What do we do while waiting for Jesus’ return?

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Matthew 25:31 Jesus said to his disciples “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’”

Chapters 24 and 25 in Matthew’s gospel have been devoted to discussion of Jesus’ return. We’ve learned that no one knows the day or time when Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead so we should be ready at all times. Yesterday’s passage taught us that we should use the time (talents) God has given us as we wait for our savior. Today’s passage elaborates on Jesus’ teaching.

What does it look like to use the “talents” God has given to us in this time of waiting? V.35-36 answer the question. Serve/support the least in our world. This morning I’m asking the Lord to show me how he wants me to participate in his care for those in need. Lord give me eyes to see and ears to hear. Amen.

When we give, God makes more…

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Matthew 25:14 “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.’ 

Sorry for the long scripture reading but this story doesn’t lend itself to omitting verses. We have two servants who take what they’re given and multiply it. They are rewarded. The last servant was fearful of losing what he had and so buried it. The master is not happy with him so he is cast into the “outer darkness”. Not sure what that means, but I don’t think I’d want to go there.

Hoping to avoid doing anything wrong the servant with one talent fails to do anything right.

We trust God to be our provider which means we are free to give things away rather than hoard things. God will make sure we have what we need. As children of God we have the confidence of eternal life rather than fear of losing life. Rather than wallowing in our own need we are free to serve the needs of others.

How is the Lord inviting you to give away the things you’ve been given? Time? Money? Faith? Love? Lord give us grace to live in a mindset of abundance while the world is hunkered down in scarcity. Help us to trust that when we give you make more. Amen.

Be prepared…

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Matthew 25:“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

This story is one of a series emphasizing readiness. Jesus is teaching us to be prepared for his return because it will come unexpectedly. I don’t think anyone expected this disruption related to containing a virus – but here we are. What does it look like for Christians to be ready? How can we stand out in a world gripped by fear and scarcity? Tune in the the Rejoice Lutheran Church Facebook page at 10:30am (central time) today for some reflection on this question.

https://www.facebook.com/rejoicelutheran.church.1/

Lord show us the way. Amen.

Not the warm, fuzzy Jesus…

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Matthew 24:45 (Jesus said) “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51 He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Not exactly the warm and fuzzy Jesus is it? Even if it’s more hyperbole, Jesus has made his point. There are real, eternal consequences to what we do on earth. V.51 in particular is pretty scary. Lord give us grace to be the wise servant, caring for all you have entrusted to us. Amen.

Bearing witness to younger generations…

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Matthew 24:36 (Jesus said) “But about that day and hour (when the Son of Man returns) no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

When will the day of the Lord, the day of judgement, be upon us? No one knows, not even Jesus. What’s clear from this passage is that we will be taken by surprise (v.38-39). We will not see it coming, so we must always be ready.

A mentor of mine once said the things that throw us for a loop in life tend not to be the things we worry about, but things we never see coming. Like many of you I remember the horror of 9/11 which no one expected. Watching the twin towers in NYC fall on live TV was like a  gut punch to our nation and world. This massive effort to contain the spread of corona virus feels very similar to me.

The fallout from the need for social distancing is beginning to take a toll. Both my college age daughters came by the house yesterday – newly out of work. One works at a restaurant the other for an after-school program. Both are being shut down for the time being so they wonder how they’re going to pay their bills. At least they don’t have any dependents to provide for. And they have their parents to help them get through this, which is more than many out-of-work people can say.

As we were talking yesterday I realized this is the first time either of them have experienced this kind of economic adversity, so it’s particularly hard for them. This is not the case for me and Jana. We’ve lived long enough to have dealt with economic adversity before, so we are confident this too shall pass despite all the questions with no answers right now.

The Lord has brought us through tough times before and will not fail us now.

So when I read Jesus’ teaching to be ready, right now I interpret that to mean we older adults need to be ready to encourage those younger and more inexperienced than we are. We’ve been through some stuff before and survived it. We need to bear witness to the faithfulness of God, to tell our stories to younger generations. I realize this is not the focus of the text, but it’s what’s striking me as I read scripture this morning.

Lord let it be so. Amen.

 

What if Jesus was… wrong?

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Matthew 24:26 (Jesus said) “So, if they say to you, ‘Look! (the Son of Man) is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man… 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other… 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”

We’re getting to the end of the gospel of Matthew and Jesus is teaching about the second coming of the Son of Man. There are some interesting pieces here. First, in v.26 Jesus is telling us we won’t have to wonder if he has returned. We won’t have to go looking for him in the wilderness or the “inner rooms” of the temple in Jerusalem. It will be obvious to all (see v.27). Jesus will come again “with power and great glory” (v.30).

There there is v.34 which says “this generation” of people, those living in the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, “will not pass away until all these things have taken place”. Well, we’re still waiting aren’t we? How can this be? As I’ve done some study on this passage a couple of possibilities emerge.

First, those who believe that Jesus was infallible will say we have to expand our definition of “this generation”.  Jesus wasn’t talking about the lifetimes of his contemporaries, but a longer generation – as in the generation of the church. This definition of “generation” would include Matthew’s original audience (early Christians of whom some were alive in Jesus’ day) as well as you and me. It’s an interesting idea but I’m not sure I buy it.

Then there are those who recognize the disconnect between Jesus’ teaching here and our experience (still waiting), but that the error belongs to the gospel writer Matthew who was writing for the sake of a generation of Christians who were suffering. Perhaps believing Jesus’ return was imminent might make their suffering bearable because the end could not be far off. Mmm…. maybe.

How about this. What if these were the words of Jesus, not Matthew, and Jesus was just plain wrong on this point? If Jesus was fully human as well as fully diving, could he not have made an error in his timeline? The bible tells us that Jesus was without in (2 Corinthians 5:21) not that he never made any mistakes. In that spirit then I am inclined to interpret this as a simple error on Jesus’ part. Jesus… was wrong. Was he without sin? Was he the Son of God? Did he give his life for all our sakes? Yes. Yes. And yes. Is it possible I have this wrong? Yes.

What do you think? I’m interested to read your thoughts.

Lord Jesus you are my Savior, the Lord of my life, my Light in the darkness. Be with me and all people as we struggle with a potentially deadly virus in our midst. Give us peace when we’re separated from one another for extended periods of time. Hold us in your tender care. Amen.

 

Making the rules as we go… off the map…

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Exodus 21:12 Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. 13 If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. 14 But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution. 

This is one rule among many Moses was sharing with the newly freed people of Israel. Remember they had spent 400+ years as slaves in Egypt. They didn’t own anything. They depended on others to adjudicate problems because they had no authority. If you read this section of Exodus it can get tedious because of the detail in it, but considering the circumstances it made sense. Being a free people brought new freedoms but also new responsibilities. They were charting new territory as a people.

It’s interesting to note the new rules emerging in response to Covid-19 virus. None of us has experienced this sort of thing before, not on this global scale. Like the Israelites we are charting new territory. We’re making the rules as we go along and the rules change almost daily. However, like the Israelites, we are not in this alone. We belong to God Almighty, the Alpha and Omega. We are in God’s hands my friends. Don’t forget that!