Reign of God
26th Sunday after Pentecost—November 16, 2005
- Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
- Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12
- 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
- Matthew 25:14-30
Please close your eyes for a moment
Think what the Reign of God would be like.
What do you see?
Well, you can open your eyes now. I wish we had time to share all that we all saw, but at least I will tell you what I saw:
All peoples praising their Creator for their gifts of Creation and Life.
A world of peace and justice for everyone, certainly with no room for the ruthless exploiter from our text today!
I met Manolito—a young man who looked old for his age. He works very hard at odd and multiple minimum wage jobs, and barely makes enough money to support his wife and baby here and his extended family back in his country of origin. He, told me that he did not want to have anything to do with a God who gives more to those who have (“for those who have, more will be given”) and, in his words, “screws” those who have almost nothing.
Needless to say, Manolito and I had an opportunity right then and there to talk a bit about today’s text, and even about some literary terms…
He was happy to hear that the ruthless exploiter of Matthew’s text “who reaped where he did not sow and gathered where he did not scatter,” and who sends to eternal fire and damnation anyone who is not a capitalist, is not God, and does not represent God— because this is just a parable to make a point, and not an allegory where each character in the allegory represents a person in the real world.
But this misunderstood parable certainly makes a point, and it is NOT that GOD takes the little that the poor have but that GOD gives us gifts to use—and that in the REIGN of GOD everyone will use their gifts.
You see, this parable is not about taking away, but about giving… God giving us our gifts to be used in God’s world.
Now… when we closed our eyes most of us probably visualized a Reign of God that is, in general, a little different to the world we have now (and I say “in general” because once in a while, here and there, in our best moments, around the communion table, for example, we do have a glimpse of the Reign of God), but generally, our newspapers report other aspects of our world. I think, that our world requires a lot of change to be anything like what we visualize as the Reign of God.
And this parable reminds us that our gifts are given to us to bridge that gap from what is, to what is meant to be—to change the world!—to change the world toward peace, justice, love. Most of us are not going to be:
- Martin Luther King Jr.’s
- Cesar Chavez’es
- Dietrich Boenhoeffer’s
(although some of us probably have the gifts required), but most of us most probably could be like Rosa Parks who just got tired—physically and emotionally tired—to put up any longer with an unjust system and she quietly just sat there, but it took some kind of gift of fortitude and determination for her not to take the world as it was. (In this case, she sparked the flames of change that were about to flare and much has accomplished although there is much more change to be done still.)
What are OUR gifts?
What are the gifts that God has given us to multiply them for God’s world?
Are we using them to their full extent? Are we multiplying them?
Where are our gifts?
Are they buried?
Rosa Parks in a moment of extreme tiredness found her gift. She unburied it from where it had been buried (we must remember that she had, before the famous moment, sat down in the back of the bus for years and years, and had given up her seat and had stood on tired feet countless of times when there was no room for her to sit even in the back of the bus).
At what moment?
What will it take to unbury our gifts?
That is, if we have some buried—don’t we?
Why did God give us our gifts, our passions, our outrage, our tiredness?
This is a community full of gifts. Many are being used, especially at this intense seminary time, many intended to be used. And that is good. One of the gifts given to us Christians, church leaders, is the privilege to remind others of their gifts for God’s Reign. And to remind others of the supreme gift of God for us: Jesus and our forgiveness when we do not use all our gifts to their full extent; when we fall short.
You see God is not the ruthless master who has only eternal outer darkness and teeth gnashing for wicked and lazy people who do not multiply their gifts (we will all be there with the guy from our text and everybody else!)
God, unlike the master in the text, has already forgiven us in Jesus Christ and invites us to visualize the Reign of God, utilizing and multiplying all the gifts given to us by God.
And Manolito? Well, he recognized his gift of inquisitiveness, as a God-given gift, and he’s now participating in justice-seeking work with his community of faith.
MAY GOD HELP US, AND GUIDE US,
IN THE USE OF WHAT GOD GIVES US.