We Shall See Him Face to Face

Date: Pentecost XXIV (Proper 28A) + 11/19/17
Text: Matthew 25:14-30

As we close in on the end of another liturgical year next Sunday, today we hear of our eternal reward as the most joyous and hopeful goal of our faith. In fact the parable of the Talents is all about faith. The joy and the hope is that on our last day we will hear our Lord and Master welcome us with the words, “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.” The joy and hope is that released from sin and death, we will finally see our Savior face to face.

When Jesus begins a parable saying that the kingdom of God will be like this He speaks of the future, the fulfillment of His days of grace, the final goal. And indeed in this parable He speaks of the faithful being rewarded for their faithfulness on the last day, but with the added warning to those who have rejected God’s invitation and gift of saving faith. Yet this parable also speaks of our life of faith now, before that great and glorious day. For it speaks of God’s gift of faith as an active, living thing in your life now, expressing itself in your vocation, bringing the same grace of God you have received to bear in all your thoughts and words and deeds and relationships. It’s called the Christian life.

This faith and therefore this life, before and after all, is totally and completely a gift of God. The parable speaks of “a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” It is called the parable of the Talents, speaking of a unit of money called a talent, a weight of gold or of silver worth (adjusted to today’s economy) around 1.25 million dollars! The exact value of a talent or five or two is not of interest except to understand that it is a very great and large amount.

God has given us the very great and large gift of Himself which is ours by faith. Our Lord is like this man who, since His ascension into heaven, has gone on a journey to the right hand of God the Father. The great and glorious and valuable gift He has given us is the gift of faith, faith that grasps all the promises, the forgiveness, the grace of God that come to us through our Lord’s body and blood crucified, that is, sacrificed for us, and risen again for the life of the world. To fully understand this parable, therefore, we should ask ourselves first, “to what extent do we value God’s gift to us of this saving faith?” For, the parable concludes, those who do not value faith or think of faith as little more than personal knowledge, a hunch or opinion, or fantasy will be rejected, “cast into the outer darkness,” that is, eternally separated from God and life, to a state only of “weeping and the gnashing of teeth.”

What makes the difference? To the extent that you value your faith it will affect and direct your life, your attitude and relationships with others. That’s what’s going on with these servants who invested their gift with the result of the growth of the kingdom of God in others, in your family, in your coworkers, your students, your customers, your friends and even your enemies, all according to your vocation, your relationships and responsibilities toward others. To the extent of your faithfulness and love toward others the same salvation and faith grows.

Notice that the size of the gift of faith makes no difference. Some have greater or more gifts, others fewer. But in the end all receive the exact same commendation. The words are identical to the one with five talents as to the one with two, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The result is the same for the physician as for the faithful wife, the faithful worker, student, father, child, etc. In a sense it doesn’t matter how great or how small a difference you have made. What matters is that the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus was your possession, motivation, care and expression.

The same reward could also have been for the servant who received only one talent. But what happened? He buried it. He neglected it. He didn’t think faith in Christ made much difference. Not only that, but apart from God’s gift of faith you do not really know God. “I knew you to be a hard man,” he says, “reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid.” How many people who have no faith think of God precisely in this way? This is the fear of Adam hiding in the bushes. To think of God as “a hard man” or master, unfair or unreliable is to view God only through the lens of God’s Law written in our hearts, yet being blind to the overwhelming grace of God that delivers you from the threats and punishments of the Law revealed in Christ and His New Testament.

You have been given the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit working in you by God’s Word and Sacraments. As we remain faithful in continuing in God’s Word the gift of faith is strengthened and sustained even in times that challenge it. In those times especially, Christ calls us to remember the joy and hope of the goal of our faith, “Well done, good and faithful servant…. Enter into the joy of your master.”

May your experience of God’s forgiveness be reflected in your ability to forgive others, your faith in God’s mercy and grace show forth in a life of mercy in your vocation whatever that may be. For it is through you that God’s priceless gift of faith is made known to others.

With Him in the Marriage Feast

Text: Matthew 25:1-13
Date: Pentecost XXIII + 11/12/17

(After singing LSB 764 – When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love:)

It seems that we are singing this hymn too often these days, these dark days, at the aimless violence in Las Vegas, then in New York, and now in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Though for otherwise misguided political reasons, California Representative Ted Lieu said about a moment of silence in the House of Representatives, “I can’t do this again; I’ve been to too many moments of silences. In just my short period in Congress, three of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred.” To a degree his grief expresses everyone’s, a cry of helplessness. Continue reading With Him in the Marriage Feast

Saints Triumphant Rise

Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Date: All Saints’ Day (Observed) + November 5, 2017

“Behold, all souls are mine” says the Lord; “the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine.” God here speaks as the Creator of all and therefore the possessor or owner of all. But then immediately He says, “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezek 18:4). St. Paul writes, “because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man” (Rom 5:17). Since the very beginning what God designed to live eternally, sin has destroyed with its just wages. Therefore, all die. Continue reading Saints Triumphant Rise

In Service of the King

Text: John 8:31-36
Date: The Quincentenary of the Lutheran Reformation  Reformation Day (Observed) + October 29, 2017

Today we mark the Quincentenary or five-hundredth anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. For five centuries the church of the Augsburg Confession, evangelical catholics come to be known as Lutherans, have marked this day as the birthday of the Lutheran Church or shall we say the re-birthday of the Holy Church Throughout the World. But why this day? And what exactly are we celebrating or commemorating? Continue reading In Service of the King

Thou Art King, O Christ

Date: Pentecost XX Proper 24 + 10/22/17
Text: Matthew 22:15-22

We are nearing the end of Matthew’s Gospel and therefore the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry. In a matter of only a couple more days Jesus will stand condemned by “the church” before the governor of state, Pontius Pilate. When Jesus would not answer him Pilate threatened Him asking, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” It was then that Jesus answered him, saying, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (Jn 19:11). Far from any consideration of a so-called separation of church and state Jesus here deepened the truth we heard Him speak to the Pharisees and Herodians just days before of rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. What things after all are Caesar’s and what things are God’s? We won’t understand the distinction between the two until we understand that, ultimately, there is no such distinction, but God is above all, Creator of all, Possessor of all. All things belong to God. Christ is King of heaven and also King of the universe. Continue reading Thou Art King, O Christ

The King’s Feast – A Surprise Party

Text: Matthew 22:1-14
Date: Pentecost XIX Proper 23A + 10/15/17

Our approach to the end of another liturgical year continues as we hear divine words of promise and invitation, the promise of deliverance, salvation and eternal life in the day of the resurrection of all flesh. The promise is, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10). Revelation 7:9 predicts the redeemed will be “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” Today we sing of that hope in words inspired by Jesus in Matthew 8, saying,
A multitude comes from the east and the west
To sit at the feast of salvation
With Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the blest,
Obeying the Lord’s invitation.
Have mercy upon us, O Jesus! Continue reading The King’s Feast – A Surprise Party

Wild Grapes Kill, God Loves Still

Text: Matthew 21:33-46
Date: Pentecost XVIII (Proper 22A) + 10/8/17

In the shadow of the largest mass killing in American history last Sunday night/early Monday morning the appointed Gospel for this day gives us an insight into God’s perspective, His view of our world, of our troubles, of evil, and of our sufferings. When everyone is desperately searching for a reason, for some explanation for the aimless violence we witnessed in Las Vegas, we look to God alone who is Lord over all, the good and the bad, the joyful and the tragic, who alone can help us understand how we are to deal with especially the evil days. Continue reading Wild Grapes Kill, God Loves Still

To Wrest the Kingdom from Your Son

Text: Matthew 21:23-27
Date: Michaelmas + Pentecost XVII (Proper 21)  10/1/17

Last Friday celebrated St. Michael and All Angels Day introducing the final days of the season of Sundays after Pentecost. The appointed Gradual for these last weeks is from Psalm 91, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Ps 91:11). Beginning today the appointed Gospel readings therefore gradually move to consider the doctrine of the Last Things, the coming final judgment and the glorious deliverance of the Holy Church into the very courts and presence of God in paradise on the Last Day. Continue reading To Wrest the Kingdom from Your Son

By God’s Free Grace

Text: Matthew 20:1-16
Date: Pentecost XVI (Proper 20) + 9/24/17

Salvation unto us has come
By God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer. (LSB 555)

Today we are asked to put away our calculators, time clocks, and bucket lists. For these are the things of the work-a-day world, of employment, of union negotiations, of wages, bonuses and paychecks, the world of equity and fairness. And indeed, when we gather here as a Christian congregation this morning we gather, to quote The Great Seal of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one. When the first thing we say here are the baptismal words, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” we are declaring our identity all other distinctions and differences aside. We all are equal to each other in Christ, for we stand before God as sinners-all, redeemed-all by God’s grace alone, by God’s free grace and favor. Continue reading By God’s Free Grace

Then His Master Summoned Him

Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Date: Pentecost XV (Proper 19A) + 9/17/17

Now, wait a minute! “And in anger his master delivered him to the jailer, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your hearts.” Wait a minute! “This is the Gospel of the Lord”? No. This is NOT the Gospel of the Lord! This is threatening Law, bad news, not good news. So again You are coming down on us about forgiveness! “Matthew 18, Matthew 18!” they shout. First You tell us unless we become like children we will not enter the kingdom. Like children we are to act like and admit that we’re dependent on You for everything, like a child. Then we’re commanded to bring forgiveness to everyone who might be falling away. Now today it’s forgiveness again. What? Haven’t we done enough forgiveness yet that we have to hear about it over and over and over again? “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Well then how about 70? No? Then 490? No. Now You tell us a parable that says literally we are to forgive other people “gazillions” of times.[1]
Continue reading Then His Master Summoned Him