Sunday, November 16, 2008

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

Here is the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, Utah on Sunday, November 16, 2008 for the 27th SUNDAY after PENTECOST. The audio file is in MP3 format and begins with the final verse of the Hymn of the Day, "The Day Is Surely Drawing Near." The sermon begins at the :45 mark.

For both barrells and all the blanks filled in, you can hear this sermon as preached from the pulpit at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, UT click on the MP3 link:

For both barrells and all the blanks filled in, you can hear this sermon as preached from the pulpit at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, UT click on the MP3 link:
Pent27.Well Done Good and Faithful Servant.mp3

Have a most blessed week in the Lord as His redeemed.

TEXT: "For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matt 25:14-30

"Well done, good and faithful servant[s];you have been faithful . . . "

What sweet music to the ears. Everybody loves a compliment.

These are God’s words, this is God’s Word to you today. It is God’s Word first to His Son who is THE Good and Faithful Servant. And now, you as the body of Christ now hear them addressed to you as well.

But as sweet sounding as they are now, imagine how much more so they will be on the Last Day. When all those countless souls on the left hand will fall before the Lord in dead fear and begin weeping and gnashing their teeth, you will be among those to whom the Lord Jesus Christ in all His splendor judges you, speaking those sweet, musical words, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful."

And Jesus is not going to say this as a reward based upon how much work you did as a member of a church board, guild, recognized service organization, or missionary league. The Son of God is not going to be issuing this judgment based upon how much time you put in to maintaining the property or even how much you have put in the offering plate, either.

He is going to say "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful" because you have heard His Word and kept it and treasured it as the bread of life and heavenly gift that it is. He is going to say "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful" to fulfill the promise He spoke 2000 years ago:
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matt 6:33, NKJ)

You see, this parable of the talents isn’t about the stewardship of your time, talents, and treasures. They’re not yours anyway, are they?

This parable is not even primarily about the stewardship of God’s earthly gifts to you rightly understood as the time, talents, and treasures that He has given you in such abundance.

Oh, sure, one can make that application and there is some good and right use that comes from it.
But please understand, above, and beyond, and underlying everything else, this parable is about the stewardship of God’s grace. It is about the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus Himself makes clear in nitroducing the parable:
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them."

And since we are sinners in a fallen world that cannot participate in the kingdom of heaven by works or even by sight, that necessarily means this parable is about faith – faith in the goods, that is to say the grace, God the Father has delivered to you in Christ and the Holy Spirit continues to deliver to you in and through the holy Christian Church. In other words, this parable is about nothing more nor less than the forgiveness of sins.

What this means is that the parable is about your stewardship of the means of grace, that is the forgiveness of sins, both in your life together with the congregation of saints to which you belong and in your everyday life as you interact with your neighbor in and around the home, and at work, school, or play.

This is why we pray together every Sunday, and urge every Christian to pray when they rise in the morning, when they sit at mealtimes, and when they lay their heads to sleep:
The Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer:
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.

So given that the kingdom of heaven is about the reign of God in souls of faith, there are two, really three, things to consider based upon this parable:

1. Is the church you attend, and the pastor you have called, faithful to deliver God’s goods of forgiveness of sins?

2. Are you faithful in receiving the goods of forgiveness of sins God delivers on a regular basis?

3. Are you faithful in delivering to the people with whom you interact everyday the goods of forgiveness of sins God has delivered first to you?

And since Jesus is using this parable to reveal the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, it has implications for the whole Christian Church on earth and its individual congregations like Trinity, Layton as well. For what is the Church if not the kingdom of heaven opening its doors, the King and Lord of heaven Himself opening His arms to shower the reign of His grace upon His people by gathering them together for the proclamation and hearing of the Word of forgiveness?

Speaking to His beloved apostle, John, the Alpha and Omega, the Word of God made flesh, Jesus the Christ instructs him to write these words to the church in Ephesus as a warning and exhortation to all Christian congregations:
"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place__ unless you repent. . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." (Rev 2:4-5, 7 NKJ)

It is rather funny, in an ironic sort of way, and coincidental, if there is such a thing as coincidence in the kingdom of heaven, that this parable of our Lord recorded in the Gospel of Matthew pops up in the church calendar at the same time that many, if not most, congregations are meeting to draft and adopt their budgets for the next earthly calendar year. It is also in some respects unfortunate, because in our angst over the use of our money, and sometimes in our anger over its misuse or abuse, we lose our focus on the one thing needful – that is Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins He has bequeathed to us.

But as with all things that men mess up and bungle because of their own sinful desires and thinking, God means and works it for good.

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them."

Today that kingdom is here, in Christ’s church. And on the Last Day you, and all who dwelled in the faithfulness and security of the Lord in His church on earth are sure to hear the sweet music of your Savior’s voice:
"Well done, good and faithful servant[s];you have been faithful . . . " For you have received the goods of God and have lived in the forgiveness of sins--
... in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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