A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Prayers of the People: Risk Now, Saved Later ~ 24th Sunday after Pentecost '20 Yr A

For Sunday, November 15, 2020, Readings: Judges 4:1-7, Psalm 123, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30

    At that time, Deborah, a prophetess…was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel…and the Israelites came up to her for judgement. [Judges 4:1-7]

      To you I lift up my eyes…to the Lord our God…Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy… [Psalm 123:1a, 3b-4a]

       …the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…”There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction…but you…are not in darkness…for you are all children of the light…keep awake and be sober…put on the breastplate of faith and love and…the hope of salvation. [1 Thessalonians 5:1-11]

     Jesus said, “It is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them…to each according to his ability… [Matthew 25:14, 15b]

      This week’s Gospel is one that is not the most uplifting when it falls on what is generally known in the Episcopal Church as Stewardship Sunday. The prior weeks are given to various moments of personal and positive testimonies as to the value of pledging – I’ve participated in those and have even run two successful stewardship campaigns in two different parishes (don’t tell anyone on the Stewardship Committee, please!). But this is one of “those” pieces of Scripture that often drives long-term clergy around a small bend. 
      There are MANY interpretations and commentaries on this Gospel and even whether or not is a parable or an allegory. Is God the “man” or is it Jesus – after all, the “man” is going on a long journey and later returns to judge the success of those to whom he entrusted the money.
      It is an important point to remember that Jesus was speaking to the disciples AFTER Palm Sunday, during his last week of life. We have only one more Gospel in Matthew left in this cycle and it follows this one immediately. But we won’t finish to the obvious conclusion as that will come as we journey through Lent to Good Friday and Easter next year. Another point is that each worker was given the particular amount of money according to their ability as decided by the man. Now I’m sure that most of us feel terribly sorry for the poor scared schmuck who was thrown out on his ear. Yet the question remains, is this just a cruel and heartless Master – we know he cheats and steals from the phrasing of I knew you were a harsh man, reaping where you do not sow, gathering where you did not scatter seed – and how could this possibly represent our God, our Christ?
       What I have accepted is that this is a forewarning that we have each been given the gifts/talents that we need to fulfill our purpose in this earthly sojourn. Paul has laid it out clearly that the Lord will come like a thief in the night in the midst of seeming peace and security. If we remember the Gospel from last Sunday, the passage just before this one, about the Bridegroom arriving and the foolish and wise maidens [Matthew 25:1-13] then we will remember the similar warning to Keep awake…for you know neither the day or the hour. And this, too, now knowing we have the talents we need, starkly reminds us that we only have so much time to use it or lose it and we do not know how much. This isn’t the time to be shy about doing what you know you can do or what you can learn to do for your faithful mission of Christ in this life. Burying our gifts/talent behind a wall of false humility or just plain fear like our friend above won’t get us the ticket to enter the joy of your master.
      I offer this passage from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin about whom I cannot say enough. A French philosopher, noted paleontologist, geologist, and among other things a Jesuit Catholic priest – not, shall we say, always beloved of Rome. I hope it speaks to you as it does to me. It is from one of his books, The Divine Milieu. Not always easily read yet this piece brought this Gospel together for me (and it was written in 1965 so the masculine language is of its time):

God obviously has no need of the products of your busy activity since he could give himself everything without you. The only thing that concerns him, the only thing he desires intensely, is your faithful use of your freedom and the preference you accord him over the things around you. Try to grasp this: the things that are given to you on earth are given to you purely as an exercise, a blank sheet on which you make your own mind and heart. You are on a testing ground where God can judge whether you are capable of being translated to heaven and into his presence. You are on trial so it matters very little what becomes of the fruits of the earth, or what they are worth. The whole question is whether you have learned how to obey and how to love.

    This life is filled with risky investments of time, of relationships, of errors in judgement. Yet we must continue to endeavor to discover and recognize our gifts, our opportunities, and the path that draws us to salvation. We must risk now to be saved later.


The image I used above is probably the most famous quote from John Wesley who is credited with the founding of a method of preaching and worship in the Anglican Church in England, whose congregations are now known as Methodist.  But neither John nor his brother Charles ever left their Anglican roots.

I also commend to you a further look at the Prophetess Deborah - the only female Judge in the Bible - just an interesting serendipity to have her featured in this week when the first female and woman of color has been elected Vice President here in the USA. For an interesting piece on her click here: Deborah, Judge 

PS: PLEASE consider a pledge of any amount to your church or a non-profit cause. Even a small amount that you know you can make is useful for planning a budget and you can always give more. In these times of no or few in-person offerings, even as the daily expenditures of the building and staff continue, think seriously of what you can do and to help you decide re-read Wesley, above!


Leader:  ~ O Lord, our God, you have given us each our talents according to the abilities with which You created us. Grant us the courage to put on the breastplate of faith, love, and the hope of salvation, to encourage ourselves and one another to boldly risk the peace and security of what we have, to be Your faithful stewards for all of our allotted time.

                                                         Creator and Redeemer Lord
          RESPONSE:                        Grant us Your Mercy           

~ O Lord, our God, keep us from complacence as we continue to call to account those who govern now and those who soon will, in our Nation, in our Community, and in our World. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Creator and Redeemer Lord
                                                       Grant us Your Mercy

~ O Lord, our God, calm and heal the hearts of all who are seriously ill, in depression, or facing other uncertain life circumstance, and steady the course of those who give them care. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       Creator and Redeemer Lord
                                                       Grant us Your Mercy

~ O Lord, our God, fill our hearts with the peace of those who are now alive again, in the glorious and eternal light of Your Kingdom. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       Creator and Redeemer Lord
                                                       Grant us Your Mercy

~ O Lord, our God, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions

                                                      Creator and Redeemer Lord
                                                       Grant us Your Mercy

~ O Lord, our God, we give great thanks and prayerful gratitude for the faithful stewards of Your Church, who keep us on a spiritual track in daily life, and guide us in living the mission of Christ on earth. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Creator and Redeemer Lord
                                                       Grant us Your Mercy

The Celebrant adds:  O God Most High, through your Judge and Prophet Deborah, and the Apostles Paul and Matthew, we learn the dangers and the opportunities of investing all our mortal days in Your service. We lift up our eyes to You for the willingness, the strength, and the mercy, to reap enough of what we sow to enter into the joy of our master. We ask through Jesus, our Christ and our Master; the Holy Spirit, the Sacred Breath in our souls; who together with You, live and reign as One God, forever and forever. Amen.


All compositions remain the property of the owner of this blog but may be used with attribution and edited for local use as long as they are not sold or charged for in any way. For more information or comments, contact:

No comments:

Post a Comment