24th Sunday after Pentecost
November 14-15, 2020
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11] 12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Saturday 5:30 pm Contemporary Service
Sunday 10:00 am Traditional Worship Service
Sermon: The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Sermon for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A; November 14-15, 2020
Our Saviour Lutheran Church of Warrenton, VA
The Reverend Terri E. L. Church
What could YOU do with half a million dollars?
I hope your eyes grew wide and your minds are already racing with ideas!
What about a new car?!
Would you pay off that old debt that is weighing you and your future down?
What comes to mind for you?
If you think about that amount long enough, you may even start to think of ways to give some or all that money away, perhaps even to give a gift that keeps on giving.
Do you know that old ad slogan? “Give the gift that keeps on giving!” It’s been used to sell a Viktor Radio, Kodak cameras, diamonds, Jelly of the Month Club (for all you Christmas Vacation fans), and my personal favorite: Hotpoint Appliances:
“Give Mother what she really wants this season, this all-white Hotpoint electric range. A gift that keeps on giving!”[i] (Perhaps that’s what Mother really wants…. Or, could it be that’s just what YOU really want: for Mom to keep on cooking?!!)
Those are all fun, but we know there are indeed ways to give gifts that last and expand after you give them.
Think about how many people you could feed with ½ a million dollars! Now what if you dug wells, planted crops, lifted communities out of poverty, or solved some of the environmental or political problems that lead to years-long famines? Those mouths that you feed would then feed other mouths for years!
Or how about an endowment? Donate enough to your favorite college and they could spend only the interest and do amazing stuff in perpetuity with your gift! Or could you endow your church? (Warning: shameless plug coming: Log in to our congregational meeting to learn more about Our Saviour’s Memorial Endowment Fund—great news for God’s work through our church!)
How many quilts could that money support, which then allows how many refugees to build homes and start businesses that care for how many future communities?
No matter what you came up with, for most of us, the idea of being granted over $500,000 makes us dream and dream big! Just the idea of it can give us joy. And it’s that kind of dreaming that goes along with this story Jesus told in our gospel lesson today. Here is Jesus, huddled with his disciples telling story after story. And, boy, does he tell some whoppers! Like this one.
Once upon a time a man left on a long trip, so he put some of his slaves in charge. He calls up the first one and says, “You seem pretty resourceful. I’m going to give you, let’s see …. Five Talents.”
“Wait one minute,” say the disciples, “surely, you’re kidding! There is NO way he’d give his slaves that much money!”
To us so long down the road of time and so far away, let me do some quick math for you. Five talents may not seem like so much, but if he were to give us that amount today, here in America, based on the average wage a daily worker makes for 20 years, that would be at least $3,065,500! That’s five talents for you. When he gets to the third slave and “only” gives him one talent, that’s still at least $613,100! How’s THAT for dreaming big?! Okay, back to the story.
After a long, long, LONG time, the master came back! The first and second each doubled their gifts, creating hundreds of years of wages between them. The man was thrilled! “You’ve done great!” he says. “Seeing what you have done with a few things, I’ll put you in charge of many more. Come into the joy of your master!”
But then, he comes to the third slave, who didn’t do so well. He says to the master, “I know you’re a jerk, and you drive a hard bargain, so I did the only logical thing: in fear, I buried your treasure in the ground to make sure I didn’t lose any of it. Here’s your talent back.”
I don’t know what that third employee expected the man to say, but I doubt he expected this:
“You wicked and lazy slave! You knew I was a jerk and that I expect to make money where I’ve done no work, did you? Why, you didn’t even listen to your own brain! If you had, you’d have put that in a nice safe money market and let the bankers get me some interest. Bah! You, take what this man wasted and give it to the one with five talents!”
That’s the story Jesus told, slightly edited and annotated for today’s ears. So I ask you again, what could YOU do with ½ a million dollars? Or $3 million? I’ll bet you could do quite a lot! And you certainly can dream about great things for yourself and even about giving gifts that keep on giving long after you’re gone, can’t you?
I think this story Jesus told wants us to dream. This rich man seemed to receive joy by being so very generous. And he was eager for his servants to expand their gifts, spreading more joy to others, even if that involves a little risk. I can hear Dave Ramsey saying, “Live like no one else now so you can live—and give—like no one else later!” Be filled with joy. Be a cheerful giver. Celebrate what you have received and have fun spreading it around. THAT is entering into the joy of our Lord. That is how you celebrate life.
Let us remember something important: we are servants of a God who loves us with a never-failing love. We serve a generous God who celebrates life. Everything we have is a gift from God—our time, our treasure, and our very selves.
Can you take that dreaming you did with all that money and realize that God gives you enough to share? You might have to budget now, and your generosity might be limited in the short term. However, developing the habits of a cheerful giver allows you to give gifts that go on and on, growing and spreading joy, way beyond what you can even dream about.
We need this story now more than ever, don’t we? This year has been a hard one for most of us.
Some of you have had your wages cut or seen your pensions cut. If you are in that camp, maybe this is the time to receive some of God’s generosity. That’s what the church is here for—to celebrate life and help the community live as well.
Some have gotten sick or suffered as loved ones have died. We’re here for that, too. Let us pray for you, support you, and cry with you.
And some have weathered this storm financially but just feel bad.
For all of us, finding a way to be generous at our own level of ability will give us joy, and Jesus invites us to dream big about that. Don’t bury your treasure! Let God expand what you have and help you help others! Give turkeys and thanks!
No matter what you do with this sermon, remember the most important thing: God loves you, and always will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[i]What Commercial Said “The Gift that Keeps on Giving”? https://quotes.yourdictionary.com/articles/what-commercial-said-the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving.html
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