O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy,
restrain us from excess
and revive in us new hope
that all creation will one day be healed
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
O praise God in his holiness;
praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts;
praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet;
praise him upon the harp and lyre.
Praise him with timbrel and dances;
praise him upon the strings and pipe.
Praise him with ringing cymbals;
praise him upon the clashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 19.11-28
As the crowds were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.” But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to rule over us.”
‘When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, “Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.” He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” Then the second came, saying, “Lord, your pound has made five pounds.” He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities.” Then the other came, saying, “Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” He said to him, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.” He said to the bystanders, “Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.” (And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten pounds!”) “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.” ’
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
The parable Jesus is telling us today does not make easy reading. There is not a comforting conclusion. There is the stark reality of judgement and punishment. The absentee ruler entrusted his servants with much, and he expected them to provide him with a healthy return on his investment. Two of his servants lived up to his expectations, but the third was a sorry disappointment. The third servant was fearful and over-cautious. Fearful of the consequences of getting it wrong. Over-cautious to the point of doing nothing at all, other than carrying on with the life he understood and was comfortable with. It was that third, fearful, over-cautious and self-satisfied servant who was to be punished for failing in his calling to serve his lord.
This moment in Luke’s gospel comes just before Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the final week of his earthly life. In the coming days Jesus’ life and teaching will become even more dramatic as he tries to show humanity the path it should be following through this world. In the coming days Jesus will be reminding the Jewish community exactly what they should have been doing down the centuries, from the time of their exile to his coming into the world as the promised and long-awaited Messiah. When seen in this context the darker nature of this parable becomes more understandable.
When the Jews were freed from their slavery in Egypt they began a long journey through the wilderness. During that time they were supported and challenged by God. Very often they got it wrong. Very often they pursued their worldly ways in direct opposition to the word of God. However, God led them through that time in the wilderness and brought them to the Promised Land. God gave the Jews (his Chosen People) guidelines by which to live and flourish in his name. From time to time God sent prophets to act as his messengers and to remind the Jews of their responsibilities in relation to the God who created them in his image, and gave them so much. But … as the centuries passed the Jews either forgot or distorted the word of God and created a society that bore little relationship to the way of life God wanted them to lead. And then came Jesus.
In a little performed but powerful play called Green Pastures we encounter the Lord looking anxiously out from heaven. He is pondering the sorry state of the human race. As the scene unfolds, Gabriel enters and asks the Lord what he plans to do. As the Lord continues to ponder his answer Gabriel offers some helpful suggestions: what about sending David or Moses back? Or, how about Isaiah or Jeremiah? Eventually the Lord replies: I am not going to send anyone! This time I am going myself!!
The divine Jesus came into this world. He came to bring restoration and healing; he came to bring a new way of living out a meaningful relationship with God. It is our responsibility to live up to the challenge of Jesus’ teaching. It is our responsibility to prepare ourselves for the time when Jesus will return in judgement. So … we need to be constantly considering the question that we will be asked at the end of days: How have you used your God-given talents? Have you used them to further God’s kingdom, or have you buried them away and carried on following the path of self-interest and self-indulgence?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray that the gifts of God may be rightly used.
Bless the Church with generosity and care for all. Give grace to your people so to use all that has been entrusted to them that they may bring new hope to many and show forth the glory of God.
Bring to a world where dealing is often hard and competitive the spirit of compassion, so that those who gain much may share more generously. Give wisdom to the rich to know that all wealth is the gift of God.
Help us to value more gratefully the gifts we have been given, to develop and to use them for the good of others. Guide with wisdom those who are responsible for the finances of this community.
Have mercy on the poor who have nothing they can develop to ease their burden, and guide them to ways where they may find relief. Raise up from despair those who know they have not fulfilled what they might have done, and open to them again the way they have lost.
We give thanks for those who have completed their task in this world and have entered into the joy of their Master. May they rest in the peace promised to his faithful servants.
We pray as the servants of Christ from whom all good things come.
Prayer for the week
God of righteousness, God of peace,
forgive the selfishness, greed and arrogance
that cause us to be at enmity one with another.
Help us and all people to live together
in Christian love and goodwill;
and teach the nations of the world
the things that belong to their peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Sing, my soul, when hope is sleeping,
sing when faith gives way to fears;
sing to melt the ice of sadness,
making way for joy through tears.
Sing, my soul, when light seems darkest,
sing when night refuses rest,
sing though death should mock the future:
what’s to come by God is blessed.
John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)