St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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/ Weekly Message / Weekly Message 09-27-09: Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Weekly Message 09-27-09: Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Everyone coming into the world literally is born alone, naked, weak, sometimes limited and helpless. All that he has need of for life's journey is received from and provided by the generous hands of our Creator God. For an allotted period of time, he then becomes naked again, weak and helpless as he returns to the source of his being, to the God who made him, and then, of course, to become the dust of the earth out of which he is made. This is the cycle of life established at the beginning of time and repeats itself in each person's life everyday. We witness it in the setting of the daily sun; we notice it in the seasons of the year and we are exposed to it in those with whom we live and share the surface of the earth.

Everyone breathing is equally caught up in this cycle of ordered life; however none are equal in the way they appropriate and use and live the gifts our Creator imparts to us. Some make mighty use of the talents or grace, or blessings that have their source in heaven itself. Others ignore them and never achieve their potential at all. Reality teaches us, however, particularly from this gospel narrative, that each of us must stand accountable before the exalted Giver of gifts and render an account of our stewardship, render an account of the way we used, or abused and misused the gifts which were unique to each of us. It is on the basis of this accounting that the Lord will judge and reward us. What our Lord is saying rather plainly is that no one should count himself defeated in the drama of life because all that he really needs to flourish and succeed is God-given. What we need to do is identify God's myriad gifts and exploit them for our benefit and the salvation of our soul. We can advance in life or we can make victims of ourselves and become literal failures. A vibrant and active faith in God leads us to a healthy success.

To make these truths understandable, our Lord teaches today this parable about a wealthy man who travels to a far off country. Prior to his departure he distributes the care of his riches and wealth to several servants. To one he offers rive talents, to another two and to still another, he presents one. Each person received an amount in direct proportion to his giftedness, his ability and heavenly insight. It is God's just judgment which decides what is best for each of us and how to apportion heaven's grace to each individual in a fair way.

We see from the narrative the servant who received the greatest generosity went to work ambitiously and literally put the monetary sum to work, doubling the amount in the end. The man who received but two talents likewise doubled the original gift. Both were equal to the challenge. Both apparently prayed, labored and invested what God initially gave them and became enriched because of it. But the unfortunate person who received but one coin was so detoured in life and overwhelmed with the expectation of the master that he felt most secure in placing in the ground and hiding the minute treasure entrusted to his care. And of course, after a long period away, the wealthy man returns from the seemingly unabated journey and demands an accounting of these men to whom he entrusted his riches and placed his confidence.

The obvious lesson we learn is that our earthly treasure, our temporal riches are given us to be used for God's glory. How many times have we seen in Scripture that we cannot abuse our funds for nonsense. We cannot waste the riches God has given us. We cannot be of the sick mentality that insists it is our hard earned money and we can do with it what we wish. The believer is convinced it is God's treasure shared with us, entrusted to us. It is the wealth from heaven given us to be used in glorification of our Creator. It is money that cannot be disrespected or thrown about, or used sinfully.

So the believer uses the blessing of God as a blessing and not a curse since he follows the minute and plain directive of the Master. The first servant returns ten talents to his master. What does he hear? "Well done good and faithful servant," the congratulatory language says, "you have been faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things, enter into the joy of your Lord." This man knew the truth of what St. Paul says in today's epistle reading, "I entreat you not to receive the grace of God in vain ... In an acceptable time I have heard you and in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation" 2 Corinthians 6: 1 - 4.

Finally the unfortunate man who received but one talent which matched his giftedness and ability perfectly, but missed the entire meaning of his blessedness, and entirely missed the truthful point of what we are is God's gift to us and what we make of ourselves is our gift to God! The words of God are more devastating than they even sound, "You wicked and lazy servant; you know I reap where I do not sow and harvest where I do not plant. You could have at least opened a blank account and earned even a minimum amount of interest. The talent you received is taken away from you and it is given to those who know what to do with it. To everyone who has, more shall be given and you who seemed to have little will be deprived even of that. Get out of my sight, unprofitable servant, literally parasite, and be cast into the darkness outside. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

What are we hearing today? How are we listening? What is the message we make our own? The wealth of heaven is not measured in earthly value alone. We have the grace of heaven in our baptism and Eucharistic riches in the Body and Blood of the Saviour on which we are nourished along with the Word of God each Sunday and holy day. Are we picking and choosing which is important or are we who have been judged worthy of three talents utilizing only one each time because life's other more important aspects have relevance for us? What about earthly treasure for God's glory or our own? Is the first ten percent of what we make turned over to God? What about our physical health, the use of our hands, the gift of our minds? And finally, where are the varied talents, insights, gifts we possess. Are they being manifested? What do they enhance? Is it us or our God? If our God is not being enlarged and enhanced and emphasized in our lives, He is being diminished and negated.

Our task as followers of the Saviour make us recognize we each have different, complementary gifts which contribute to our salvation and the perfection we are to see plainly in the Body of Christ, our Church. Look what happened to the third servant in the parable. He did not kill anyone; he did not steal, but his sin made him totally unusable for any good. He could not even think to make him usable for God's glory. He was his own worst enemy. He liked to sit back and watch others do all the praying, all the worshipping, all the work so he could possibly steal some of the credit. He wanted to sit back, but found too later his place was in the front line of battle.

Whatever our abilities, our blessings, our talents may be, let us consecrate them to the use of the Lord for his glory. Then one day we will also hear from the blessed lips of our God: "Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over small things; Come I will make you maser of greater things; enter into the joy of your Lord."

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