Sunday (mixed presence) message: The King returns

Worship on the Lord’s Day

We gather to worship God

Music prelude
Greeting
Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Opening words:

L: I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?
P: My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
L:  Lift up your hearts!
P: We lift them up to the Lord!

OPENING PRAISE: How great is our God

CALL TO WORSHIP:

L: Lift up your heads ye gates, be lifted up ancient doors
P: That the king of Glory may come in.
L: Who is the King of Glory?
P: The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
L: Lift up your heads ye gates, be lifted up ancient doors
P: That the king of Glory may come in.

PRAYERS OF APPROACH AND CONFESSION

Almighty and merciful God,
we gather in your presence to worship you in beauty and truth;
to pray, grateful of your loving kindness.
You are our rock, our fortress, our stronghold and our deliverer.
We are your creation, made in Christ Jesus for good works.

Your Spirit fills us with life, faith and understanding.
There is nothing we have that we did not receive from you.
Everything we are, everything we have and everyone we love is a gift from you,
And so, we worship you as Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit

While you are lavish and generous, we often live without gratitude;
we count what we lack,
we overlook what we have,
and we do not use the gifts you have given us.

Forgive what we have been,
open our eyes to see the need around us,
open our hands to share with others and use our lives and gifts to further your reign within your church and in the world.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Response: I will trust in the Lord

ASSURANCE OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS

Hear and believe the good news: anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.
The old life is gone, the new life has come.
God gives generously to all who ask, without reproach, and forgives all.
Know that you are forgiven, forgive one another and be at peace.

Response: Be still and know

PRAYERS FOR GOD’S HELP AND GUIDANCE

Father, we depend entirely on you for all that we have.  In particular, in this time of pandemic with illness, death, economic uncertainty, and mental stress our dependence on you is brought home to us.  Our sense of self-sufficiency is exposed as a sham and we are cast back to the more uncertain times of our ancestors and the people among whom your Son walked.  May we learn humility from this.  We ask for your calming, reassuring presence with us and those we love.  Give your wisdom to those who are in positions of decision making in public life and in medicine.  Guide those whose vocation is research that they may unlock the secrets of your healing.   And now, be here with us as we seek your guidance in reading your word and listening to your message.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

(Open our eyes, Lord; Lord’s Prayer)

Song: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty    

SCRIPTURE READINGS:
Psalm 90:1-8                responsive (CEV)
Matthew 25:14-30                 NT(NRSV)
Response:  Glory to the Father                       

MESSAGE:  “The King returns”

Today is the last Sunday of the Christian calendar and is known as “Christ the King Sunday”.  This is the Sunday on which we recognize the triumph of Christ over death and sin, and his kingship and rule over all creation.  Next week is the first Sunday of Advent when we start the Christian year over again by anticipating the birth of the Christ Child.  The recognition of Christ as King has been a subtext of the services of the last two Sundays.  Two weeks ago Heinrich talked of the five wise and five foolish bridesmaids and how each group prepared for the bridegroom.  The bridegroom of course is Jesus, and the parable is a warning about His return.  Last Sunday Theresia presented a sermon on Thessalonians which specifically concerns the return of Christ.

In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells the story about a rich master about to embark on a journey. Before leaving, the master entrusts three servants with some of his money.  The first servant receives five talents, the second receives two, and the third receives only one talent.  In this parable, the rich master is Jesus, the journey on which he is embarking is his death and return to God, and his return is the end of human history as we know it.   The servants to which he entrusts his talents are you and me.   So this parable comes pretty close to home, doesn’t it?

When the master returns, he discovers that his first two servants have invested his talents and doubled his returns. He welcomes them to share in his joy.  The third servant, however, buried his talent in the ground and hands back to the master only what he was given. The master is angry and sends the servant away.

This seems like a story about the management of a rich person’s assets. However, if we dig deeper, we discover that Jesus once again reveals something unexpected, something surprising about the kingdom of God.

In the ancient world of the New Testament, a talent was a measurement of weight and a single talent weighed several pounds. We don’t know exactly how much a talent was worth, but one talent probably represented 9-years of wages for a skilled labourer or as much as 15 years of a day-labourer’s wages. So, even the single talent was a huge responsibility.

According to the parable, the master evaluated the servants before he gave them the money. He had faith in their abilities and all three should have been able to manage the money.

In order to double their investments – an impressive return – the first two servants probably needed to take considerable risks.  The listeners would have known that.  They would have known that the first two servants could have lost the master’s money.  They would have known that to earn those returns the investments would have had to have been risky and possibly even dangerous and by their nature the master’s money might have been completely lost. The listeners might have been surprised that these two risk-takers were so celebrated by the master.

The servant who buried the talent actually acted in a law-abiding, safe and commandment-following way. He didn’t go to lenders to try to earn interest. He took no risks.  He did nothing wrong.  By burying the talent, he protected the master’s assets. He didn’t gain the master anything, but he didn’t lose anything either.  The listeners might have wondered whether he deserved such harsh punishment.  Why was the master so angry?

In this parable, Jesus is revealing something about the kingdom of God.  The people welcomed into the kingdom are not all necessarily pure and clean, careful and safe and upright.  They might be messy risk-takers. They might be the type who would risk everything for their master.

The first two servants saw potential in their talents: an opportunity to increase the master’s assets. They recognized the trust the master had in them, had faith in the master and used their knowledge and experience to grow their gifts. They took risks with what they were given because they could see what they might gain.

The third servant saw scarcity, not potential; letting uncertainty drive him. He expected loss, guarding what little he had at the expense of what he could have gained for his master.  Even though he knew the master expected to reap what he had not sown, he didn’t see the master’s faith in him. He did not invest in the hope of growth and overlooked the possibility of surprise. By burying the talent, he denied both the potential of the gift with which he was entrusted and the master’s trust in him.

What does this tell us about the kingdom?

The kingdom of God is about having faith.

The kingdom of God is about seeing the possibilities God presents.

The kingdom of God is not about playing it safe but using our gifts, risking them all, for a future of hope, the way Jesus eventually would.

The kingdom of God is trusting that if we do the work, God will see that there is increase.

Shortly after sharing this parable, Jesus lived it.  He took the greatest risk of all.  He left the safety of Galilee to go to Jerusalem, where the religious authorities regarded him as a threat to their own power and privilege and a blasphemer.  He also knew that in Jerusalem the Roman occupiers would consider him a disturber of their peace and a threat to their rule. In being faithful, Jesus risked everything God gave him: his ministry, his disciples and his life.  He trusted God with all of these, risking it all in obedience to God.  The return was immeasurable, everlasting, and a blessing to all creation.

What about us?  The parable is about us as well.  We are the soil in which God’s gifts are planted.  God has given us tools to do God’s mission.  What will we do with what we’ve been given and what will it say about our faith?

Right now, we are living under the shadow of a pandemic. We have no idea what is coming up next. With the future so uncertain, it would be easy to respond like the third servant, with fear. We could protect the gifts we have been given, fail to recognize them or pretend that we never received them. We could deny our relationship with God or be angry, blaming God for standing by while illness afflicts all humanity.

Or, we could be like the first two servants: living in faith, trusting God’s faith in us, stepping outside of our comfort zones to take risks and using our gifts to participate in God’s kingdom and share God’s message of hope especially during these uncertain times.  The pandemic is an opportunity for the entire Christian church to arise and shine in this darkened world.

The summer issue of our national church newspaper, the Presbyterian Connection, is full of stories about people using their gifts during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a first response many people and congregations figured out how to use their gifts to continue serving their communities during a time of uncertainty. Rather than seeing what they can’t do, they see what they can do, took action and stepped faithfully into the unknown.  At Dayspring we certainly fall into this category.  Sometimes it means that we take risks.  Sometimes, perhaps even often, as we at Dayspring discovered, it doesn’t quite work as we envision, but we learn and grow, and people experience God’s love.  We, and our sister churches move to help our congregations adapt to an uncertain and frightening new reality and continue reaching out to share God’s love with neighbours.

Young people help their congregations move worship online through live-streaming, and put together pre-recorded scripture readings, children’s stories and other aspects of worship to use online. Music directors send recorded music to their parishioners and hold online “hymn-sings”.  Pastoral care teams respond to increased needs in their congregations, checking in with members and organizing grocery delivery for vulnerable people. Congregations also look outwards, donating money to food banks and delivering food to staff at long-term care homes.  As Christians, there are many ways that this pandemic challenges us to use our talents.

Sermons on the parable of the talents usually concentrate on the appropriate use of time, treasure and talent in our lives as a response to the grace that we have received from God through Christ. Today however, I would like to briefly highlight something a little different.  In addition to using our God given talents in the immediate support of people in need and our church, we can also plan a longer term use of our resources.  Each of us has areas of Christian witness and activity that are especially important to us, and in which we are active.  If we marshall our resources in the right way, we can continue to support these areas of witness after we die.  This is referred to as legacy giving, and it allows us to continue to serve, even when we are no longer here.  The basic idea is that funds are bequeathed to a charity of your choice so that your influence continues after you pass on.  They are a statement about your faith and life values,

When the church is the beneficiary, legacy giving is one way you can help to ensure the long-term viability of the church and its various ministries.  You don’t have to be rich to leave a gift. A gift of any size, entrusted to God, is a seed that grows, particularly when it is added to an investment fund to which other Christian people contribute.  Another feature of legacy giving is that you can give more than you think.  Gifts are usually given from accumulated assets rather than current income and planned gifts often have significant tax benefits associated with them, which can lower the cost of the gift.  If anyone wishes to know more about legacy giving, I encourage you to give me a call.  My contact information is in the church directory.

Our life’s work and our legacy are our witness.

The third servant’s legacy is fear.

The first and second servants’ legacy is faithfulness.

What will our legacy be?

What will our legacy as a congregation be?

What will our actions say about our faith in God?

Christ the King confidently plants seeds of ability and faithfulness in each of us.  We are given the freedom to choose how to use the treasures we’ve received. We can choose to hoard these gifts, or we can choose actions, great or small, to produce works of love and mercy. We can leave our comfort zones and take risks for our King.

We are all provided with opportunities to make a difference – to share our King’s love with our neighbours, our community, and the world. And as we do so, we share in Christ the King’s joy, today and into the future.  Amen.

Song: Freely, freely    

We respond to serve God

PRAYER OF GRATITUDE

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gifts of faith, hope and charity, that we may love all of humanity as you love.  Create in our hearts a sincere love for the people of God living today, your people in generations yet to come and the world that they will live in. Amen.

Response: Now thank we all our God

Reflection on giving

Song: Jesus shall reign where’re the sun    

Sending out with God’s blessing

BENEDICTION

Go forth from this place and shine like the stars of the heavens!
Use your words to bring peace and hope to those around you.
Initiate actions that will enable others to work together for the glory of God
and the prosperity of all people.
Pray for each other and all others.
And know that you do not do this work alone, for you are always surrounded by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the companionship of the Holy Spirit.

Response: God to enfold you

Music postlude

(Zoom breakout rooms)


10:00 am November 15, 2020

led by: Nick Nation

Elder: Jan Ray Moncada

children’s time: Heather Tansem

vocalist: Glynnis McCrostie


Copyright 2020 – Nick Nation, Elder at Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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Posted in Recent Sermons.