Faithfulness While Waiting

by | Nov 19, 2023 | Sermons

Faithfulness While Waiting

 

Scripture: Matthew 25: 14-30

What does faithfulness look like in a period of waiting?

I’ll confess that while I was faithfully waiting for a clear direction on where to go with the sermon, I noticed that my computer had a new icon called CoPilot, it’s an AI powered search bar. Out of curiosity I asked the AI to write a sermon on this passage..

Hello, everyone. Today I want to talk to you about a parable that Jesus told in the Gospel of Matthew. It is the parable of the talents. You can find it in Matthew 25:14-30.

The parable tells us about a master who was leaving his house to travel, and before leaving, he entrusted his property to his servants. He gave each servant a different amount of money, according to their abilities. One servant received five talents, another two, and another one. A talent was a large sum of money, worth about 20 years of wages for a laborer (the text above in italics was generated by an AI).

That’s about as generic as it gets, and the rest of the sermon didn’t get much better, summarizing the passage and then giving three generic points for you to go home and digest. Those opening sentences may have been the best part and that’s saying a lot.

This is a highly abused text in the New Testament. It gets used a lot and sometimes is used inappropriately. I grew up with this being a stewardship text, of how we should use our money, time, and talent. It works for that type of sermon, but we should be careful. If you’ve heard of the prosperity gospel, they like this passage. However, this passage does not justify a gospel of economic prosperity.

What we should notice immediately is the connection this passage has to the one that proceeds it. Jesus uses similar language to introduce these two passages. For it is as if… Last week we read, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like…” Jesus is trying to paint a picture for us. Not exactly this, but close, something like it.

I’m struck by the fact that in both passages there is a period of waiting and the need to determine how to use your time while you wait. The question then becomes, what does faithfulness look like in a period of waiting?

I discovered this poem by John Burroughs this week, entitled Waiting. This is the first stanza.

Serene, I fold my hands and wait,

Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;

I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,

For lo! my own shall come to me. – John Burroughs Waiting

I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate. There is a sense of contentment here, a sense of trust, that in the act of waiting I can be patient, I can be faithful, I can trust.

Like the parable last week with the 10 bridesmaids, this parable is about the kingdom of God. It attempts to portray the kingdom in different language. Matthew is using this parable Jesus told the disciples to help us understand something about the kingdom of God.

We can derive the usual discourse out of this passage, that we should use our time and our money wisely. That’s what the AI sermon said we should do. However, I think that puts the sermon on easy mode. It doesn’t require much from us. We might think well I attend church and I give my offering every week, I think I understand this passage perfectly well.

Let’s be clear, there are some passages of scripture that should make us feel comfortable. However, much of the teaching of Jesus should make us squirm. If we are reading this passage and we think we’ve nailed it, well dare I say our version has probably missed the mark. Rather like the baked goods displayed on that show.

Instead of thinking about how much money we’ve given or how we’ve used our time I think we are better served asking a different question.

What does faithfulness look like in a period of waiting?

Think about our passage form Thessalonians. Now, as I mentioned last week this is the earliest writings in the New Testament that we have. It outlines what the concerns are in this Christian community located outside of Palestine. The passage opens, “Now concerning the times and the seasons…” Very reminiscent of what we find in the Old Testament in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven…”

What does faithfulness look like in a period of waiting?

Waiting is hard. Whether it’s the doctor’s office, the phone to ring for that phone call, or the tides to change. Waiting is hard.

It appears that the third servant struggled with waiting. They struggled with what might happen if they didn’t get it right while they waited. The parable seems harsh, the third servant is sent into the outer darkness, where there is the gnashing of teeth. A cold and unforgiving place. We struggle to reconcile this image with God. But we shouldn’t compare the king to God, that isn’t the point of the parable.

Remember this parable is told in partnership with the one before it. The central theme is the period of waiting for the return. The return of the master is certain, what we don’t know is when. What we don’t know is what will we do with the time we’ve been given.

Waiting is difficult. Waiting can be challenging and so Matthew shares this parable of Jesus with his community because it was told by Jesus to remind the disciples that their faith will be tested. A reminder that we are to be faithful to God. God doesn’t ask us to bury the abilities we have. Instead, we are encouraged through Christ to work for the cause of the kingdom. If we consider all of Matthew’s gospel we are reminded that Jesus announces the arrival of the kingdom by feeding the hungry, curing the sick, blessing the meek, and serving those who we might count as the least.

What does faithfulness look like in a period of waiting?

It looks as Christ has described it throughout the gospels. To not become idle, not become distracted, not become complacent.

Faithfulness in a period of waiting, is to be faithful.

Faithful to the call of Christ.

What does faithfulness look like in a period of waiting?

Perhaps it appears as Paul describes it in Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

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