On Sunday, the gospel reading was taken from Matthew 25:31-40, where Jesus told the parable of the rich man who gave his servants a sum of money. To one he gave five thousand; to another he gave two thousand and to the last he one thousand. The first and second servant doubled the money by investing wisely but the third in his fear went and hid his money. Upon the rich man’s return, his joy with the first two servants was downturned by his disappointment with the third servant.
While the obvious message from the text would be to focus on the slothfulness of the third servant, I was moved by the number of talents each servant received. Five represents grace; two represents witness and ministry; and one represents unity. Stretching and challenging the meaning of the text, I began to see a bit more taking place which challenges our stewardship in the kingdom.
According to I Corinthians 12, each one of us represent various parts of the body. These parts work together to strengthen the entire body. Coupling that understanding with the parable, I see the gifts of grace, witness/ministry and unity as necessities of the ministry. As we have been given, we need to sow and invest in the world. Burying what we have been given, deprives the body of what is needed and affects the advancement of the Kingdom.
May we be faithful with the investment God has made in us.
As a Pastor, I have to be very careful that I am not preaching to others and omitting to follow my own words. However, being human, I am prone to make mistakes. The unfortunate reality of life is that pastors are expected to live above reproach; and sometimes, even a quick apology is not enough to remove the blemish. Hence, I am that much more challenged to live what I preach. On the other hand, I am also challenged to be compassionate about the faith walk or lack thereof of others.
One of my recent sermons was a challenge to the hearers to flip the script. We have been exploring our understanding of what it means to be a member to the Kingdom of God. Kingdom citizens are not conformed to this world but are transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:1-2). Gaging a reaction or overreaction can help to diffuse difficult situations before they start. As I explained, “we never know what the others might be going through.” Beautiful sermon. The challenge now is to live it.
Well the test of the strength of my conviction came recently when I entered a store as it was opening. I entered the establishment first and said, “Good morning.” No response. I did a mental inventory of my approach to explore possible reason for the silence, but could see none. Another customer behind me said good morning in very much the same manner and was greeted with a beautiful smile and good morning. Interesting.
I heard my thoughts. Her gift to me that morning should have been a sunny disposition. She should have met ME at the point of my need. She should have known better…but she didn’t. My sense of entitlement did not change what was happening.
As I walked away, I considered my sermon. I explored possible reasons why the salesperson did not respond to me and none of them was in her favor. It was then that I thought about something I have often told my son: keep doing what you know is right, even if the other person does not respond favorably. Simply put, while good customer service etiquette should have caused her to greet, at the end of the day, she made a choice to the contrary. That was her prerogative.
I walked away praying for both of us that day: the sales person, that she might sensitive to the needs of all customers; that if she was going through something, it would not make her bitter but better; that she would be a little more alert; and for me that I might not be too hasty to jump to conclusions; that I might consider other ways to share the love of Christ; that situations like this will not make me bitter but better.
It has been said that many of us with the necessary gifts to advance the Kingdom of God are sitting on the pew. We are awaiting an invitation. We have even claimed that if we were asked we would participate. But is this a biblical response to stewardship?
We are all given gifts by the Lord for the building up of the Kingdom. These gifts are not ours but rather entrusted to us to further God’s Kingdom. Therefore, we are only stewards of them and not actual owners. As it states in I Corinthians 12:7 (NLT), the gifts we were given are for the benefit of all. Holding our gifts for ransom is not the action of a Kingdom minded citizen.
Jesus’ presence on the earth was not only to bring salvation, but to usher in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is God’s way of doing things. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us that if anyone be in Christ, he/she is a new creature. Old things are passed away and all things become new. This newness means that we are passed from the old mindset of the world into a new mindset of the Kingdom. Further development of this mindset is brought about by the renewing of our minds so that we can prove what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God for our lives (Romans 12:2 NLT).
So as we sit awaiting others to ask us to use our gifts, let us ask ourselves if we are being good stewards of what has been entrusted to us? If a place has not been made for us, have we responded like the prophet Isaiah and said, here I am send me (Isaiah 6:8)?
May we be good and faithful servants to the gifts that have been entrusted to us.
Many who were aware of his comedic genius were shocked to learn recently of the death of Robin Williams. How could the man who made so many laugh and forget about troubles be so depressed that he could not forget about his own? It was so sad that the only way he saw fit to deal with all that he was going through was to end his life.
Often times we do not understand how powerful depression is. It is no respecter of persons. Many have claimed to be depressed when in actuality they are just feeling the blues. Depression can be so debilitating at times that the sufferer just can’t seem to do anything about it. It is as if there is an oppressive spirit that refuses to let up. This can sometimes lead to the sufferer hurting themselves or dying. So, what can be done to help?
- pray that God’s Spirit will help us to be sensitive to the needs of those around us. Sometimes smiles are masks being used to cover the pain. Being aware of the struggles of another might bring about a necessary connection that can be the catalyst help and change.
- reach out to agencies that might be able to intervene or help us with intervention strategies. Or we can research help guides such as this (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_tips.htm) to guide us in the right direction.
- find ways to assure the one who is suffering that we are there for them. Encourage them to take their medicines.
- pray, pray, pray. Come against the oppressive spirit; pray for strength for the individual; pray for God’s peace and joy to penetrate the gloominess of the spirit.
This list is just a suggestion and is not intended to stand in the place of what is suggested by a doctor or professional. However, it can provide a way forward.
If you know of someone suffering encourage them to seek professional help. Feel free to apply the strategies above. Seek wisdom. Having done all, stand.
Sometimes we go through seasons where we make changes. Some of these changes move us forward while some are not as effective as we might think. In this ever-changing world, we find ourselves wondering if some the things we do are really necessary. One such consideration is whether or not attending church is needed or relevant. Many of us have felt that staying at home and worshiping God in ‘our own way’ is quite fine for us. Others of us have wondered whether God is even real.
While arguments may be presented to substantiate any opinion held, there is one strong consideration to acknowledge: given all that is going on in the world, there must be greater supernatural forces that are affecting our world, whether for good or for bad. With all the calamities and catastrophes there is still something or someone out there that is giving hope and strength to endure while another is causing despair and hopelessness.
If you are in the midst of a struggle or being challenged by a struggle, then join us at the following worship service.