The Second Sunday before Advent

15 November 2020

Psalm 90

 

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.


Lord, you have been our dwelling-place
   in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
   or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
   from everlasting to everlasting you are God.


You turn us back to dust,
   and say, ‘Turn back, you mortals.’
For a thousand years in your sight
   are like yesterday when it is past,
   or like a watch in the night.


You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
   like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
   in the evening it fades and withers.


For we are consumed by your anger;
   by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
You have set our iniquities before you,

   our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

Zephaniah 1: 7, 12-end

 

Be silent before the Lord God!
   For the day of the Lord is at hand;
the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,
   he has consecrated his guests.
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
   and I will punish the people
who rest complacently on their dregs,
   those who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good,
   nor will he do harm.’
Their wealth shall be plundered,
   and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
   they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
   they shall not drink wine from them.

 


The great day of the Lord is near,
   near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,
   the warrior cries aloud there.
That day will be a day of wrath,
   a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
   a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
   a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
   and against the lofty battlements.


I will bring such distress upon people
   that they shall walk like the blind;
   because they have sinned against the Lord,
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
   and their flesh like dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold
   will be able to save them
   on the day of the Lord’s wrath;
in the fire of his passion
   the whole earth shall be consumed;
for a full, a terrible end
   he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11

 

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Matthew 25: 14-30

 

‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 

The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 

In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 

But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 

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.” 

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.” 

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.” 

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.” 

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; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 

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? 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. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 

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. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The Collect
Heavenly Father,
whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory
we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen

Sermon 

Rev. Marian Bond

 

The word "gospel" means "good news", and we rejoice in the good news that Jesus has made known God's love for all people. Sadly, not everyone longs to hear this good news. Between them and God are a variety of barriers. They may feel threatened or uncomfortable. The Pharisees found the way that Jesus broke all the rules really uncomfortable and threatening. Jesus healed on the Sabbath day. Jesus made friends with sinners, and Jesus spoke with women. Life seemed to be turned upside down when Jesus was around.

Life could even be uncomfortable for people when God himself, generations before Christ, spoke through his prophets. The prophet Zephaniah recognised that people have a tendency to be complacent. The people to whom he spoke were materially comfortable and believed that they could keep God at a safe distance. Rather than being silent before God they would chatter to one another telling one another how God generally let them alone. And they would be shocked by the prophet's warning about God's action against them.

Basically, God would not tolerate their indifference. In our world today, so many of us are indifferent to the power of God. Maybe it is when we are up against it that we are jolted into the realisation that, very often, we do want God to act and that we will mend our ways in the face of His power. Helen Keller, who became blind and deaf as a result of a childhood illness, was the most unruly and difficult child until her teacher Anne Sullivan arrived on the scene. Anne taught Helen to speak and to write.  Helen developed a mature grasp of the meaning of life. She is famed for saying that "science may have found a cure for most evils, but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings".

We would do well to listen to the words of Zephaniah, who tells us throughout his oracle that the Day of the Lord need not necessarily bring wrath and judgement. Rather, it is a day for taking a stand. The Day of the Lord is likely to bring a future in which all things are made new by the God who cares about the good of all things and all people.

So how should we react? How should we prepare? The parable of the talents spells it out very clearly. Jesus spoke about each person being given a different number of talents according to their ability. Whatever talent we have, small or great, we are encouraged to use it in the service of God.  No one can be complacent. Those who use their talents well have a reward. That reward is not to sit back and do nothing. Oh no! The reward for work well done is still more work to do, so those who work hard are given greater tasks and responsibilities!

And what if we feel we have just the one talent? What is Jesus is saying to us? He is simply saying that even those of us who feel we have only one talent must try to do something. If we have a talent and we use it, we are able to do progressively more and more with it.  It's like the old saying "use it or lose it". If we have learned to play a musical instrument or to speak a foreign language and we do not practice, we will lose the skill we once had. If we have just a tiny amount of faith and we share it, it may be just what someone else needs to hear. If we keep that tiny amount of faith to ourselves and say nothing, what is the likely result?

Very often, we may be the only Christians that other people know. If we, like the man in the parable, are afraid of what might happen if we share our faith, what is the likely result? The likely result is actually indifference or apathy.  If we, who profess to be Christians, cannot be bothered to share our faith either by talking about it or by living our faith, then we are making no difference at all to the rest of the human race.

At this time of the year, we talk a great deal about love; last week we talked about the fact that 'greater love has no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends'. As Christmas approaches, we talk a great deal about God loving the world so much that he sent His only Son to live as one of us. We look forward to showing our love for our families at Christmas time.

And what happens if we don't show this love? The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. St Paul knew that when he wrote to the people of Thessalonica. He knew they were people who lived a comfortable life. He knew how tempting it is to drink too much and to oversleep; he encouraged them to keep alert and to put on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of salvation.  He encouraged them by reminding them that because Christ died, they will experience life. They have nothing to fear when their master returns to the house, but should use the promise of His return to encourage one another even more.

We would do well to do the same. Is it true for us? Because Christ died, will we experience life? Will we have nothing to fear when Jesus returns? Maybe we should simply do just as St Paul advises, namely 'encourage one another and build each other up, as indeed you are doing'.