Given at St John's Lutheran Church, Clifton, NJ
November 14, 2004
The text for today's sermon, meditation is the gospel lesson that we heard a little bit ago. I'll read a few selected verses from this parable of the Ten Minas:
Jesus said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.' "Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.
Do you ever feel like this last servant? You look around and all these other people seem to be getting ahead. The rich are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer. And there you are. You think you are making the right choices. You are at least staying even. That's all this last servant did. The king gave you one Mina. You give him back one Mina. With the stock market as it's been in the last few years, the King ought to be happy. With some of the advice my old broker gave to me, I'd have been REALLY happy that I got back my money instead of losing some! So what's the king's problem with the last servant? He didn't bother anybody. You and I aren't bothering anybody. We keep to ourselves. Status quo is just good enough. But, is it? Is what we have good enough? Is what we are doing for the Lord Jesus Christ right now good enough?
This is certainly a good time of year to look at life and think about what we have. We're only a couple of weeks away from Thanksgiving Day. Most of the leaves are down. Pilgrim decorations are up. I'm sure Macy's is checking out the balloons for the big parade. Turkeys are certainly starting to get a nervous twitch that something "not good" is about to happen! Cookies and pies are soon going to be baked. We're going to be shopping for all of the fixings – potatoes, yams, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. And at the same time as Thanksgiving, we’re coming to the end of the church year when stewardship will be discussed. This is the perfect time of year to take an account of the blessing we've received.
I'm not going to beat you over the head about Stewardship and your personal giving. That's not why I'm here today. I'll let pastor do that when he's back from vacation. But I can talk about blessings and thanksgiving. What are you thankful for? Anybody want to volunteer some of his or her blessings? (ask congregation)
Me? I have a list a mile long of the blessings and what I'm thankful for. I'm most thankful for my family. I met Vega right here at St John's at a Reformation Day service 22 years ago. I'm really thankful for her, my children, and our extended family.
I was also blessed with a Christian Mom and Dad who raised me in the Lutheran church in Lyndhurst and showed me by example what being a Christian meant. They were living examples of serving their Lord Jesus Christ in their home church. They held various offices in the church. Dad was on the council and taught Sunday school. Mom was President of the Ladies Guild, LWML, the list goes on and on. More importantly for me were not their positions in the congregation, but the way they showed me what it meant to live your Christian faith. Mom prayed for us. She prayed for my dad, my brother, myself, her sisters, her friends. She prayed often. Do you pray for your family? Those prayers are like the investment of the Minas. The return keeps going and going and going and going. During tough periods of my life, I know those prayers are working and protecting me.
Dad was more like that first or second servant in terms of providing for his family and making wise investment decisions. Dad worked two jobs to provide food on the table. By day he was a purchasing agent for Colgate Palmolive. By night, he was an adjunct professor at Rutgers and sometimes Seton Hall University. But he was a saver. He was an investor. He was a good steward. He understood how to take care of his money. Not only did he have an eye towards putting food on our table, but also took a long-term view to care for Mom and his family later on. Now that Dad has gone to be with Jesus, those investments made years ago provide for Mom in his absence. How blessed I was to have him for my Dad. How lucky and blessed I am to still have my Mom.
Being frugal doesn't mean being cheap. They are absolutely NOT the same thing. Mom and Dad may have watched their pennies. Mom clipped her coupons and looked over the ads for the best bargains. They made sure they had their offering envelopes filled for church. They helped friends and family when they were in need. They gave cheerfully and generously. One story in particular sticks in my mind about my father.
Dad used to work at the Colgate Palmolive plant at
Exchange Place in Jersey City. This
particular area of Jersey City is a lot nicer now than it was when my Dad
worked there. It was a typical
waterfront, industrial area complete with burned out docks and abandoned
warehouses. There was a homeless
man. I don't know what his name
was I really don't know much about him
except that my dad saw that he was in need and for weeks on end, Dad gave him
some money and gave him the lunch that my Mom had packed for him. He gave him a winter coat. After a few weeks the man disappeared and my
Dad never saw him again. But what Dad
did during that time showed to me a living faith. This to me showed what Hebrews 13:1-2 talks about: " 1Keep
on loving each other as brothers. 2Do not forget to entertain
strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing
it." That's a life lesson. How do you react when you see a homeless
man? Do you have a welcoming heart
towards strangers? Remember what Jesus
said in Matthew 25, verses 44 and 45: 44"'Lord, when did we see
you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison,
and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Would you refuse to give Jesus your coat? Would you not feed Jesus if he were hungry? Then it's necessary for you to do the same to the "least among us". Do it for those who may be different than us. Do it for people who may be a different color, who speak a different language, and who may not be Christian or Lutheran.
We've had smatterings of this type of kindness in the past. I really felt good when I was able to cook for the Jersey City home, the one for displaced children. How many of us remember that picnic? It was a beautiful day. Did anyone else feel pleased that we did that? Do you remember that we invited them back for our church picnic? How many of us remember the look on those kids' faces when we handed out basketballs to them? For some of them, that was their only toy. So many of our kids today are snowed under by the Game boy games and Xbox and making a Santa Claus list a mile long. Yet, for these abused children from the inner city of Jersey City, we gave them their ONLY toy. We have so much while others have so little. Therein lies our challenge.
While we wait patiently for the return of Jesus Christ to return to this earth, this parable is asking us to use our talents and gifts for the Lord's service. Use those talents here at St John's and out in the world. During this upcoming holiday season, don't be afraid to take the King's Minas and grow that investment. Make a donation to a soup kitchen, either financially or on the serving line. Bring something for St Peter's Food bank. Help those who have been victims of disaster. When you buy your gifts for Christmas, perhaps you can find it in your heart to get an extra one for the Toys for Tots. Is the there an old coat or a pair of pants that lie in the closet that would help the needy more? There's someone one in Jersey City and Newark and Paterson and Passaic and Clifton that needs it. That's what this lesson today is all about. Give a little and receive so much. The return is eternal.
And now may the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ preserve you and keep you unto life everlasting. Amen.