Today being Veteran’s Day (or Armistice Day in Europe) I ask you to thank and/or shake hands with veteran. Today also commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War I, the “war to end all wars”.
Our Lectionary readings for this week are:
Judges 4:1-7 – I am not sure why the Lectionary includes this snippet from the larger story of Deborah (and Barak and Jael) which spans the entire chapter 4 followed by a poetic version of the story in chapter 5. The book of Judges is a series of stories with the following theme:
1) The Israelites forget God (did what was evil in the sight of God, verse 1)
2) God raises up an enemy (the Lord sold them into the hands of . . ., verse 2)
3) The enemy oppresses the Israelites for a number of years (20 years in this story, verse 3b)
4) The Israelites cry out to God (verse 3a)
5) God raises up a judge and/or general (Deborah and Barak, verses 4-6)
6) The judge/general is reluctant and sets up some sort of test or condition (verses 8-9)
7) The judge-general defeats the enemy in spectacular fashion (verses 11-23)
8) The Israelites become faithful to God for forty years. (Chapter 5:31c)
This short reading of the story of Deborah and Barak gives us the first 5 elements of the cycle as noted above.
Psalm 123 – The Psalmist declares he will look to the Lord for his redemption from the oppression of rich and proud.
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 – This is a tough reading; all about the “terrible day of the Lord”. As you read through this and similar passages in the Old Testament remember this one thing: in OT times the people believed that everything that happened, good or bad, was caused by God. When the armies of Israel won a battle or war, that was God’s doing because they were faithful to God. If they lost, especially when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by Babylon, that too was God’s doing because they were unfaithful (verses 12-13 in our reading).
Psalm 90:1-12 – The Psalmist (Moses?) reflects on the short length of human life compared to the eternity of God. At the end we are all turned to dust and even the days we live are lived in toil and trouble (see Ecclesiastes). What do you think the psalmist was contemplating in verses 7-11 which are about God’s anger and wrath?
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – As one of the earliest of his letters, Paul is looking for the eminent return of Jesus Christ. For non-followers of Jesus, that day may be ominous, but for the followers, there is nothing to be afraid of. Those who dwell in the light of Jesus Christ can live soberly in faith, love, and the hope of salvation. The last line of this reading is about encouraging each other and building each other up. Have you encouraged someone today? Have you helped another in their faith?
Matthew 25:14-30 – Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew are Jesus’ final extended discourse (teaching) and the subject is “end of the age” (24:3). Jesus concludes the discourse with four parables beginning in 24:45: the Faithful or Unfaithful Slave, the Ten Bridesmaids (last week), the Talents (our reading this week) and the Judgment of Nations (next week). First thing about this week’s reading – talents are not the things you do well, like singing or carpentry, but is a large sum of money equivalent to 15 years of wages for a common laborer. At $10/hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 15 years it would equal about $312,000. The first slave gets $1,560,000, the second gets $624,000, and the third guy gets $312,000. Notice that the text says “as each had ability” (verse 15). The first two guys go off that trade their money on the markets and double their money. (An aside: the money we are talking about here is chump change for the people who trade on the stock, bond, and commodities markets today.) The third guy simply buries the money until the return of the master. When the master returns the first two are praised and the third is chastised and thrown out into the darkness. You should also know one fact, in Jesus’ day to protect someone else’s money from loss was the proper thing to do. The first two could have easily lost the money. So, the question to ponder is this: Is this a parable about the “end of days” (24:3) or is it about “stewardship” (25:14) or about something else? We learn in verse 29 that the money was not simply entrusted to each servant to protect but was given to them to be their own to do as they please. If this parable is about something else, could that something be “grace” which God freely gives to all?
Finally, I referenced a scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” in my sermon this past Sunday. Organizational change, Church Renewal, is like this scene. It takes someone a bit crazy to start. Other’s may soon follow, rocking the boat. Things that steady the organization will have to be cut loose. Some people may be hurt and some lost. The organization may feel like it is upside down. You may not know whether you live or die. There will be life on the other side. Watch it here: “At World’s End – Up Is Down”. Enjoy.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor