November 19, 2017

2017 Nov19

Proper 28 - Year A

A Sermon Preached by The Rev Ian M Delinger

 

At the 10 o’clock service we will be Baptizing two young girls, Georgia and Anna Knowles. We will also be formally thanking the over 60 Partners we engaged with during our 150th Anniversary Year with a Litany of Thanksgiving.

 

There is quite a bit of drama in today’s readings! Not ones that you would think we would have for a Baptism and welcoming our 150th Partners. One would think that we would have nice, warm and welcoming readings, ones which encourage Georgia and Anna on their new faith journeys, or which highlight the good that comes from working together as a community. No…not today!!

 

For those of you who are not used to The Episcopal Church, we follow what is called The Lectionary. It is a 3-year cycle of Bible readings that ensure two things: The first assurance is that we get through the bulk of the Bible in those 3 years, instead of just choosing our favorite verses. The readings are seasonal, so they ensure that our theological focus is pointing us toward Christ’s Birth at Christmas or toward Christ’s Death & Resurrection at Easter, or the celebration of one of those two. You know that I have an awkward relationship with the Lectionary, and So, I’m stuck with what is handed to me.

 

The Parable of the Talents that we heard in the last reading is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus to understand. We do not like to think of Jesus as excluding people. We talk about “God is Love” and that Jesus was the earthly expression of “God is Love”. How can He cast someone out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth?

 

Well, this parable is theologically very dense. It’s like the pound cake I brought for coffee hour last week, the opposite of a croissant in a French patisserie. It’s like the 80% dark chocolate solid Easter bunnies we used to get when I was a kid compared to the hollow Easter bunnies we get now, which probably contain very little chocolate. Let’s briefly unpack this over-stuffed theological suitcase:

 

  • The man going on a journey symbolizes Jesus Christ, Himself. The man’s slaves are His followers, the Church, us.
  • The talents that He gives each of the slaves are the fruits of the work of the Body of Christ, all the good things we are to do for humanity and Creation.
  • The return of the man is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The first reading, the one from Zephaniah, paints a picture of what that Second Coming might be like. It’s very dramatic, and demands a separation of the good from the bad. Our second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians encourages us to be ready for that day.
  • The rewards that He gives to the slaves who reaped more than they sowed are the heavenly rewards.
  • The slave who is cast out represents those in the Church who have wasted the gifts (and dare I say, the love) that God has given them, and have done horrible deeds, both of action and of inaction. The Psalm that we recited/chanted sounds very much like the words that would come from the mouth of that slave, the apologetic acknowledgement of God’s omnipotence and God’s demand that we care for all humanity and Creation.

I have great sympathy for the slave who was cast out. I always think of him as a person who knew that he wasn’t shrewd, so he was playing it safe. And I still want to ensure that there is a place in the Church and in Heaven and in God’s love for those who know that their abilities to do certain things are limited.

 

But today we are welcoming Anna and Georgia into the Church, the Body of Christ, and we are giving thanks for those throughout San Luis Obispo who have shared their skills and talents with us over the last year, and remembering the abundance of gifts that have been shared with us over the last 150 years. This is the time that we have actually come to encourage 2 young girls to use the gifts that God gives them for the welfare of the world. This is the time that we have actually come to affirm and give thanks for the sharing of the gifts that God gave to our 150th Partners. Over 60 agencies, artists and craftspersons shared their abundant talents with us, as they do with so many people.

 

So, consider Anna and Georgia, and to all the 150th Partners who are present today and those who could not be with us: I want to leave you and them with 2 thoughts on this Parable:

  • Use the gifts God has given you for the welfare of the world. The more you share your talents, the more talent you will have. Welcoming in the artists, craftspersons and agencies is actually a great illustration to the 2 girls who are about to be Baptized. Every one of the artists, craftspersons and agencies have demonstrated in their time here in San Luis that the more they do their craft or their work, there have been more and more people who benefit.
  • And secondly, when you encounter someone who is afraid to use their God-given talents, encourage them to do what they can. We have all been there when embarking on something new: “I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent.” Another gift to be shared is one of mentoring. As Paul writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other.”

It is in this context that we both Baptize – our sacred sacrament of initiation – and give thanks – a response to the gifts of our Partners, but also our response to our sacred sacrament of Holy Communion.

 

We are called to be right here, right now, doing exactly what we are doing. Our readings may be theologically very dense.

 

But to Baptize, to Christen, to
en-Christ Georgia and Anna in the
presence of all of those who so freely
share their talents, is what we were called to do
in the first place.

© 2018 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Connected Sound - Websites for the Barbershop Community