Sunday March 19, 2023 – Lent 4
Throughout these Lenten days and nights we turn to walk the inward way,
Where meeting Christ, our guide and light, we live in hope till Easter Day.
© 1993 Hope Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Used by permission. LicenSingOnline#605486
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and for those who had tended it before us, and we commit ourselves to use and share this land wisely.
Call to Worship
It is said that life is God’s gift to us and what we do with it is our gift to God.
We gather here this morning to express our gratitude for the gift of life.
We gather to reflect on how we use that gift.
We gather to commit ourselves to follow Christ’s example and use the gifts that God has given us in love and in service to God and to others.
We gather as God’s people
We gather to worship God.
Service of Lenten Candles
During Advent we light candles each week as we prepare with joy and excitement to welcome the one born to bring God’s light into the world. During Lent we prepare ourselves with quiet contemplation for the day when that light was extinguished. The six purple candles represent the six weeks of Lent, while the white candle, our Christ Candle continues to burn reminding us who it is that we journey with during this season of Lent.
Lent calls us to a time of commitment and responsibility.
We remember the times God has trusted us with great responsibilities.
We remember the times we have not lived up to those responsibilities.
We remember the times we misuse what God has given us.
We remember our commitment to do our very best always.
As we extinguish this candle, we offer our Lenten Prayer.
Let us Pray
Divine One, you have gifted us with so much and yet often we take it for granted. We do not always recognize the gifts you give us. When we do recognize them, we do not always know what to do with them. Even when we know how we should use your gifts, there are times we fail to act. Forgive us and help us to use all the many gifts you have given us as you would have us use them. Amen.
Gift of Music You Work, O God, Needs Many Hands #537
Today we continue with Matthew’s retelling of the parables of Jesus. Today we look at what we commonly call, The Parable of the Talents.
Matthew 25:14-30 Good News Translation
“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there was a man who was about to leave home on a trip; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property. He gave to each one according to his ability: to one he gave five thousand gold coins, to another he gave two thousand, and to another he gave one thousand. Then he left on his trip. The servant who had received five thousand coins went at once and invested his money and earned another five thousand. In the same way the servant who had received two thousand coins earned another two thousand. But the servant who had received one thousand coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.
“After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The servant who had received five thousand coins came in and handed over the other five thousand. ‘You gave me five thousand coins, sir,’ he said. ‘Look! Here are another five thousand that I have earned.’ ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’ Then the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, ‘You gave me two thousand coins, sir. Look! Here are another two thousand that I have earned.’ ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’
Then the servant who had received one thousand coins came in and said, ‘Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did not plant, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed. I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground. Look! Here is what belongs to you.’ ‘You bad and lazy servant!’ his master said. ‘You knew, did you, that I reap harvests where I did not plant, and gather crops where I did not scatter seed? Well, then, you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned. Now, take the money away from him and give it to the one who has ten thousand coins. For to every person who has something, even more will be given, and he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing, even the little that he has will be taken away from him. As for this useless servant—throw him outside in the darkness; there he will cry and gnash his teeth.’
Favorite Hymn Request Let Us Build a House MV#1
Statistics tell us that as of September 2022, the average Canadian salary for full-time employees was $1,175.37 per week, which works out to $61,119.24 per year. The parable we read this morning is commonly called The Parable of the Talents, and although the Good News Translation which we heard it from talks about the master giving his servants gold coins, the amount is more accurately translated as talents.
In Jesus time, a talent was the equivalent of 6000 denarii. The average daily wage at the time was one denarii. Therefore, a talent would be the equivalent of approximately 15 years’ worth of wages. So, if you do the math, the servant who was given five talents was given 75 years’ worth of wages. Using a yearly wage of $60,000, today that would work out to $4.5 million. The servant who was given two talents was given approximately 30 years of wages, or $1.8 million and the servant who was given only one talent received 15 years of wages or $900,000.
This parable is not about a few small coins. This is generosity beyond imagining. The master does not simply give each servant enough to get by until he returns. He divides his entire estate, all his wealth, between these three servants. He then leaves, with no indication what-so-ever of when or if he will return.
Imagine how you would feel if someone handed you $4.5 million and simply said, you’re in charge of this until I get back. Would you feel grateful, or would you be worried? Would you feel excited, or overwhelmed?
The parables often use hyperbole to make a point. Let’s face it. No one is going to hand you $4.5 million. But the actual amount is not what is important here. What this parable is reminding us is that the blessings that we have received and continue to receive by Divine Grace, are far beyond anything we could ever measure. And so, the question becomes, “what are we doing with the blessing, or the talents that we have been given?”
All too often when we ask this question, we focus on our “talents” as being the unique marketable skill at which we excel. We think of things we can do better than most people, or things that set us apart. But if we think instead of the blessings we have been given then it becomes a bit different. Our blessings don’t have to be anything extraordinary. They can be simply the daily gifts we receive.
So, how do we share our blessings? Perhaps we need to start by recognizing when someone else has shared their blessings with us. I vividly remember when my children were very young and I was having a particularly difficult time with them in a grocery store. A woman came up to me and touched my arm, smiled, and said, “Don’t worry dear, we’ve all been through it.”
The blessing she gave me that day made a huge impact, and I have tried my best to do the same for others in return. I have passed on her loving gesture in a number of different situations, which has multiplied that one blessing many times over. And the reason I did that is that I was so grateful to that stranger for the difference she made for me in a very difficult time. The thing is that I doubt very much if that woman ever realized what a blessing, she gave me.
In the parable of the talents, we are told that both of the first two servants went out and doubled the amount of money they have been given. At first that may seem a bit intimidating. It may feel like a very heavy responsibility to bear. But when we think of these talents as blessing, it is amazing how often a blessing passed on more than doubles. We may never even know the impact that our actions might make, but a blessing shared is a blessing multiplied.
Sharing our blessing or our talents however, must be a conscious choice. We can choose to invest what we have been given or, like the third servant, we can choose to hide away what we have for fear of loosing it. Unfortunately, many of the blessing we have in life can only continue to exist when they are shared. The gifts of friendship, love and joy, if kept locked away and never shared, will eventually wither and die. Yet when they are share, they grow and multiply.
When we read the parable of the talents as Matthew tells it, we celebrate with the two servants who are praised and welcomed by the master, but most of us have to admit that we feel a bit uncomfortable with the story of the third servant. This man allowed his fear, his uncertainty, and his lack of self-confidence to overwhelm him and to keep him from doing anything with the talent he had been given.
Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are certainly times when I can relate to that. I doubt myself. I doubt my ability to do a good job, especially if it is something I have not done before or something that I am not comfortable with. I worry that I will not do an adequate job or I assume that someone else could do a much better job than I could. But I worry when I read that the servant who failed to increase the talent he had been given was rejected and tossed out?
But I don’t think that is what this parable is really all about. There are times we all do less than our best. There are times we all allow fear, self-doubt and uncertainty to keep us from acting. But just because we feel inadequate or because we fear failure, we cannot just stop living. We have to at least try.
Last week when we talked about the wedding banquet and the man that did not show up wearing the right clothing, we were reminded that it is not enough to just show up and expect everything done for us. That is the same lesson we are seeing here in the parable of the talents.
The magnitude of Divine Generosity is astonishing, more than we could ever imagine. Even the servant who received the least, still received more than 15 years, worth of wages. But the gift of Divine Generosity isn’t something that just happens. It is something that is offered to us, but it must be accepted. The first two servants in the parable accepted the gift. The third did not. He simply set it aside and buried it as if it had never been given in the first place.
And when the gift of Divine Generosity is accepted, life is transformed. We can no longer think simply of ourselves. Gratitude for the generosity and grace that we have received calls for a response. And we express that response in what to do with the gifts we have been given. As a church, we are all called to respond to God’s grace and generosity both collectively and individually. That is part of what it means to be part of the “Church”. If we come to church only to receive, only to be blessed than we are not following the teachings or the example of the very one in whose name we gather.
So as individuals, we need to ask ourselves some questions. Where are we spending or investing our talents? Where are we passing on the blessing that we have been given? Where are we failing to share those blessing and are there times or situations in which we tend to bury our talents?
As a church we need to ask all these same questions. But there is one more question we also need to add. Does our “Church” equip and nurture our ability to serve? How do we support and encourage one another to use the gifts we have been given? How do we lift up those who may not feel that they have a lot to offer, and how do we help them to discover and use their own gifts and talents?
When Divine grace and Divine generosity are truly accepted and shared, it does transform lives. So today, we are going to offer everyone here the opportunity to use their talents. Members of our Ways & Means committee are going to go throughout the congregation and give everyone a $10 bill. What you do with that $10 is up to you. You can invest it, you can spend it, you can put it on the offering plate, or you can pocket it and keep it. The choice is yours.
Our Ways & Means committee has had some time to think about this so here are some of the ideas we have come up with. I’m putting together a cookbook of some of the soup recipes from our Souper Bowl and our soup sales. Stephen is offered repair work. David will be offering plants for sale. Janet will be working on craft items and Shelly is going to make some of her famous Molasses Brown Rolls. We hope to continue this project until Labour Day and there will be several opportunities between now and then for people to sell items they have made. So as those bills are passed out let’s sing …
Gift of Music There’s a Spirit in the Air #582
We Offer Our Gifts
There are many ways of expressing our gratitude for all that we have received. One of those ways we do this is through our offering. Here at Beacon, we do not pass our offering plates. Instead, we ask that if you wish to financially support the work of this church, you are asked to place your offering on the offering plates in the entryway. You can also make donations to our church online or through PAR. But as we bring these gifts forward, we are reminded that our financial support is only one of the gifts we offer. Our time, our talents and our commitment are just as important. So, whatever we bring today, let us offer it to God as we sing our offertory response.
Offertory Response # 542
We give you but your own, what-e’er the gift may be;
All that we have is yours alone, we give it gratefully.
©William Walsham How 1858. Used with permission. OneLicense.net#A-723756
We Offer Our Prayers
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Wise and Patient Creator, you give us multiple blessings and ask that we develop these gifts and use them to help others. We know what you want us to do, but far too often we hesitate to follow through. In times of great crisis, we seem to be motivated to mobilize and answer your call, but when things appear to us to be less critical, we tend hold back and “let someone else do it”. We think of our own gifts and talents as things that are less important or less valuable than the gifts and talents of others. We don’t want to take the initiative because we feel we just don’t have the skills required and we are sure someone else will do a better job. Yet you have gifted each one of us with unique gifts and talents and we sometimes seem to forget that each gift and talent is precious in your sight and that you do not call us to tasks that you do not equip us for.
One of the greatest gifts you offer us is the gift of prayer. In this time of prayer together we bring before you all the things which weigh heavily up on our hearts.
We see the conflict, pain and sorrow within our world and we long to be able to fix everything or to have you step in and fix it for us. But we know that you do not do everything for us. Instead, you have trusted us with not only gifts and talents, but with the responsibility to do what we can to make the changes we long for happen. Show us where the skills you have given us are most needed to help bring your Divine healing, grace, peace, and comfort to a world that needs these things so desperately. We know we cannot do everything alone, but remind us that if each one of us does our part, we truly can make a difference. And so, as we commit ourselves once again to follow the example of the one you sent to teach us your ways, we offer you this and all our prayers along with the prayer we have been taught to say together … Our Father … Amen.
— based on a prayer written by Nancy C. Townley.
Gift of Music Go, Make a Diff’rence MV#209
We have been blessed, we have been gifted, we have been graced. So, now let’s go out form here to bless, gift and grace others. And let’s do that knowing we are not alone. God is with us, Christ’s example leads us and the Spirit shares our journey each and every step of the way. Let us go with God.
Choral Blessing #298
When you walk from here, when you walk from here,
Walk with justice, walk with mercy, and with God’s humble care.
© 1993 Hope Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Used by permission. LicenSingOnline#605486