Who lit the
fire?

“In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

There are many jobs that require a moment’s notice to be ready. Included are emergency workers, utility crewmen, soldiers and sailors. Today, Jesus speaks of the end of the world. Telling what it will be like, He reminds us that we too have to be ready at a moment’s notice. We will talk today about what we should be ready for and what we should do to prepare.

Our preparation must be centered on belief in Jesus. More easily said than done! It is very difficult for the people to believe in Jesus, not just today, but even when He walked among us. The world questioned and still questions His abilities, background, and leadership. True belief lived begets dedication, proclamation, and a deepening of relationship. We must check in to make sure our belief is doing that in our lives.

If we know Jesus, if we are growing in relationship with Him, we should consider ourselves specially blessed – and be thankful. Jesus promised that He would raise those who do believe in Him on “the last day.” What a great gift, an everlasting gift, a gift for everyone no matter who we are – as long as we believe in the Name of Jesus; no matter where or when, a gift just for us.

What we should be ready for are those things Jesus laid out for us. There is and will be tribulation. There are choices to be made, and we want to be in the group of his elect.

If you have looked into the history of our Church, you would note, as some do with a bit of humor, that our organizer, Bishop Hodur, ‘extinguished the fires of Hell.’ Well not exactly (some took it that way). What he did rather was work to remove fear of Hell fire as the motivator for preparation. We must not have fear as our motivator. Our motivator must be to grow in belief through more intimate knowledge of the grace and glory of God – to know Him, to experience the Holy Spirit, so to desire preparation for what is to come: Us on fire with belief, ready for that moment’s notice, and thankful to be so.

Investing
rightly.

“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”

In case anyone might have missed it, the past two weeks have focused on getting ready and being prepared. Prepared for what? It is about preparing for wise investing, that is that carrying out of the obligations God has entrusted to us.

Given the time of year and the immanent celebration of Thanksgiving, we might take Jesus teaching on talents as a time to discuss investing in our church. We could turn this day into a discussion of money stewardship and emphasize generosity. While Jesus’ parable deals with stewardship, it is about a different kind of investing.

For the past few weeks we have heard Jesus talk about the end times. Jesus has been encouraging us to prepare for his Second Coming. Today, we do not hear a ‘Let’s get ready for Jesus’ coming parable, but are asked to look back – what have we accomplished after we had prepared.

St. Matthew’s is writing in the late first century when the church was struggling with Jesus’ delayed return. This retelling of Jesus’ parable reminded his people and us that we have been entrusted with great treasure, we have been prepared, and that we will now be held accountable for how we have invested.

In this parable, the man going on a journey represents Jesus. His going on a journey represents His ascension. The servants represent Christians who are awaiting Jesus’ Second Coming. The talents represent the blessings God has bestowed on us. The man’s return represents Jesus’ Second Coming. The master’s assessment of the faithfulness – the investment of the servants – represents Jesus’ assessment of us at the end of time.

Jesus has entrusted His property to us – His word and the building of His kingdom. He has treated us as individuals, allocating resources in accord with each of our abilities. He neither insults the most able servant among us with trivial responsibilities nor overwhelms the least able servant in the community with impossible tasks.

The parable indeed celebrates active, forward-leaning, risk-taking, involved-in-the-world, where-the-rubber-hits-the-road investment of our preparation.

The master does return, and will settle accounts with us. This will be the time for accountability. Jesus will ask us to show what we have done for Him, for the kingdom. If we have taken our church time, our prayer time, our scripture time, and our fellowship, all in preparation, and have invested it wisely, if we have taken risks, sweated the details, and have remained while others have hidden, we will be rewarded greatly.

As in the parable, the Lord rewards the servants who have invested in four ways: He gives each investing servant equal treatment even though each servant returns different amounts; He will pronounce us as ‘good and faithful.’ Nothing feels better than words of praise given by God; He will give us increased responsibility—a promotion; and He will say, “Enter into My joy.” This is what the faithful Christian can expect to hear when Christ comes again.

As John Shedd observed, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” So, we must not live in fear, prepare and bury what we have learned. We must invest rightly and build for His return.

Prepare, expect and
live it out.

And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.”

In an Ameritrades commercial a lazy husband is on the coach as his wife tells him to do one thing that day – establish an online investment account. He says, “Sure.” Then goes back to watching television. Finally he falls asleep only to wake up as his wife is pulling into the driveway. He jumps to his feet, rushes to the computer and opens an account in seconds. He jumps back on the coach as his wife walks in and asks: ‘Did you set up the account?’ His reply, ‘Of Course.’

It may be possible to wait till the last possible moment to establish an Ameritrades account, but there are some things that are far too important to take a chance on. It is like our athletes in Rio. To be ready to compete they had to train – years of training and lesser competitions just for this moment. They took no chances. So too for our relationship to God, we cannot wait and just take a chance on being ready. We must prepare ourselves and be ready for the moment – whether it be His calling us home or His glorious return. Would the loss of heaven be worth the risk of ignoring preparation?

Jesus spoke often of his return. There are over 260 chapters in the New Testament, and Christ return is mentioned at least 318 times.

In today’s gospel we find the first extended teaching on the Second Coming of Jesus and here He warns us to be ready. To prepare! Today we hear about three distinct characteristics of a “good waiter.” For us, waiting must not be a static state but a time of preparation, expectation, and faithfulness.

The first characteristic of a “good waiter” is preparation. As our athletes prepare not just their bodies but their equipment as well, we are reminded to “be dressed and ready.” Jesus’ servants are those who do not give in to the fatigue or frustration of waiting. Rather we are to keep ourselves joyfully ready no matter how long it takes.

The second characteristic of a “good waiter” is expectancy. No matter the time, Jesus’ servants have not given up on His return; have not said that it is so long that He’ll never come. The time of the Lord’s return is not our major concern. What is important is that we remain alert, expectant, and that we do not grow lazy in living our witness.

The third characteristic of a “good waiter” is faithfulness. The faithful one who stood ready is rewarded. The one who is not faithful is fearfully punished – that is Jesus promise. Too often we lose sight of that, as if heaven is a given no matter what. As with our athletes, the unprepared, the unfaithful, the one that doesn’t walk the walk will be really disappointed. Today is the day of salvation. It is the day for us to start living by preparing (prayer, worship, Scripture), expecting, and faithfully walking with Jesus.