the moment. We can turn a moment in the movie into a single photo.
We suddenly want to preserve the movie by stopping it permanently at a favorite moment. This might be like what the one talent man did.
Burying what is a gift or trying to freeze-frame what we once enjoyed is the act of conserving, of being a conservative. We think that we can freeze-frame conserve and we do this out of anxiety and fear of loss. And what happens? We can lose all because we fail to realize that the gift and blessing of this moment are not meant to be the end all of life; they are to be a gift for us to invest in the present and in the future for better outcomes.
One might think, "I love this gifted moment; I want to stay here. I want time to stop because if I bury it and keep it same, I will not lose it and I am fearful about loss."
Let us apply this for a moment at many who hold literal biblical views. We like the Bible as our holy book. And we may want to be very literal about a biblical view, and so we try to freeze-frame the Bible to preserve or keep what we think is valuable. And indeed we can find great value. But look what we see in a biblical freeze-frame of the Bible. We see slaves, we see subjugated women whose abilities are not developed or cherished, we a perceptual flat earth and many other cultural details which cannot be validly woven into our current lives.
What if we did the same as American Constitutional Originalists: We freeze-frame the primitive American Constitution situation. We see grand ideas of law and justice, but when we look closer we see Washington and Jefferson as slave-holders, we see that women and non-landowners unable to vote and many other practices that are out-dated with enlightened justice. So why should we "freeze-frame, bury or completely conserve" a good time, when it still is a time with much unfinished business?
The church can be selectively "Amish" in many of our practices who decided that it was god-like to stop the advance of technology 150 years ago. A much different kind of life has gone on and developed outside of Amish cloistered life. The attempt to freeze-frame may have the romance of the simple life; but is it realistic to time and change?
The good stewardship of time and change means that we conserve the good in dynamic engaging investment in the now and in the future, but what else do we do? We expand our investment beyond the good that was which with a closer look may have been surrounded by too many bad actors who did not live up to the ideals of love and justice for all.
What if we were to freeze frame our church now; what do we see? We see many young people uninterested in our liturgies and practices. They seem to be like those who are not interested in taking up Amish buggies when it comes to some of our practices. But if we look closer we will also see some wonderful good. We are trying to open our doors of full participation to more people, in the way in which St. Paul saw the message of Jesus expand beyond the boundaries of Judaism to the Gentiles. We see the inclusion women in the full ministry of the church, we seek the full sacramental participation of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church, we seek to be both religious mystical poets and brute fact scientists. And do it without contradictions as we find faith to be a force for graceful mediations of all of the facets of the ways in which we can be fully human. And we do this on the quest to more a perfect embodiment of love and justice.
The parable of Jesus invites us to move from the sense of anxiety and fear of the good that we think we might lose, and move into the dynamic investment in the now and in the future. Why? Because the faith of Jesus Christ is the call to surpass ourselves in a future state. The magnet of God's power bends us in an arc aimed at more perfect love and justice.
Dear friends, we are invited to the dynamic investment of time today. Let us not in fear, freeze-frame what we might revere as the "good 'ol days;" let us be investors in real time, continuous time. By doing so we conserve the good of the past into the present and future, even as we continue to work on what is yet unfinished in reaching the wonderful love and justice of Jesus Christ for all. Amen.
Today, we are in the second day of a three day observance of those who have entered the life to come. All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day comprise this three day articulation of what the resurrection means for us as Christians as it pertains to the people who have left our lives through their deaths.
In our baptismal theology we believe that everyone becomes a "saint" through Holy Baptism; that is one is born of water and the Holy Spirit. And the presence of the Holy Spirit within us makes us "saints" who are set apart to do the work and ministry of Christ.
We do not all live out our baptism vows in the exact same way. We do not all have the same public impact with the witness of our lives. Most of us remain very local and unknown beyond usual geography and social groups of our lives. But there are others who become known through their manner of life to a greater audience.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa of Calcutta are more widely known than we are. And what does this mean? It means that saints are global and regional and saints are locale and particular to our own settings in life. And that's unavoidable. Just like in Baseball, the Hall of Fame is unavoidable, in the life of the church, that some Saints became widely known was and is inevitable. It is the calling given to some to become well known saintly people as global and historic witnesses who lived out the recommended Christ-like values in special ways. And we celebrate them in individual feast days and in a grand single day, like today, All Saints' Day.
Why do we do this? Do we want to elevate and revere people above Jesus? No, but we want to display a vast gallery of exemplars of what the risen Christ can do in the lives of many different people. If the Risen Christ did wonderful in St. Mary and St. John and St. Francis, what can the Risen Christ do in us? Saints do not take away glory and honor from Christ; they only demonstrate the Risen Christ in a variety of personalities so that the appeal of Christ can reach us in accessible ways.
In the Eucharistic preface for All Saints Day, we declare that God has surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses in the lives of the saints. If you believe in ghosts, I would call this a Holy haunting. The cloud of witnesses is the atmospherics of the saints. It's the values of how they lived which are ghostly haunting us to live our very best lives. Let us live in this cloud with them as it is the atmosphere of the values available to us. This cloud? No, not that offsite internet storage place; live in the cloud of the witnesses who are the holy ones who have informed the highest values of our lives. This is how we understand what we confess in the belief of the communion of saints; we live within the holy haunting from cloud of witnesses of the ones who have been great in love and justice.
And this gives us a clue about how we should live our lives now; we should live in such a way that we will enter the cloud of witnesses at our deaths, so that we to can become holy haunters of the future generation towards the values of love and justice of Jesus Christ.
What is the Holy Haunting inspiring for us this All Saints' Day? For one, get out and vote. Live lives of doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly before God. If we do this we might be worthy to join the Cloud of Witnesses someday as Holy Haunters of the people to whom we will leave on this earth.
We believe the saints are in heaven and we want to go there too. But they are also still a present cloud of witnesses and they haunt us in gentle ways to walk in justice, love and mercy.
And who knows, if we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in the best way that we can, we too may become Holy Haunters in the Cloud of Witnesses to inspire those who will continue to live after us.
With God's help today, let us all seek to be holy haunters in a future cloud of witnesses, but not yet, we're not done with the work of justice and mercy of Jesus Christ. Amen.
13 Pentecost, A p17, August 30, 2020
Jeremiah 15:15-21 Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21 Matthew 16:21-28
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