Recognize

Matthew 25: 1-30

Ah, another kingdom of ‘heaven is like’ parable this morning.  What a novel idea.  Plus, there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth again.  In the bridesmaid parable Jesus is pressing the same point he was last week and that is to do the work of faith practices so that when the kingdom of heaven come along side us, we’ll recognize it when it happens.  Today Jesus is giving another  description of kingdom of heaven and what happens when we can’t see the kingdom of heaven.  Like the bridesmaids who didn’t bring oil for their lamps, we leave ourselves in the outer darkness.

Why do we need to prepare today?  I mean, isn’t tomorrow or even next week good enough?  The truth is it probably is good enough.  Given the history of the last 2,000 years I suppose it’s probably unlikely that any of us will encounter the kingdom of heaven in the next few days.  But you just don’t know.  I’m not a sky is falling kind of person so I don’t want to give out the impression that you must be ready now otherwise you’re going to hell.  I don’t think that is the case.  But what is the downside of being ready to recognize the kingdom of heaven?

I don’t have a secret decoder ring that tells me how exactly we prepare to recognize the kingdom of heaven.  I don’t know of a secret handshake or any magic formula that tells us how to see the kingdom of heaven.  God doesn’t open up the top of our heads and drop in an explanation of all things.  But God has given us some pretty good clues to sorting out how to grasp some of the mystery of heaven.  Any number of places in the Bible tell us to pray.  We only know that when we actually read the Bible a bit so that’s also a thing.  Not to mention a little devotional reading can clarify, or perhaps expand our understanding, of what it is we are reading.  Jesus is very clear about being generous and not surprisingly coming to worship is highly recommended.  Plus, here at Spirit of Hope if you come to worship you get confession and communion thrown in at no extra charge.  It’s like Buy One, Get the addons for free! You wouldn’t skip that on new tires or new shoes, so why skip it with God?

Okay, coming back to the more serious ideas.  Then so what?  So what about all this?  We know full well that we are saved by __________ through our _________ so why bother with all the other stuff?  Well, aside from being ready to recognize the kingdom of heaven when it comes to us, living according to God’s will is a pretty good way to live.  It would be simply amazing if everyone lived that way.  By living according to God’s will I mean something simple like living as if the ten commandments mattered.  By that I mean not killing or talking smack about each other.  By that I mean honoring parents and taking some sabbath time each week.  By that I mean loving God not taking each other’s stuff.  Or wanting to.  Such a good start.  We could add onto the list but let’s keep it simple and straightforward. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Even if you were the only one doing it, living as if the ten commandments mattered is not a bad way to live.

Which carries us into the second part of the parable.  Or the second parable. I’m never certain which because they’re separate but related.  Anyways, the master of the property entrusts some talents, some money, to three of his slaves.  A couple of them did something with it and returned with more money for their master.  The third slave buried it because he was afraid of the wrath of his master if anything happened to it.  He was living in fear of the master and so did nothing.

What if I told you the parable wasn’t about money?  I know it has been used that way in some places.  See, look how some were blessed by their master and were able to give more back.  As in see how God has blessed you and you should give more back so that you can have more given and so on and so forth.  That’s called prosperity gospel and it’s focus is not on Christ.  It’s on, well, prosperity.

This, on the other hand, is about faith.  We are given the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit.  Now, we can do something with it, like the first two slaves.  Or not, apparently, if the actions of the third slave are any indication.  If we take our faith and we do something with it, our faith is multiplied.  If we step out in faith and so something to serve the kingdom of God, our faith is multiplied.  If we bury our faith, well then, nothing really changes.  It just sits there, and no one notices one way or the other.  Like anything else in our life, if our faith is not exercised in some fashion it will wither and die off.  On the other hand, we take an active role in our faith one critical thing happens.  We apprehend our faith a bit more so that we can more easily recognize those God moments in our life and what Jesus is specifically calling to our attention, the kingdom of heaven.

Why do I keep going on and on about that? What do I keep brining up the kingdom of heaven?  I’m not.  Jesus is.  Blame him.  I’m just passing on the message.  His message.  Like I said last week, in Semitic literature, repetition matters.  If you are getting the same kind of story over and over again, there’s a reason.  And in this case, Jesus wants us to be ready to recognize the kingdom of heaven.  And Matthew wants to shake us out of our complacency by getting us to think of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  So that when heaven is before us, we’re ready for it.

Our faith, do something with it or we leave ourselves in the dark.

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