Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Talented Talents

Gate Pa 16th November 2014
Pentecost 23, 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Psalm                          Psalm 123                                                                  
First Reading:             Judges 4:1-7
Second Reading:        1 Thess 5:1-11                        
Gospel:                        Matthew 25:14-30                

What I want to say:
Suggest the point of Christianity is living in presence of God rather than getting to heaven – and that the Way of Christ provides a guide as to how one might look for, live in, and respond to the presence of God now.
Then use that to explore three ways of reading the parable of the Talents.

What I want to happen:
People to think about how they live in the presence of God.

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

Parable talents
well known
ask you what about – sure you can tell me
common reading of this story
about Kingdom of God
and us using our talents in the kingdom
I think said something similar on Tuesday
wee nagging doubt
partly Lord in this story is not nice
whole casting out darkness isn’t very friendly – talked about that
partly learning nothing is ever that simple is it?

     2.     Alternative readings

two additional ways understanding this parable offered in commentaries I read.
First is amendment to what we all thought
            need allow generosity of God to flow through us
kind of like using our gifts and talents
less about what we offer and more about what God offers through us.

second radically different
takes into account few features of story that we might ignore in our common understanding
what would those listening have heard?
            first of these is that Lord in this story is not nice
            (not nice in Lukes version either)
If honest
            this is not really Lord I would want to use my gifts and talents for.
Second is take note what talent really is
Luke's version of the parable is in 19:12-27.
There each servant is given 10 minas or 10 pounds.
            A mina was worth about 100 denarii and a denarius about a day's living wage.
            so each person given about 1,000 denarii, or 1,000 time daily wage (#3 years pay)
Only Matthew's version speaks of talents.
            A talent was around 6000 denarii. – 6,000 x daily wage ($900,000 on living wage)
            So the first servant was given 30,000 denarii. That is a hefty sum!
                        ($4.5 million, 2.7, .9)
we live world banks and imaginary money in stocks and such
heard this amazing wealth in terms of land
coloured by fact they now landless
mindful that:
             when the twelve tribes entered the Promised Land, the "promise" was that every family would receive and hold a share of that land - FOREVER.
            against the law of Moses to charge interest.
heard story about Lord who had gotten rich by stealing land that rightly belonged to others.
which servant/slave would they have approved of?
            third slave
            acts honourably
            does not participated in ongoing theft land
            does not loose masters money
So what does this story mean then?
all depends on how we understand the first few words
“"For it is as if a man”
It – usually understood to refer to verse one –“The kingdom of heaven will be like this” – Jesus uses start story about 10 bridesmaids/virgins
            maybe referring to the end that story – “Therefore you must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
How must we be ready?
by being like third slave and not taking part in economic system that deprives so many others of their land, their way of life.
living instead in presence of God now
guided by way Jesus
            in what taught
            how he lived
filled with God’s generosity and compassion and justice

     3.     Conclusion

three different ways reading this parable
leave it to you decide which works for you
what ever you choose
invite you start by understanding that this story helps us live in the presence of God now
How does this story guide us to live in this presence?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things are not as they seem

We might say that the theme this week is, “things are not as they seem”.
Last week we heard from the Book of Joshua, where all seemed good. The invasion of the Promised Land had gone well; the land was now in the possession of the Hebrew people - a just reward for their obedience. This week we hear of ongoing battles and slow occupation. We hear also of the Hebrew people constantly falling away from their obedience to God. Things were not as they seemed. The problem was they (and we) kept seeing the land as an end in itself, and the law as the means of earning it. They failed to see that the land was the means by which they could live in the presence of God, and the law acted as a guide to how to live in that presence.
I wonder if our “land” is eternal life – do we see that as an end in itself and faith in Christ as the means to earn it. Is not eternal life more about living in the presence of God, and following Jesus the guide in how to live in that presence – now and eternally?
Which brings us to our gospel - the well-known parable of the talents. We all know that it is about using our natural abilities in the service of the Kingdom in order to inherit eternal life, and avoid the outer darkness and the wailing and gnashing of teeth. In this reading the “it” referred to in the beginning of the parable is the kingdom of heaven, and the “Lord” acts as a kind of Jesus figure – not a very nice Jesus figure though. The trouble is this is pretty dodgy theology – this is not what Jesus or the church teaches anywhere.
Some suggest that this story is about allowing the life and generosity of God to flow through us – which feels a whole lot better. This then is about grace at least, even if the Jesus figure is still a little dodgy.
But what happens if the “it” actually refers to the being awake now (as at the end of the parable of the 10 wedding attendants/bridesmaids/virgins) – living in the presence of God now? And what happens if the lord is a scoundrel? Then this story becomes a story about economics – the economics of the vastly wealthy – the wealthy who steal the land in order to be fabulously wealthy and who order their slaves to continue that work of dispossession. Only the last servant acts honourably – not stealing, not breaking the mosaic law and charging interest, but keeping his master’s money safe for his return. David Ewart suggests, “I believe this is NOT a "Kingdom" parable; it is a "Wisdom" parable teaching us about the perils and difficulties of the ways of the world until the Kingdom comes. It warns us to continue to expect the rich to steal from the poor; and for the followers of Jesus to expect to be punished by the rich for behaving honourably.” [1]
So maybe the parable of the talents is not what it seemed as first read? What might this mean to how we live in the presence of God?

[1] http://www.holytextures.com/2011/10/matthew-25-14-30-year-a-pentecost-november-13-november-19-proper-28-ordinary-33-sermon.html

Friday, November 07, 2014

Staying Awake

Click hear to listen to podcast

Gate Pa 9 November - Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Ordinary Time 32
Psalm                          Psalm 78:1-7                                    NZPB Page 285
First Reading:             Joshua 24:1-3, 14-25                      Bible Page 187
Second Reading:        1 John 4:13-18                                 Bible Page 991
Gospel:                        Matthew 25:1-13                            Bible Page 806
What I want to say:
I want to explore the gospel as a suggestion that we need to build lives of resilient faith that will continue to keep us in the long haul

What I want to happen:
people to think about their practices that sustain their faith
ask what new practices they might be invited to

The Sermon

     1.      Introduction:

Last Wednesday attended Tauranga Ministers Association
as part of the conversation about being a pastor
            -one pastors stated
            that we are running headlong towards coming Jesus
                        interesting statement
                        one level – agree
                        but running headlong for last 2000 years
                        not really on my agenda as more urgent than has been
            already begun reading for this week’s sermon
            passage seems to be all about this urgency

     2.      Matthew

Thought by many that Matthew writing to Jewish Christian community
            who had thought they rushing towards final judgement and Jesus return
now well over 30 years since Jesus died, maybe 40 or 50
still not back
even though Jerusalem fallen and had been destroyed
            if there was ever an event pointing to return Jesus and final judgement
                        surely that was it
Matthew trying make sense of that.
As I said in pew sheet
            theme of final judgement, Jesus return, establishment reign God on earth – is really big theme for Matthew
much bigger than any other gospel writer
what heard this morning part cluster 4 parables on this theme
            Jesus final block teaching in Matthew
set within two chapters all about this theme.
in particular being ready
            and what is involved in that
so we have this story about wedding

     3.      the wedding

this is how weddings worked
groom would leave parents place
go brides family
return home parents with new wife
bridesmaids – really virgins
their job – i understand
was to wait to welcome groom when he returned home
if it was dark – were to light the way.
now was time frame all this normally happened
never guarantee things go to plan
            as can’t today
so best virgins prepared
in this story –
            5 weren’t prepared
-          expecting things happen in their anticipated time frame
-          caught short when things not happen
-          Here is first lesson
-                we don’t determine the timing
-                God does
-                so don’t give up
5 prepared – had extra oil
                        making no assumptions
                        second lesson - be prepared

     4.      The Long Haul

two lessons -  here
            make no assumptions about time frames (in this story)
            we are in this for long haul
as I look around
make my own assumption
that I am aomong people who have been doing this faith thing for a long time
                        you have been in it for the long haul.
how do we sustain our lives of faith for long haul?
what your practices?
talk neighbour moment any like share


     5.      Our context this week

Last week remembered event Parihaka –
            1600 troops and cavalry entered the village at dawn on 5 November 1881.
                        arrested prophets Te Whiti Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi arrested –
Tuesday – remember end WWI 1918
war to end all wars
            decisions made afterwards sowed seeds
                        led to WWII,
                        current problems in middle east
            war over 100,000 men and women from this land – over 10% population went to fight for King and Empire
                        casualty rate around 59% when deaths over next 5 years counted

Wonder what this story has to say about that
wonder what lives of faith lived for long haul have to offer to these two commemorations
invite you to reflect on that over next week or so.