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"From the Pulpit" - November 19, 2023

"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church, Vero Beach, FL

Matthew 25:14-30

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”

Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11] 12

1Lord, you have | been our refuge   from one generation | to another. 2Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the | earth were born,   from age to age | you are God. 3You turn us back to the | dust and say,   “Turn back, O child- | ren of earth.” 4For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when | it is past   and like a watch | in the night; R 5you sweep them away | like a dream,   they fade away suddenly | like the grass: 6in the morning it is | green and flourishes;   in the evening it is dried | up and withered. 7For we are consumed | by your anger;   we are afraid because | of your wrath. 8Our iniquities you have | set before you,   and our secret sins in the light | of your countenance. 9When you are angry, all our | days are gone;   we bring our years to an end | like a sigh. 10The span of our life is seventy years, perhaps in strength | even eighty;   yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow, for they pass away quickly and | we are gone. 11Who regards the power | of your wrath?   Who rightly fears your | indignation? 12So teach us to num- | ber our days   that we may apply our | hearts to wisdom.

"If Only...!"

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ!

I was honored to preside at the anniversaries of two of our members at my last congregation, in the Reading, PA area, back in 2016. Allegheny Evangelical Lutheran Church ( - check it out.) It was a fairly large congregation, and we had six (6) active or retired clergy who were members there. This one particular Sunday, we were celebrating the 50th, and the 55th anniversaries of two of these - The Rev. Charles Charles, and the Rev. Dr. Foster McCurley. Pastor Charles was our (LLLC's) Pastor Wolfe. He was the founding pastor and shepherd, and was beloved by the congregation for so many years. I was also privileged to preside at his funeral last year - some of you may recall my having gone back there last September. Foster McCurley was formerly Dean of the Faculty at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, a professor there, among other things. He was pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading for a good number of years. But he was first and foremost a theologian's theologian. A prolific author and scholar, who is still active today. Both were/are good friends and mentors of mine.

Anyhow, in my message, as they were up front in the church as we were honoring them, I quoted St. Paul from 2nd Timothy, paraphrasing here, noting that in their lives of service to God and to the church, they had run the good race, fought the good fight, and kept the faith, in those or similar words. And that there was a crown of righteousness awaiting them on that day when they would be reunited with their Lord. In other words, I was saying to them, "well done, good and faithful servants", again, paraphrasing a quote from Jesus here.

I was reminded of their lives of faithful service to God and neighbor, their faithful service to the church, and more. Fifty plus years, I remember thinking. Wow! They lived full lives, and their families could be proud of their work over the years. And I remember in that moment thinking, how will I be remembered in my life? What will my legacy be? How will people remember me? I know we've all asked ourselves that question many times. What will be my legacy? Looking back, will I have made a positive contribution to the planet? Will my life be a life reflective of how Jesus had called me to live? And more.

Jesus is near the end of his life on earth in our gospel for Sunday. We're in Chapter 25, with only a few chapters left. His trial and execution are near. He's telling his disciples how to live in his absence. Leaving them with instructions on how to live a godly life, speaking to them in parables. This week, he addresses them with the parable of the "talents" - no, not talent like a great piano player, or a great golfer. But in terms of money here. Back then, a talent was equal to about 15 years' wages - a lot of money. Two talents then, would be a lifetime of wages, more than most would ever spend. I think Matthew is trying to say here that this "gift" from the owner (God) was so great, no one could ever spend it all. It represents extravagant love - the love of God.

Anyhow, as I was thinking about my message for Sunday, I kept thinking to myself, with the above in mind, that old expression, "If only..." How many of us have ever asked ourselves that? If only I'd, and then fill in the blank. If only I'd forgiven that person. If only I'd asked for forgiveness to mend a broken friendship. If only I'd told that stranger about the love of God when I had the chance. If only I'd done this, or not done that. The point is, living a live of not only service to God and to neighbor, but living a life of no regrets.

I think one of the messages of this gospel parable is just that - living lives of faithfulness. Living lives that were full, active, furthering the kingdom of God here and now. Living lives that reflect the love of God which we all feel, and need to share in this world. Living lives, that, in looking back at it all, we never had to say, "if only."

I've sat at the beds of many folks who were drawing their last breaths. Sometimes with family, sometimes alone. As they lay there, I often wondered if they had any regrets. Anything they wish they'd done differently, or done period. Things left undone. I never did ask this question, but in looking back, had I to do it again, I may have done so. The point is, at the end of our lives, I believe Jesus is asking us, through this parable, to not waste time on things that don't really matter. To engage in the world. To live out the gospel message of loving God and neighbor. To not have to say with regret, "If only..."

I particularly LOVE the verse from the Psalm for Sunday (above), v. 12. The Psalmist is saying what we so often think in one way or another at times, "let me know how long I have on earth, O Lord, so that I can use my time wisely." Almost a prayer, isn't it?

So, today, I pray that you, as you look back over the long arc of your life, can say like St. Paul said as he wrote from prison, "I ran the good race. I fought the good fight. I kept the faith." And if you can say these things, then thanks be to God. Amen? Amen.

This coming week is Thanksgiving week. We think about those things for which we're thankful. I'm thankful for my health. For my little family (sister and her wife), my small place in Ft. Pierce, my neighbors, and so much more. I'm especially thankful that I have you to serve and to love. Thankful that my work in the church keeps me focused, and gives my life purpose, meaning and joy. So, thank you for what you do for your church, and for your church community.

"Holy Land Prayers" from Presiding Bishop Eaton

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