Sunday, November 19th, 2023

While You Wait

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.  Let us pray.  O Lord, send forth your Word into our ears, that it may bear fruit in our lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen. What do you like to do while you wait? How do you pass the time? Last week I told you about our trip to Disney World last year, actually was exactly a year ago as my Facebook memories keep reminding me of where I was at this time last year. I think about all the different ways that we pass the time while we’re standing in line waiting for a ride or waiting for our food. Play charades on your phone, the game where you put the phone on your forehead and you try to get somebody to say the right word or to act out the right thing. Of course when we did that, we flipped the phone down and threw it on the ground and crack the screen. Not the best way to pass your time. Maybe just scroll through social media looking through Twitter, Instagram, or something like that. At restaurants our family likes to play I spy, especially when the kids were younger, and especially at the Mexican restaurants that have the multi colored things everywhere. I spy something blue and there’s a hundred different possibilities. Great way to pass the time. Maybe talk about the ride you’re about to get on to, or talk about the one you just got off of. Talk in anticipation. What do you like to do while you wait? How do you pass the time? That’s the question Jesus is answering for His disciples today, the question  is answering for us today. Remember that this is part of a longer conversation, Matthew chapters 24 and 25 are all one conversation that Jesus is having with His disciples and His message to them is actually very straightforward and simple when we take a step back and look at it its entirety. His message is simply be ready. Be ready for the line to be shorter than you expect it to be. As you recall last week, don’t get caught with a brain freeze because you’re eating your ice cream so fast trying to make it into the building, but also, be ready to wait, just simply be ready. And then anticipating the next question, Jesus immediately tells a parable to answer the question, “Well, what do I do while I wait, Jesus?”  He tells us a parable of a master, master of a great estate, who went on a long journey. Before He left, He entrusted His property to some of His servants, giving to each according to their ability, to one He gave 5 talents, another one got two talents, another one got one talent. Now don’t forget just how much money a talent is. We talked about that in Matthew chapter 18, the parable of the unforgiving servant. A talent is 20 years’ worth of salary for a day laborer, or blue-collar worker. We did the math earlier this summer and decided that a low estimate for a talent is about $575,000, that’s a low estimate. So when Jesus says the master entrusts to one, 5 talents, to one, 2 talents, and to one, 1 talent, He’s saying that to one He gave about 3 million dollars, 1 million dollars and a half million dollars, each one according to His own ability. The first one uses the five talents earns five more. The second one did the same thing, which I think indicates that we can see these characters as interchangeable. The amount of money is irrelevant. It’s not the point Jesus is trying to make. He doesn’t want us to get hung up on that detail. Each one simply used what the master had given to him, and the master rejoiced at what each one had done. It’s the third servant who breaks the pattern and in Jesus’ parables, when someone breaks the pattern that’s where the spotlight goes, that’s the one who deserves our attention in trying to understand Jesus’ point. Rather than using the talent the master had given him, he buried it. He hid it in the ground. When the master returned, that servant accused the master of being a wicked, cruel, greedy man reaping where he did not sow, harvesting that which was not his. I think it’s fair to pause here and ask ourselves if there’s any reason to believe these accusations. Authors and screenwriters sometimes use a device known as the unreliable narrator, it’s when the person who’s telling you the story isn’t telling you the whole story. They’re not completely credible, maybe because they’re a child, maybe it’s because they have some sort of mental disorder, maybe they’re just trying to hide something from you, the reader, you the viewer. Whatever the case may be there are unreliable narrators and it’s a powerful literary device because it creates suspense, makes for a great twist ending sometimes. While I don’t think Jesus is simply trying to build suspense or set us up for a surprise ending, I do wonder if we should really take this servants accusation at face value. Seems like the master has already demonstrated His trust in His servants by giving them 3 million and 1 million and half  a million dollars, and we’re told that  He gave to each one according to His ability, not asking anything unfairly from them, no unreasonable expectations. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the text indicating the master is a hard man. Even His answers are probably sarcastic, “If you knew that I was a hard man, why didn’t you at least put the money in the bank so that I could have my interest.” I think what we have going on here in this parable illustrates yet again one of my favorite Luther quotes that I’ve shared with you before, that I promise I’ll share with you again You get the God you asked for.  You think your master is a hard man, reaping where he does not sow, gathering what is not His. Well, that’s what He’ll be to you. The servants who used what the master had given them were greeted with joy.  He didn’t ask how much have you earned, there’s no indication that it was only because they had doubled their money that He was pleased with them. He simply rejoiced that they used what He had given them, and the third servant, who thought the master was going to be a harsh judge, well he was met with harsh judgment. The master became for him exactly what the man feared him to be. And so in this parable, I think Jesus offers a somewhat simple answer to the question “What should we do while we wait?” Look at the flow of Matthew 24 and 25. First Jesus says beware of the signs. Like a woman who’s going into labor knows the baby is coming, like you see the leaves on the trees change color and know the winter is coming, so also you pay attention. Look around you. The Son of Man is coming soon, the signs are all there. So be ready for him. Don’t be caught unaware like a servant who was not prepared for His master’s quick return, but also be ready to wait, lest like the foolish virgins, you don’t have enough oil to get you into the wedding feast. And while you’re waiting while you’re waiting, simply use the gifts the Master has entrusted to you. Don’t get caught empty handed when He comes again. Be about the Masters business while He’s away. I think that’s the simple answer to the question. What do I do while I wait for you Jesus? Simply live the life the Lord has given you to live in this time and in this place, in your family, and in your job, and in your country, and in your era of history. Simply live the life the Lord has given you to live. We use the time that’s been entrusted to us.  The language of judgment in today’s text and in last week’s text is strong. The day of the Lord is darkness, the day of the Lord is judgement, there’s fire and weeping and gnashing of teeth, but you don’t need to live in fear of that. That’s not for you, for you belong to Him. You belong to the Master who will rejoice to see you when He returns. So don’t live in fear of the times. We hear of wars and rumors of wars. If we look at the rising inflation, wonder if we’ll ever have enough to retire, look at the ongoing debate in our world over things like gender and sexuality, it can be easy to look at the world around us and live in fear or frustration. We don’t need to give into that temptation. I don’t know what I would have done if I lived in the days of the Reformation or was asked to fight in the wars that followed it. I don’t know what I would have done if I was in Israel during the days of the Babylonian captivity, or during their slavery in Egypt, but I do know that the Lord was faithful to His people then, and He will be faithful to His people today. Because that’s the God that He is.  He has promised He will return to take us to His Father’s house in which there are many rooms, many mansions prepared for you. He’ll keep that promise and until the day He does, like the servants in the parable who used their gifts from the Master, so also, we use ours. We use the time He’s given us and go about our lives, go to work, you go on vacation, we celebrate holidays with family and friends. We live waiting for the day of His return, using the time He’s given us, using the treasures He’s given us. The first two servants in the parable used the talents their master had left with them. Nowhere in the parable did we hear the Masters joy was based on how much they earned, simply that He was pleased that they used things He had given them. The fact that the numbers are the same is probably indicating that that’s not the point at all. Five to five, two to two, that doesn’t matter. It’s not important how much they earn, it’s simply they used the money their master had given them. So also, us. While we’re waiting for our Lord’s return, we use the treasures He’s entrusted to us. We use our money in a wise and godly manner, not hoarding it for a future that we haven’t been promised, not burying it in the ground living in the fear of the God who might come back for it someday, not foolishly wasting it in extravagant living. We simply use it to pay our bills, to feed our kids, to clothe our kids, to pay our heat bills, we use it to support the work of our Lord’s church like faithful people have been doing here for the last 40 years, making it possible for us to sit in a room like this, decorated like this, with art like this, with lights on, with microphones, making it possible to sit here and see the gift of baptism in action, to see another daughter of Christ brought into His family, to once again approach our Lord’s table to be fed by Him, the gifts of His body and His blood for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. What do we do while we wait for our Lord’s return? We live. We live as His people. We live in the world; we live in the church. As for you, no one needs to tell you the day is coming like a thief in the night, Paul says. While people are saying there is peace and security, well then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. But you belong to Jesus. You are not in darkness for that day to surprise you like a thief. But since we belong to the day, let us put on the breastplate of faith and love for our helmet, the hope of salvation. Let us live, not in fear, not in fear of the world that could harm our bodies, but cannot touch our soul, not in fear of the Master, for He is not a hard man who reaps where he does not sow, no He is your Savior. We live in the gift of His forgiveness, we live in the vocations He has given us, and we live in the hope that on the day when returns He will speak to us with those words “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.” May God grant it to us for Jesus’ sake, Amen.