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.