Sunday 15th November

24th  Sunday after Pentecost

In Sally's absence, the weekly reflection will look a little different.  There will be hymns and readings, but the actual reflection will focus only on the gospel reading.  In place of some of the prayers, there will be a few thoughts to help us toward our own meditation and prayer – very much focussed on praying about Sally and all her family.

Call to worship

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,

In the City of our God, in the mountain of His holiness.

Hymn CH 4 130

1.  Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,
 and publish abroad his wonderful name;
 the name all-victorious of Jesus extol;
 his kingdom is glorious, and rules over all.

 2.  God ruleth on high, almighty to save;
 and still he is nigh, his presence we have;
 the great congregation his triumph shall sing,
 ascribing salvation to Jesus our king.

 3. ‘Salvation to God who sits on the throne!
 let all cry aloud, and honour the Son:
 the praises of Jesus the angels proclaim,
 fall down on their faces, and worship the Lamb.

 4.  Then let us adore, and give him his right:
 all glory and power, all wisdom and might,
 all honour and blessing, with angels above,
and thanks never-ceasing, and infinite love.

Opening prayer:

We come to you this morning, conscious of your all embracing love, yet perhaps sometimes struggling to find its riches in the everyday.  Lord as we find ourselves trudging through the deep dark valley, let us know that you really are with us. May we experience your expansive love even in the most unpleasant of circumstances.

As we think about the words of the Lord's prayer, may we know the power of God's Kingdom in our lives, and set a course to understand more about living in His kingdom. May we understand the simplicity of simply relying on you for our daily needs, and may we come to a point of instinctively forgiving those who make life difficult for us and what it is to totally forgive in every circumstance.

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

For ever and ever, Amen.

The Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

The Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus said, “It is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Reflection on 'The parable of the Talents'.

Why do we have parables?

The weekly gospel readings over the last few months have predominantly been from Matthew; this week from chapter 25.  Matthew presents Jesus's teaching in a methodical manner, for example presenting sets of parables together, there being three in this chapter.

Most obvious in Matthew's gospel account, is that the concepts or principles of living in God's Kingdom, unlike the definitive commandments of the Old Testament, require 'analogies' to help explain God's purposes for humanity. This is not unlike say a scientist who in a public talk uses simple everyday ideas to get complicated thoughts across in a manner appropriate to a lay audience. In the time of Jesus, there would be those who, through their education in the history of the Jewish people and their relationship with God, should have easily understood and empathized with what Jesus said. However, Jesus anticipated that lay people (including the disciples) would struggle to fully grasp His teaching, thus the use of analogies, or as we call it 'parables' – 'the kingdom of heaven is like' to help understand what He was saying.

So we have today's very familiar, and perhaps to us in some ways confusing, parable of the talents. Perhaps you 'scratch your head' at what seems in some sectors of christianity to be very much an economic money centred based interpretation of this parable. Moving forward in faith has somehow become associated with business success and making money – yet other attributes, 'love, joy, peace, patience . . . and self control'. seem to figure rather less. Interestingly, Jesus speaks of knowing (what motivates/drives) people by their fruits.

If we look carefully at how this parable is presented, we'll see 'the writing is on the tin'! But we do need to see that culturally things were so different in Judea 2,000 years ago, that we, embedded in our own culture, find aspects of the parable difficult to fathom. At its core, we may struggle with the idea of slaves or servants, even more so with them being left alone. Yet if we read the text, it matters not because whether they were absolute property of a master or not, whatever two of the three characters were totally motivated to achieve everything they could for their master. They were relationally inspired and envisioned; absolutely attuned to the purposes of their loving master – God – through an indelible relationship. Thus they 'hit the ground running', serving God, working out His purposes, becoming more and more being like Him: the talents representing different positive God like human attributes. In short, they absolutely flourished as humans.

The third character is sadly unable or unwilling to understand who his master really is; and thus sees only harshness. Perhaps he knows the ten commandments, but fails to be driven by the motivation behind them. From the period of time when the commandments where given, we have in Deuteronomy 'Love the Lord with all your heart . . . and your neighbour as yourself'. Thus the behaviour of the third character led to a self fulfilling prophecy, culminating in him being removed from humanity.

Thus, the parable of the talents is very much about joyful, loving dedicated servants encountering and being motivated by, and thus flourishing under 'the economy of God' rather than 'the economy of man'. 'We are in the world, but not of the world.'

Thoughts for prayer.

Sally and her whole family.

As this is being written, Sally is stable, remaining in hospital in Dumfries, and her family are able to visit her bedside in critical care. Some of the hospital staff know Sally from her nursing days, so she is in the best possible hands.

Rev Donald Campbell with whom Sally served at the beginning of her ministry is close to the family, and has met at length with them and the medical care team at the hospital. Donald relays to us the love and concern for Sally expressed across the Church of Scotland – you may be aware that Sally serves on various committees, both through Presbytery and Church of Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh. Donald will continue to keep us informed of any changes in Sally's condition, which will be passed on to you all.

Thus we can lift up to the Lord, Sally and Ali, as well as David, Rachel and Ruth and their families. Perhaps as we go through each day, there will be times when we can prayerfully think (perhaps spontaneously) of Sally and the family, simply remembering them before our loving God – even if individual words are hard to find.

Coronavirus.

We continue to think of the covid pandemic; we thank God for the possibility of 'light at the end of the tunnel' in terms of trials of several vaccines; and lift up before God those families affected by the virus; the medical and behind the scenes research teams.

Climate Change.

This is the time of year that the major Climate Change conference was due to take place in Glasgow – now postponed for a year. Perhaps we struggle to understand our use of something – fossil fuels – that has turned from being an immense help in bringing us into modern society, to being the 'bogey-man'. So we can pray that societies across the world are able and willing to adapt, serving each other, both to the need to take drastic action to mitigate against climate change and the overlapping issue of pressure on the earth as population has risen. At government level there is much that needs to be done – may the needs of humanity come before politics.

 

Hymn 502: Take my Life

1. Take my life, Lord, let it be
 consecrated, glad, and free;
 take my moments and my days,
 let them flow in ceaseless praise.

2.                  Take my hands, and let them move
 at the impulse of your love;
 take my feet, that I may run
 bearing news of Christ your Son.

3.                  Take my voice, and let me sing
 always, only, for my King;
 take my intellect and use
 every power as you shall choose.

4.                  Take my will — your will be done,
 may my will and yours be one;
 take my heart — it is your own,
 it shall be your royal throne.

5.                  Take my love — my Lord, I pour
at your feet its treasure-store;
take myself, and I will be
all for you, eternally.

Blessing

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,

be with us all, evermore.

Amen.