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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 33 - Year A
I Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30
"Investing For God"


READING:  I Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30
SERMON :  "Investing For God"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or33smsu 516000
               

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP 
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.


* INTROIT: "What Does The Lord Require of You" (VU 701)


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Blessed Father, you who cause all things to exist and give us all
things to enjoy and to use well in your service, attend our
worship this day, and grant that we may so hear you and learn
from you that we may be strengthened in our faith and bring
praise and glory unto your name - we ask it through Jesus Christ
our brother and our saviour - Amen.


* HYMN: "Come, Let Us Sing To The Lord Our Song"           - VU 222


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS

   Announcements

   Gathering in of Prayer Joys and Concerns


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Gift Certificates"
Object:   Investment Certificate
Theme:    Doing Good For God
Source:   Self and E. Weishiet's "The Gospel For Kids Series A"

How many of you have ever received a gift certificate?....What do
you do with them....  Gift certificates are a lot of fun - you
can get anything you want at the store for the amount on the
certificate.

Adults often get something called investment certificates.  They
are like gift certificates in that they are valuable - but the
point of them is that when you use them as instructed - they
become more valuable.  If you get a certificate for a $1000 -
after a while - it becomes $1100 or even $2000.  It all depends
on where you put it and what the people there do with it.

Today I want to give you all an investment certificate that comes
from God.

Hand out certificates.

If you use it as instructed - it becomes even more valuable - and
God's kingdom will grow and there will be more peace on earth. 
Each certificate is ONE GOOD DEED.  God gives us the ability to
do good things.  If we actually do good things - things like
those suggested on the certificate - then the world becomes a
better place to live and God and we are all made happy.

   Let us Pray - Dear Lord God - help us to use your gifts
   wisely - to invest what you have given us - so that your
   world is better.-- Help us to smile and laugh - to feed
   the hungry -- and to visit the sick -- to share and to
   care - both now and forever -- We ask it in Jesus' name --
   Amen


* HYMN: "Jesus, Friend of Little Children"               - VU 340


A READING FROM 1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11
   (NRSV)  Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers
   and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.
   {2} For you yourselves know very well that the day of the
   Lord will come like a thief in the night. {3} 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! {4} But you, beloved, are not in
   darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; {5} for
   you are all children of light and children of the day; we are
   not of the night or of darkness. {6} So then let us not fall
   asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; {7}
   for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk
   get drunk at night. {8} 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. {9} For God has
   destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through
   our Lord Jesus Christ, {10} who died for us, so that whether
   we are awake or asleep we may live with him. {11} Therefore
   encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you
   are doing.

L  This is the word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


CHOIR ANTHEM


A READING FROM MATTHEW 25:14-30
   (NRSV)  "For it is as if a man, going on a
   journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to
   them; {15} to one he gave five talents, to another two, to
   another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went
   away. {16} The one who had received the five talents went off
   at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.
   {17} In the same way, the one who had the two talents made
   two more talents. {18} But the one who had received the one
   talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his
   master's money. {19} After a long time the master of those
   slaves came and settled accounts with them. {20} 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.' {21} 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.' {22} 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.' {23} 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.' {24} 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; {25} so I was
   afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here
   you have what is yours.' {26} 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? {27} 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. {28} So take the talent from him, and give it to
   the one with the ten talents. {29} 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. {30} As for this worthless slave, throw him into the
   outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of
   teeth.'

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ


* HYMN:  "Ask Me What Great Thing I Know"                - VU 338


SERMON:  "Investing For God"

   Let us Pray - Creator and maker of us all - bless the
   words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts - grow
   thou in us and show us your ways and inspire us to live by
   your truth.  Amen

The parable of the talents is a parable about the manner in which
God will judge the world and his people.  It is a straightforward
account.

A man who is about to leave on a journey 
entrusts his servants with different portions of his property.
       
They are to look after that property,
and to ensure that it continues to work for the master,
that it continues to make a profit while he is away.

Two of the servants double the investment they are intrusted
with, and are richly rewarded for doing so and given even more
responsibility;
   but the third gains nothing from it for his master, all he
   does is keep what he was given to watch over safe
       - and so what he was entrusted with is taken from him and
       he is cast off the estate of his master and into the place
       where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
              
As I said - it is a straightforward account,
but what as Christians are we to make of it,
what lesson does it have for us?

I have seen this parable interpreted as a frank and simple
exhortation to work hard at developing the gifts and talents that
God has given us.

The message is that if you aren't productive with what God has
given you, you will lose it.

And that is true - And it explains why so many people are so
spiritually impoverished, why our churches and our societies are
in so much trouble.

Too many of us have failed to use what God has given to us,
we have failed to do anything more than hide his gifts deep in
our own lives,
   we have failed to reach out - and to share his gifts with
   others, and so those gifts have done us - and everyone else -
   no good,
it is as if those gifts had never existed,
as if God had never given us anything.

Use it - or lose it - 
that is one of the messages of this parable -
But today I want to suggest to you another.

I want to suggest to you that while it is true that God wants us
to use his gifts and to multiply them for the benefit of his
Kingdom,
   that we are not judged according to the quantity of the work
   we do for God, nor even by the quality of that work,
rather we are judged by our attitude
by our willingness to do as God wants us to do,
by our willingness to risk all that we have been given for the
sake of the Kingdom
just as Jesus risked all of himself for our sake.

As Paul writes   - "it is by grace, through faith, that we are
                 saved, not by works, lest anyone should boast."

If we reduce the parable of the talents simply to a matter of
saying that we must be productive for God - or else be condemned
by God -
   then we miss what is so good about the Christian life,
       - we miss the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news of
       the grace and mercy won for us on the cross,
       - and I believe that, in the end, if we focus on
       productivity, we will end up like the servant who failed
       to invest the talent that his master gave him
We will end up being afraid - worried more about how well we are
doing in the eyes of God than we are about actually doing
anything at all.

Consider the servant who buried the talent entrusted unto him.
   
When he is asked by the master to give an accounting of what he
has done with his talent what does he say?

       Master - he says - I knew that you were a hard man
       and that you harvest where you have not sown and
       gather where you have not scattered seed, so I was
       afraid and went out and hid your talent in the
       ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.

The servant was afraid - and so he took no risks,
he buries what he has to keep it safe and ends up doing nothing - 

The judgement of the master falls upon the servant when he hears
his explanation of what he done:

       "You wicked, lazy servant.  You knew that I harvest
       where I have not sown, and gather where I have not
       scattered seed?  Well then you should have put my
       money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I
       returned I would have had received it back with
       interest."

There is no sin in failure my friends.
There is only sin in not attempting to succeed.

The parable of the talents is not a lesson about our degree of
ability or productivity.  It is a lesson about our attitude and
responsibility - about stepping out with God's treasure in our
hands and risking it all for the sake of others - for the sake of
God.

The servant was afraid - and so he did not try...
This is the basis on which he was judged.
And this is the basis on which we are judged.

You knew that I harvest where I have not sown...!!  You knew!!
You should have put my money on deposit with the bankers so at
least I got interest...!!  But you did nothing!  You were afraid.
You did nothing - you did not even try.

How many times have we told our children that what counts is not
whether we win or lose but how we play the game?

That is a truly biblical statement.
One that we should remember when we look at the gifts we have -
be they few, or be they many.

What counts is not whether we win or lose, but whether or not we
even try to play the game.
      
What counts is whether or not we dare to risk with those things
that God has given us.

What counts is whether or not we invest ourselves in God's
kingdom
   - whether we take what we have and use it in God's work
   - whether we pass on the blessings we have recieved with
   those who hunger and share the good things we have been given
   with those who thirst
   - whether we seek to build community and bring hope to the
   outcasts and the aliens among us
   - whether we reach out to those in need and show them the
   love of God, the love that God first gave to us....
   - whether we try to multiply joy and divide sorrow.

An author, speaking about the responsibility that comes with our 
having received talents and abilities from God rewrote today's 
parable to get at this point.   In doing so he also gets at the 
point I am trying to make:

   One there was a king who had three sons, each with a
   special talent.  The first had a talent for growing fruit. 
   The second for raising sheep.  And the third for playing
   the violin.  Once, the king had to go overseas on
   important business.  Before departing he called his three
   sons together and told them he was depending on them to
   keep the people contented in his absence.

   Now for a while things went well.  But then came the
   winter, a bitter and cruel winter it was.  There was an
   acute shortage of firewood.  Thus the first son was faced
   with a very difficult decision.  Should he allow the
   people to cut down some of his beloved fruit trees for
   firewood?  When he saw the people shivering with cold, he
   finally allowed them to do so.

   The second son was also faced with a difficult decision. 
   Food became very scarce.  Should he allow the people to
   kill some of his beloved sheep for food?  When he saw the
   children crying for hunger, his heart went out to them and
   he allowed them to kill some of the sheep..

   Thus the people had firewood for their fires, and food for
   their tables.  Nevertheless the harsh winter continued to
   oppress them.  Their spirits began to sag, and there was
   no one to cheer them up.  They turned to the fiddler, but
   he refused to play for them.  In the end things got so bad
   that in desperation many of them emigrated.

   Then one day the king arrived back home.  He was terribly
   sad to find that many of his people had left his kingdom. 
   He called in his three sons to give an account of what had
   gone wrong.  The first said, "Father, I hope you won't be
   mad at me, but the winter was very cold and so I allowed
   the people to cut down some of the fruit trees for
   firewood."  And the second son said, "Father, I hope you
   won't be mad with me because when food got scarce I
   allowed the people to kill some of my sheep."

   On hearing this, far from being angry, the father embraced
   his two sons, and told them that he was proud of them. 

   Then the third son came forward carrying his fiddle with
   him.  "Father", he said, "I refused to play because you
   weren't here to enjoy the music."

   "Well then", said the king, "play me a tune now because my
   heart is full of sorrow."  The son raised the violin and
   bow, but found that his fingers had gone stiff from lack
   of exercise.  No matter how hard he tried, he could not
   get them to move.  Then the father said, "You could have
   cheered up the people with your music, but you refused. 
   If the kingdom is half-empty, the fault is yours.  But now
   you can no longer play.  That will be your punishment."

What counts is not whether we win or lose but how we play the
game, whether or not we, in faith, are willing to use what we
have been given in the service of others 
   - which is another way of saying - whether or not we are
   willing to use what we have been given in the service of God.

Do we work with the resources that God has given us for his sake?
   Or do we focus on the fact that we might fail and so refuse
   to try?

Do we use the gifts we have been given to build up the church and
to bring praise to God?
   Or do we use those gifts only for our own benefit?

Do we invest for God?

There is a little piece I've seen reprinted in various forms in
different church newsletters.  It goes like this:

   - What would the church be like if every member were just
   like me?
   - Would our church be empty on Sunday, or full to
   overflowing, if everyone attended as I do?
   - How much Bible Study and prayer would occur if everyone
   took the time I do?
   - How many bruised, hurting, lonely people, would be
   touched by the church if every member acted exactly as I
   do?
   - Would we need more ushers and offering plates if
   everyone gave like me?
   - How many children would be led to faith through the
   Sunday School and church if everyone had my priorities?
   - Would the church just be an attractive social club,
   would it be closed, bankrupt, out of business; or would it
   be a dynamic force for Jesus Christ in our community and
   our world if everyone were just like me?
   - What would the church be like if every member were just
   like me? 

God gives us many things, 
Why he does so is not always clear, 
but what God expects of us is clear.

God expects us to try to develop the good things we have 
so that the world around us can benefit from them,
so that those gifts might be fruitful in us, 
and add to the good things that God's world needs.

God expects us to invest what he has given to us in his work,
   so that everyone might experience the blessedness of life in
   his care,
       so that everyone might want to raise a song of joy into
       the air.

But more - and better yet.  God in giving us his talents, in
giving us his love, does not expect us to do all this work alone.

When we invest in God, and with God we are investing in a mutual
fund.  God gives us companions, He gives us friends and
counsellors, He gives us a church, and He gives us his Holy
Spirit and his living Word - Jesus Christ so that we, like the
servants of the parable, can together create and bestow new love
and new hope upon the world.

God, like the master in today's parable believes in us.  He
trusts us to do well with his love, to develop the gifts he gives
us so that all the citizens of his kingdom may benefit from
them..

Do not fear failure - because even if we personally do not double
the goodness we have received; even if we do not personally conquer
all our problems and together solve all the crises we face,
- if we have tried to work with what God has given, 
- if we have invested ourselves as well as we are able in his
work
then God will be pleased with us - 
and he will invite us to enter into his joy
and give to us even more than we first received from him.

Thanks be to God for his mercy and his grace.  Amen


LET US PRAY
Lord God - we give you thanks for all your gifts to us - for
daily food - for health - for each breath we take - for freedom
to choose - and for the gifts of your word, your power, and your
love.  Our hearts are truly overwhelmed, O God, when we consider
all that you are and how you have entrusted so much to us.  May
we be worthy of that trust - may we be a people who are unafraid
to live as fully and as richly as you want us to live....   Lord
hear our prayer.... 

Help us O God, as followers of Jesus, to multiply all that you
given us, to risk spreading your word and perhaps see it
misunderstood, to gamble by loving those whom others think worthy
only of hate, to take chances by doing good to those who have not
done good to us.  Help us be faith filled and to desire to
increase your glory and your goodness in this world.  Make us
ones who share in both word and deed that which you have given to
us.  Lord hear our prayer....

We pray, O God, for the church here today - that it may encourage
all its members to discover, develop, and use all their gifts,
those of nature and those of grace...  Lord hear our prayer...

We pray for those who are poor in body or in spirit...  for those
who are oppressed and heavy laden....  for those who are sick or
in despair...  Minister O God by your Spirit, and by us, to all
those for whom we have prayed - and help us walk faithfully in
the path of our Lord Jesus Christ - he who taught us to pray
together as one family, saying. OUR FATHER...


* HYMN: "Take My Life and Let It Be"                     - VU 506


* MINUTE FOR MISSION: Our Life Together and In The World


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU
541) and Prayer of Dedication

   Gracious God - we pray thee to accept these offerings from
   our hands.  What we give you is rightfully yours - and
   more even than what we have given.  Bless these offerings
   and what we have retained in your service and use them and
   us to bring ever greater praise to your most holy name. 
   Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN: "God of Grace, God of Glory"           - VU 686


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
   go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people
   of God, the body of Christ.
 

* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace; love and care for one another in Christ's name,
- and may God bless you with every gift needful for His work, 
- may the Spirit grant you the willingness to risk yourself
completely for the sake of the gospel, 
- and may the love and the compassion and the hope and the faith
of Jesus dwell richly within you till the time of his coming.
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2005
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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