St. John of the Cross, born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez, in Spain in 1542, was a Spanish mystic, Carmelite Friar, influential poet and major figure of the Counter Reformation. He was educated in Biblical Studies, Theology and Philosophy and chose at an early age to pursue a Religious calling. In 1563 he joined the Carmelite Order and was ordained a Priest in 1567.
St. John of the Cross was a follower of Theresa of Avila. He later became her Priest Confessor. He and Theresa were on a mission to reform the Carmelite Order. To restore the Order to the more strict observance that earlier followers were required to adhere to. Because of these waves of reform, St. John was kidnapped and held in prison in a cell barely large enough for him to lay down in. He was fed bread and water and his only possessions were a prayer book and an oil lamp to read it by. He was taken out into the town square once a week where he was publicly whipped and then returned to his tiny cell. Through all of this, his faith remained strong and he found solace in writing poetry. After 9 months, John managed to escape from prison and rejoined Theresa and her Nuns in Toledo. He spent the remainder of his life traveling and establishing new Carmelite Houses throughout Spain until his death in 1591.
As we read and reflect on the life, ministry and death of St. John of the Cross, we can’t but help to see the need for reform in our own time. Not just in the Church, but in our Country, in our society and in our own lives. As the year 2017 rapidly comes to and end, and we look forward to the start of a new year, we must pause to reflect on all that has happened. 2017 saw, in our Nation, division, hatred, prejudice, turmoil, death, destruction, a watering down of Church teachings and the decline of society.
In the Church, we saw traditional Christian doctrine replaced by a more watered down and “socially acceptable” set of beliefs. Beliefs that Jesus is no longer the only path to Heaven. That Hell does not exist. That salvation is no longer necessary. Sin is no longer sin. Forgiveness is no longer needed because sin does not exist. God is no longer The God….the one and only. He (or she) is now defined by human characteristics and within the confines of human rationalization. We now are able to decide who and what God is based on who and what we want God to be in order to meet our own views or agenda. I attended a Bible Study earlier this year at an Episcopal Church where each participant described for us the “version” of God they worship. My version, the God who has existed before the dawn of time, was viewed as out dated, judgmental and not “hip.” Yes….you heard me! My God was not “hip!”
In our society we saw racism rear its ugly head once again. Blood was shed on our streets. A war broke out between the police and the public. Misguided youth rioted in towns across America; burning down buildings, destroying property and assaulting anyone in their path of destruction. Leaders in our Government on both sides of the aisle, instead of standing up for what was right and leading us by example, used these travesties to push their political agendas. We saw the Nation torn apart by one of the most hostile, disgusting and rigged elections in American history. Politicians, vying for the role of Leader of the Free World, acted in ways that should embarrass us as a Nation and as a People for many years to come. All of this fanned and fueled by a dishonest media. Now as we come to the close of 2017, we are plagued by a storm of sexual harassment allegations. From Hollywood to the Senate, hundreds of victims are coming forward to share their story.
If now is not the time for reform, I don’t know when is! Just as St. John of the Cross set out to reform the Carmelite Order, we too should do all we can to usher in reform in both the Church and in our society. Reform is not easy and often leads to hardship or even punishment for those who champion it. Fear of arrest and imprisonment, just as St. John endured, is indeed a valid fear. Maybe it’s a fear of losing your job or losing your friends. I have seen many within the Episcopal Church speak out against the ever growing heresy within her walls, only to then be thrown out of the Church as a result. I have seen friends lose friends over the election and even one passed over for a promotion because his beliefs are too “traditional.” But do not be discouraged. Find within yourself and within the Holy Scriptures the strength and the courage to speak out. To champion reform. To be the lonely voice crying, shouting, over the crowd. Preach reform, teach reform, and above all, strive to reform yourselves first and foremost. As the late Michael Jackson said, “if you want to make the world a better place, just look in the mirror and make a change.”
Often during the Advent season with all the shopping, baking, gift wrapping, cleaning, and preparing for guests, etc… I feel that we forget what this season is truly all about. During this season we are called to prepare the way in our hearts for the coming of our Savior but we often get too distracted instead by preparing our shopping agenda.
Some Christians may be surprised to find that from as early as the late 3rd century if not earlier, Advent was seen as a ‘mini Lent’; a time to prepare ourselves body and soul for the Nativity of the Lord. Christians were not only encouraged but expected to give alms to the poor and fast to prepare for Jesus’ coming to the earth. As John the Baptist encouraged his people to repent for their sins through baptism to make way for the Messiah. So are we called to put aside the commercialism of the pre-Christmas season and take time to make way in our lives and souls for the awesome beauty that is the nativity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Humility is another important aspect or theme of this season that some Christians seem to forget. We get upset about receiving the wrong gift or not receiving one at all after giving someone else a gift; YouTube is laden with spoiled children throwing temper tantrums because they didn’t receive exactly what they wanted. The true gift we receive this season John the Baptist tells us he is, “not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The true gift we receive during Christmas is the man who gives up his life to save us from our sins, not the newest video game or latest and greatest smartphone.
So as this season in the US is preceded by a time to give thanks for all the things we do have, maybe we need to carry over that feeling of thanks and humility into the Advent season. Even if fasting or long hours in prayer is not your thing, try to focus on giving to those who genuinely need help and maybe volunteer at the local shelter or try to attend every Sunday in Advent and see where you local parish could use your help as for us in the religious communities this can often be the busiest times of the year and help from parishioners is always a blessing.
During this season I am often reminded of one of my favorite carols, “Good King Wenceslas”, in which a king sees a homeless man gathering fuel for a fire, when he asks his squire where the man lives he decides to bring the man food and wine and logs to help the poor man. It is a beautiful story but the part that always rings out loudest to me during this season is, “therefore Christian men be sure wealth or rank possessing, he who now shall bless the poor shall himself find blessings.” Sometimes it is hard in a commercially over-saturated culture like that of the USA to ‘stop and smell the roses’ or stop in to the church around the corner and light a candle and spend some time in prayer but as it was important for John to prepare the way for his people so long ago, I encourage you to take some time this Advent to prepare your heart and soul to experience the beauty and majesty of the birth of our Lord.
During this holy time of Advent help us to prepare ourselves to experience the true meaning of this season as John the Baptist your faithful servant prepared his people.
We ask this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Within the calendar year, there is another year: the great cycle of the liturgical year, revolving around the life and ministry Christ. Each season of the liturgical year has its own particular focus, feasts, words, and colors, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus, his life, and his commission to His people to be a light to the world. Since the 900s, Advent has marked the beginning of the church year, and is a season of great anticipation, preparation, and excitement, traditionally focusing on the Nativity of the Christ Child, when Jesus came as our Savior. During Advent, we as Christians also direct our thoughts to His second coming as judge.
The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming,” and is celebrated during the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture readings for Advent reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment of sin, and the hope of eternal life.
In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for holy living, arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. As the church celebrates God’s Incarnation in the physical presence of Jesus Christ, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning , awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
We celebrate with gladness the great promise of Advent, yet knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of final judgment is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment of sin. This is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge, the world.
Because of the dual themes of judgment and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isaiah 9).
Historically, the primary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the “Word made flesh” and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent, and so shared the color of Lent.
In the four weeks of Advent ,the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season.
In recent times, however, Advent has undergone a shift in emphasis, reflected in a change of colors used in many churches. The penitential aspect of the Season has been almost totally replaced by an emphasis on hope and anticipation. Many churches now use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent. Royal Blue is sometimes used as a symbol of royalty. Some churches use Bright Blue to symbolize the night sky, the anticipation of the impending announcement of the King’s coming, or to symbolize the waters of Genesis 1, the beginning of a new creation. Some churches, including some Catholic churches, use bluish violet to preserve the traditional use of purple while providing a visual distinction between the purple or red violet of Lent.
The Advent wreath is a popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year in many churches. It is a circular evergreen wreath with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. The circle of the wreath itself reminds us of God, His eternal being and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life.
The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.
The light of the candles becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God’s grace to others (Isa 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise of long ago has been realized.
As we enter this holy time of the year, we ask you to join with us in preparing for the coming of the Christ with joy, with anticipation, with prayer, and with love for all mankind. Amen.
We wish you a blessed and holy Advent.
The Order of Preachers, Independent
When he was younger, my husband loved to fish. While I don’t have the patience for this sport, I can understand the thrill of catching something with a simple string and a worm. Though now I can just go to the supermarket and buy whatever meat I wish, including fish, in St. Andrew’s time, fishing was one of the few ways to provide food for your family. So if you didn’t catch much that day, your family went hungry. Yet, St. Andrew was tasked with not only providing a meal for his family, but along with his brother Peter, providing a more filling fare for so many more people.
November 30th is the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle, who is also the patron saint of Scotland. Andrew was the older brother of the Apostle Peter and the two of them were fishing when Jesus approached them and said that He would make them “fishers of men”. Following Christ’s crucifixion, Andrew traveled around preaching the Good News (some sources say as far as Kiev and Veliky Novgorod in Russia) before he was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen and singers, as well as Scotland, Ukraine, Romania, Russia and Patras. The saltire, or St Andrew’s Cross, is used on the flag of Scotland.
St. John the Baptist was on the banks of the Jordan with two disciples when he saw Our Lord passing. He pointed to Him and said: ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’ Andrew and the other disciple followed Our Lord and remained with Him that day. Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce his brother Peter to Him (John 1:41). Andrew told Simon Peter: “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought Peter to Our Lord. When Christ beheld him, He said, “Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas: thou shall be called Cephas, that is, rock.” And so, St. Andrew had the glory of presenting to Our Lord St. Peter, upon whom the Church would be built.
“As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw the two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20).
As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. We do know he had a great love for the cross. As soon as he saw the cross on which he would be crucified, he saluted it with these words: “O most beautiful cross that was glorified by carrying the body of Christ! Glorious cross, sweetly desired, ardently loved, always sought, and finally prepared for my heart that has so long awaited you. Take me, o cross! Embrace me. Release me from my life among men. Bring me quickly and diligently to the Master. Through you He will receive me, He, Who through you has saved me.”
He remained two days hanging on the cross, preaching to the people. These were his last words before he died: “Lord, eternal King of glory, receive me hanging from the wood of this sweet cross. Thou who art my God, whom I have seen, do not permit them to loosen me from the cross. Do this for me, O Lord, for I know the virtue of Thy Holy Cross.”
St. Andrew not only accepted the crosses given him during his life, but he looked for them. This is clear when he said that he had “always sought” sacrifice. Then, in the hour of his martyrdom he had that marvelous reaction – he said that his “heart had long awaited” the crucifixion. Which one of us can say a thing like that? What a sublime courage St. Andrew had in saying these words, which, however, came to his lips naturally and with complete serenity because he had always lived in preparation for that. Our Lord said that there is no greater friend than one who would give his life for the other. No one can give a greater proof of friendship with Our Lord than to desire the cross like St. Andrew did.
Reading 1: EZ 34:11-12, 15=17.
R Psalm: PS 23: 1=2, 2=3, 5=6.
Reading 2: 1 COR 15: 20=26, 28.
Gospel: MT 25: 31=46.
Today we come together to honour Our King and Our saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus is the One and true King of all heaven and earth. There is no=one who Jesus is not the ruler of, whether the person be an Earthly King or Queen, a President or a Prime minister of a country, Jesus still is ruler and King of all. Earthly kingdoms and offices of power are just that, earthly.
Jesus has His true Kingship of all, not by elections or earthly processes, but by election of God. From his resurrection from the dead and from his installation in heaven at God’s right hand. When our dear Lord rose from the dead, after paying for all our sins upon the cross, God the Father exalted Him and gave him a “name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.” and this includes everyone, ourselves, and all the rulers of the earth. Jesus lives today and rules over us from his heavenly Kingdom with the Father. Jesus doesn’t rule with evil or hate, or with earthly wants, policies and pride, but rules with love, mercy and forgiveness and who loves and accepts each of us where we are as long as we love him. We have a King that loves us so much that he suffered human death upon the cross for all of our sins, so that we could have a chance of eternal life with Him. What a wonderful Lord and King we have indeed!
Lord Jesus, you are the King of Kings!!
Let us pray:
O Divine Saviour and King of all, transform us into that which is pleasing to yourself. May our hands be your hands. Grant that every faculty of our being may serve only to glorify you. Above all, transform our Spirit, our will, and our affections so that they become those of you, our Lord and King. We pray that you destroy all within us that is not of you, our King of all. May we live in you, by you, and for you. Amen.
“Come, let us sing to the Lord, and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us.
Let us approach him with praise and thanksgiving and sing joyful songs to the Lord.”
These words from Psalm 95 are prayed most days in the Liturgy of the Hours at the Invitatory. Today on this Thanksgiving Holiday, we want to approach the Lord with praise and thanksgiving, even though it seems to many that there is precious little to be thankful for…if we pay attention to the news. Discord, strife, unrest, pain and suffering, all seem to be crowding out the good and the just which we celebrate today.
In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we can read it as ironical, or we can focus on the last line and read it prayerfully: “You have dominion over all, In your hand are power and might: it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.” Is it too much to ask our Lord that he give us grandeur and strength today, this day of Thanksgiving? In these times?
Of course, Brother Noon (I say to myself) if you paid attention to the First Reading, you’d realize that in your own life, you have nothing to compare with the tribulations of the congregation of Israel in the times before Judas Maccabeus. The destruction of the their homeland, exile, desecration of the sacred alter of worship, war and pillage were real trials, not just those we read about in our Bibles.
And then I remember that this day is also the Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs. Really…what is so bad in my personal life compared to this?
Yes over the past several months I have been besieged by several trials, physical, emotional, family problems. Yes, they absorbed me almost to distraction. And yes, I am beginning to see the light now. But who was there for me?
First, let me recite today’s Allaluia: “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them and they follow me.”
God was there for me, even though my prayer life was in shambles. God was there for me. Coming out of the pain and fog of my affliction, I finally recognized that. That time, as it is now, was a time of thanksgiving. I was following the Lord only through his gentle guidance.
And so it should be in these times, and especially on this day.
Whether we are aware or not, we are under the Almighty’s watchful eye and, yes, he give us strength every day. Sometimes, as in my case, we are unaware and inappreciative. No matter. Once you are in the fold, there’s usually no getting out.
Which leads me to today’s Gospel. And to a little more negativity.
Already we’re hearing about why Native Americans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, the ongoing false battles of the War on Christmas, people complaining about Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving, and the eternal (or so it seems) tussle over how to greet people during the holidays. Such negativity. Such strife amidst a special time of year.
Jesus tells us that one day a man went away on a journey. But before he left, he entrusted his assets to three of his servants. They were each given “talents.” The Greek word talanta literally means “weights.” Back in those days, a talent or weight was valued according to the kind of metal of which the weight consisted. It could be a talent of copper, gold, or silver. The most common talent was silver. Assuming that these were silver talents, then they could have been worth more than $1,000 each. So one servant was given five talents, or over $5,000; another two talents, or more than $2,000; and the last servant was given one talent, a “measly” $1,000 or so. How many of you could use even a measly $1,000 right now? I know I could!
Now Jesus told many of His parables as a way to explain what the kingdom of God is like. The parable of the talents is another one of those. And so, you see, the characters in the story represent various types of people in the kingdom. Who is this rich master who went away to a far country? It’s the Master…JESUS.
When He told this parable, Jesus was well aware that within weeks He too would go on a long journey. He would depart from the top of the Mount of Olives and ascend up, up and away to a far land—to the distant heavens—and there take up His place at the right hand of the Father. In the same way that verse 19 tells us that the rich man would be away for a long time, Jesus knew that His return would not be as soon as some people might think. Yet Jesus also knew that He, like the rich man, would return to receive back His property and obtain a careful accounting from each servant.
Now who are these three servants in the parable? They represent you and me, and every other person who is called to serve the Master. They symbolize every servant of God who is born into His house, bought with His blood, and employed for His praise and profit.
1. God has entrusted much responsibility to His servants.
Verse 14 says that the man “called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.” So the first point I want to make is that God has entrusted a lot of responsibility to His servants.
While the rich man called his servants to manage his financial empire, the Lord Jesus has called you and me to manage His earthly kingdom. We have been given an enormous responsibility. We manage the earthly affairs of the Master of masters…the Lord of lords.
God has entrusted much to us. King David in Psalm 8:3-6 expressed his wonder at how much trust God has placed into the hands of human beings: 3 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Think of it! God went to all that work to create a perfect world; yet He put man in charge of it all. What incredible confidence He has in His finite and fallible creatures!
Verse 14 tells us that the servants were commanded to manage his “goods,” or his property. Servants in those days owned nothing themselves. Everything they had, even their spouses and their children, were the property of the master. And even when he would go off to a far country, they had no right to say, “The boss is gone now, let’s take our money and run.”
Let’s face it, everything we call ours is really His. Even our own bodies are not ours. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19,20: 19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
As servants of Jesus we own nothing. We are managers of God’s property. Our knowledge of the “mysteries” or “secret things” (1 Corinthians 4:1) is still the knowledge of the mysteries of God. Our husbands and our wives, our sons and our daughters, our houses and our land, our spiritual gifts and our ministries, our time and our talents—they are all His property, entrusted into our care until He returns to receive them back.
Now if we would only realize that we are but tenants on His land, we would be less selfish and demanding; if we would only realize that we are not the king of the castle, but He is the King, then we would not be so quick to run away from our responsibilities. In fact, we would ask His permission before we did anything.
Now before I leave this point about God entrusting great responsibility to us, we must not ignore the fact that not all of us have equal responsibility. Verse 15 of our text says, “ ‘And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability….’ ”
Not every servant was entrusted with the same number of talents. One was given five talents, another two, and the third servant was given only one. What we discover is that God makes us managers according to our “manage-ability.”
The master in this parable is not only wealthy; he is also wise. He knew that his servants did not have equal ability. Likewise, God never gives to us more than we can handle. He knows our strengths and He knows our weaknesses. God never demands from a man abilities which he has not got; but he does demand that a man should use to the full the abilities which he does possess. Peter said it well in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
2. But many of us don’t make the most of what we’ve got.
So my first point is that God has entrusted to each of us some kind of important responsibility in the kingdom, though it might not be equal to the responsibility given to someone else.
The second point I want to stress, and it’s something that Jesus wished to stress, is the fact that although God has entrusted something to each of us, some of us who have been entrusted with little don’t make the most of the little we’ve got.
Servant number three was given only one talent to invest. We’re told in verse 18 that upon receiving his talent, he “went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.” Now at first glance, this doesn’t appear to be such a terrible thing to do. His master told him to look after one talent and so that’s what he did. He buried the talent for safekeeping. In those days, it was common to hide some of your money in case some invading army conquered the land and took over the banking system.
So this third servant perhaps said to himself, “I’m going to keep my master’s money safe and sound by digging a hole and burying the talent it might get a little muddy, but at least it wouldn’t be stolen.”
But what did the master think of this servant’s logic when he returned? He was not impressed at all. We’re told at the end of the parable that not only was he fired from his job, but the master ordered that he be thrown “into the outer darkness,” a place where there would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
It’s scary to admit this, but did you know that many of us are just like that poor one-talent servant? Many of us don’t make the most of what we’ve been given. And because we don’t make the most of what we’ve got, even the little we have will one day be taken away.
I want us to take note of the behavior and attitudes that characterized this third servant and caused him to displease his master so much.
The Fear of Failure
Upon the master’s return to ask his servants for an accounting, the third servant tries to justify himself, saying in verse 24 of our text that he knew his master to be a “hard man.” And then in verse 25 he says that he was “afraid,” and therefore went and hid his master’s talent in the ground. So we see that the first thing that characterized this third servant and that caused his master’s displeasure was fear.
He buried his talent because he was afraid. Afraid that if he took the talent and invested it, he might risk losing it all and then have nothing to return to his master. For fear of losing everything, he did nothing.
Fear is probably the most powerful enemy of success. So many people miss opportunities to do something significant with their gifts or talents or possessions simply because they fear failure. You may have been blessed with a natural ability to sing, but much of this talent has gone to waste because you fear you’d fall apart once you stepped on the stage. Or fear of being booed by an audience. What a tragic thing it will be if you bury your God-given talent.
Some of you have been given a naturally warm and loving personality. Yet you’ve never allowed yourself to get close to anyone because of the fear of rejection. And so you’ve buried a treasure. It’s buried so deep that most people don’t even know that you have it. Instead of warmth and love, they see you as cold or shy. Only you know that deep down inside there is something in your possession of great worth.
Some of you have been given a marvelous gift of communication. But because you think that you might say the wrong thing, you freeze up, you lock your lips, and you’re paralyzed because of fear.
How many of us, because we fear to step out and invest the gifts and abilities God has given us, are missing opportunities to use and develop our talents to their full potential? We leave the treasure lying buried in the dirt.
That’s the first characteristic of the third servant: He was paralyzed by the fear of failure. Now let me mention a second characteristic: laziness.
Servant number three had one more tragic flaw. When the master returned to settle accounts, he indicated what he thought of that servant’s decision to bury his talent. In verse 26 the master called him a “wicked and lazy servant!”
If fear of failure is a great enemy of success in the kingdom, laziness at least runs a close second. It probably took servant number three all of five minutes to dig a hole and bury the talent. He saved himself all the time and energy needed to think through all the investment options that were available to him. He couldn’t be bothered researching the possibility of buying a house or a piece of land at a bargain price and finding good tenants. Nor did he even have enough ambition to make a trip to the bank and take the time to decide on whether to invest the talent in a daily-interest shekel account, or a fixed-interest foreign-currency account, or whatever. This man was just plain lazy.
The Bible has a lot to say about lazy people. Proverbs 10:4,5 declares: 4 “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.” Proverbs 20:13 advises, “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” And I love this line from Ecclesiastes 10:18, “Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks.”
We can be lazy at school or work. And we may be too lazy to pray for other each day.
So we have seen that God has entrusted us with much responsibility; yet even when this responsibility is smaller than that received by others, many of us fail to make the most of what we have been given. Like servant number three in Jesus’ parable, we may be paralyzed by a fear of failure, or we may be lazy, or both. Now I want to make a third point: There are serious consequences for a person who doesn’t make the most of what he’s got.
3. There are serious consequences in failing to make the most of what you’ve got.
Losing What You Have Been Given
The first consequence of fear and laziness for servant number three was the loss of even the one talent that had been entrusted to him. When his master returned and found that the servant had been negligent and had buried his talent, he was angry. He said in verse 28 that the talent should be taken from him and given to the servant who had 10 talents. Now in this parable Jesus is not justifying taking from the poor and giving to the rich (a kind of Robin Hood principle in reverse). What Jesus is doing is teaching a simple principle of life: If you don’t use it, you will lose it.
This principle has been proved in my own life. Many years ago I played the trumpet and the drums. I practiced hard. I developed a talent. But if you were to hand me a trumpet or a drum right now and I were to try and play them for you, you would plug your ears! I can’t play the trumpet or drums today. Why? Because I haven’t used my talent.
That’s what can easily happen to buried talents. The third servant not only didn’t achieve a profit on his master’s money; he even lost the one talent he was given to manage. This fearful and lazy manager had dug a hole, little realizing that he was digging it for himself! He didn’t realize that if he didn’t use it, he’d lose it.
Sometimes we wonder why others seem to succeed but we don’t. Maybe it’s because we are not using the talents that God has given us. How would you feel if you gave a friend a gift (one you were sure they would like and use) but then you noticed that they never wore the shirt you gave, or never took the game you bought out of the box? Wouldn’t you be a bit offended? You might think twice about ever giving another gift to that thankless person.
I wonder if God sometimes feels that way about us. He has given us gifts. We have buried them in the ground out of fear, or because we’re just too lazy to do anything with them. Why should God ever give us more gifts and more responsibility if we aren’t faithful to use what He has already given us?
Jesus said to a group of “religious” people in Matthew 21:43, “ ‘Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.’ ”
Future Everlasting Darkness
If losing the only talent he had was not enough, then the third servant heard his master call him an “unprofitable servant” in verse 30, and order that he be cast “into the outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Here was the second consequence of his failure to make the most of what he had.
What could Jesus possibly mean by these harsh words? Remember, we learned in verse 19 that the master returned to settle accounts with his managers “after a long time.” This speaks to us of Jesus’ own return. Yes, it’s been two thousand years and He hasn’t returned yet. But this “long time” is coming to a close. The signs are clear. And one of the reasons He is returning is to settle accounts. Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Jesus will look for a profit on his investment.
Here Jesus is not talking about just our natural gifts or talents. Here He is talking about how we will deal with the greatest gift of all, the one gift that God has offered to everybody…the gift of salvation. The greatest gift that you have been offered is the gift of Jesus, God’s Son…the gift of the Savior. We read in John 3:16-18:
16 “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’ ”
God has given us the one gift that, if accepted, will give us eternal life, a life in heaven full of reward and personal fulfillment. But if we reject it, because we’re afraid or too lazy to receive it and act upon it, then even the life we have now will be taken from us. In place of eternal life, we will be cast “into the outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
To conclude, I don’t know about you, but I want to be most like the first servant, not the last one. It says in the parable in verse 16 that the one “who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.” In another Bible version, we read that this man “went AT ONCE.”
One thing that set this servant apart from the third servant was his faith. And there were two things that showed that he had faith. First of all, he took a certain measure of risk. He could easily have taken the safe route and buried his talents too. But instead, he took his money and invested it.
Another indication that this was a man of faith was the fact that he “went at once.” Alexander the Great, when asked how he had conquered the world, replied, “By not delaying.” This servant didn’t waste any time in investing his master’s money. He didn’t want to lose even a day’s interest on that money, so he “went at once.” He wasn’t fearful or lazy, but he believed so strongly that he could make a profit with his master’s money that he “went at once.”
There’s a man named Lee Iacocca and he was the chairman of Chrysler Motors. Iacocca said, “Obviously, you’re responsible for gathering as many relevant facts and projections as you possibly can. But at some point you’ve got to take that leap of faith…because even the right decision is wrong if it’s made too late.” “You’ve got to take that leap of faith.” Very few things are ever accomplished unless we step out in faith and take certain risks.
Many of us have problems making decisions, taking steps of faith. And we end up being poor managers of God’s resources.
It’s no accident that I’m sharing this message with you. God planned this encounter before you and I were born; He wanted you to receive this message. God is offering you His free gift—His son Jesus. You can take Him or leave Him. But before you leave Him, before you reject Him, at least take a good look at Him. Take a close look at this gift, this treasure.
Read the instruction manual, the Bible, before you say to yourself, “Jesus doesn’t work for me.” I can tell you from life experience that Jesus works! I’ve read the instruction manual. I’ve read the Bible. And one day I decided to believe that Jesus works, and at that moment God flipped on the power switch and Jesus started working in my life. I have never been the same since.
God has given you gifts and talents. Use them. And God has given you the greatest gift of all, Jesus. Don’t reject that gift. Don’t bury Jesus. Take a step of faith and believe and follow the instruction manual. He’ll work for you too!