Daily Archives: 15 November 2020

2 posts

Past, present and future……?

Preached by Alan Jenkins LLM on the evening of 15 November 2020: Second Sunday before Advent
1 Kings 1:15-40 / Revelation 1:14-18

Evensong scripture readings for this Sunday all resonate with our current global situation, and so, together, highlights some parallels with the particular times we are in just now. 

Our Old Testament reading (1 Kings 1:15-40) is set around the struggle for the succession to King David, with rival camps for Adonijah and Solomon making a play for the throne.  The matter was settled by the word of the old King David, and so Solomon reigned.  In the USA at the moment confrontations for presidential power have been raging, and the future may well be a revelation yet to be seen.

Our New Testament extract (Revelation 1:14-18) is very much concerned with a future, too, as John tries to describe a world beyond the present, in the context of the Jewish understanding that time was divided into two ages – the present which was beyond redemption, and the future, the age to come, God’s golden age of peace, prosperity and righteousness that would vindicate the people’s right to be known as the people of God. Our present times, if not beyond redemption, are certainly experiences that we want to displace by a better age, and we must hope that all that is going on at present to overcome the Covid virus will prevail, so that a vision of a new age can be seen and realised.

And then we have Psalm 98:19-29, which focuses on the past, on God’s covenant with David, a scene-setter as it were for unhappy present times, and an entreaty for better times to come.

So, taking tonight’s scripture as a whole we are compelled to consider time, ages, eras, in terms of past, present and future.  At this time of the year we pause to look back, with All Souls, All Saints, and Remembrance etc.  Important as it is to remember with thanks and gratitude the saints, redeemers and guardians who have gone before, it is also vital that we can have visions of a future that is worth striving for.

Tom Wright, theologian, professor and a former Bishop of Durham, has written a book entitled ‘God and the Pandemic’, and earlier Brenda Holden had kindly offered to lead a reading and discussion group which would have effectively looked at the obvious question ‘Why does God let things like this happen?’  Sadly, the Covid restrictions themselves have prevented the group from forming, but that should not detract any of us from reading the book.

Early on, Wright takes us back to the pagan world of Greece and Rome, when thinkers and observers basically came from one of three categories: Stoics, who believed that everything was pre-destined, and couldn’t be changed; the Epicureans who believed that everything is random, so you couldn’t do anything more than put up with it; and the Platonists, who looked on present life as a shadow of reality, to be replaced by the destiny of a different world.

Any of these classical approaches may produce excuses for doing nothing, an inertia that, however, may be awoken to feed an increasingly common reaction today to find someone to blame.  The consequences of the pandemic produce any number of issues that could potentially be laid at someone’s door, but merely to find a scapegoat now for something that had happened in the past, cannot usefully contribute to providing solutions for the future.

Historians record the past, prophets look at the present, and visionaries see the future, and so, in the context of the pandemic, Tom Wright examines where we go from here.  He acknowledges that there is a place for lament, not just feeling sorry for ourselves, but understanding the nature of grief for what has happened, as part of love.  This is part of living through the present, which as Christians we should do in the context of talking about God in an increasingly secular society, trying to understand how Jesus acknowledges opposing views and attitudes.

And the crunch question for Tom Wright, and all of us, is ‘How do we recover?’  He looks at different imperatives, and considers possible initiatives and outcomes. Some are ‘no-brainers’ some are inevitable, and some will only succeed if everyone has a common sense of determination to make them work. 

We could sum up our response to that question in one word – ‘faith’ or perhaps ‘hope’, but either way faith anchors hope for us in the context of Christian teaching.  So, all that we learn, all that we believe, all that we can share with each other, should be used to uphold the fundamental desire to prevail as equal citizens of this world and God’s Kingdom, in homage to him, and with integrity as stewards of his gifts of creation to us.

A duty, a responsibility, of course, but understand that it is essential that we all make a positive response, however we can, to declare that God is with us, and has faith in us. So he is asking us, as Christ’s disciples, to respond faithfully, hopefully, confident in the future that John’s Revelation puts before us.

The Parable of the Talents

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 15 November 2020:  Second Sunday before Advent
Matthew 25:14-30 / 1Thessalonians 5;1-11

May I speak in the name of God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit calls us to build up and encourage each other, for Jesus sake: Amen

Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour and the majesty; everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.

What beautiful words – praise to God – a doxology of wonder, worship and thanksgiving – a promise to give in return for what we have received and in gratitude for blessings yet to come:

All things come from you, O Lord, and of your own do we give you.

Everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him. We are responsible for using the resources and talents He so generously gives – never for personal power or our own acclaim but to give Him glory – and always following His command to love our neighbour as ourselves. Accountable for our actions, with free will to activate or leave dormant our individual gifts and talents, we are called to invest [to the best of our ability] our God given time and energy, talents, skills, finances and resources in ways that will further His kingdom until He returns.

Of equal worth in God’s sight, it is essential to respect that He endows us with different gifts so that together we might form the whole body of Christ. Accountability, equal worth, respect, endowment: are all necessary for trust and love to grow and to be fulfilled within any meaningful relationship. Couples in love desire to commit to each other and make life-long vows – All that I have I give to you, and all that I have I share with you. How true this is for all who seek a true relationship with Jesus.

So, what has all this to do with the Parable of Talents?

It is about our relationship with Jesus – the expectations that arise from His love for us – and how in love and respect for Him we must always be ready to account for the way we use the gifts He provides.

Both of today’s readings can help us to be diligent in the way we invest our God given talents as we prepare for Jesus’ promised return: Paul calls us to stay awake and encourage each other to keep the faith – and in so doing help to build God’s kingdom until He comes. The master expected his deposit to generate interest – we can increase the investment God has made in us by sharing the gospel message and by the way we live our lives.

Today’s parable is not about earning salvation – rather it is about judgement. The unfaithful servant buried his talent in a way that prevented himself [or anyone else] experiencing its value. He was judged lazy and worthless because he had wasted the opportunity to use his gift to profit God’s work and mission

Called to be faithful in waiting – and in that waiting to be active for Jesus’ sake – are we prepared for God’s question: What did you do with the talent, the gift, I gave to you?

Let us pray, by the grace of the Holy Spirit we might each be able to reply: Lord, I did not bury Your gift – to the best of my ability I have, through faith, strived to use all You have provided to follow Your call to live my life in service to others: encouraging them to be strong in hope and love, that Your kingdom may come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

For yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour and the majesty; for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you. Amen.