Week 51A: Our Response to God’s Promise of Salvation

First Reading: Judges 4:1-7
OT Response: Psalm 123
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

Our attention today is again turned toward the subject of Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment. In the parable of the talents (a monetary unit worth fifteen years’ wages in the first century), we are taught that what God has given us is to be used productively and ultimately returned to God enhanced by our use of those gifts.

The Bible’s story of the people of Israel continues with their settling in the Land of Promise. Surrounded by enemies, their next years were filled with struggle. A number of leaders arose (called Judges). One of the greatest was Deborah, who rallied the people to fight off the Canaanites.

Today we conclude reading through 1 Thessalonians. In his final words to this early congregation, confused because the Lord has not yet returned, Paul tells them that Jesus’ return cannot be predicted. In addition, he tells them, and us, to live in preparation all the time with the confident certainty of those who live in the light of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ.

In historical periods of social confusion (such as our own time), popular religion often focuses on the most negative and pessimistic aspects of the biblical message of judgment. The central message of Holy Scripture, however, is not God’s wrath but God’s love and the promise of salvation. Our response, then, is to use our resources – time, talents and treasures – mindfully in service of God’s purpose in order to share in the coming of God’s reign into our world. In addition, we are to recognize that whatever wealth or influence we may have does not “protect” us from the confrontation of God’s new order, but rather must be used in service of God’s reign.

If we believe in the coming of Christ – past, now and in future – we cannot avoid the call to put our faith into loving, serving action. This may mean using our wealth to support those who have too little to meet their needs. It may mean offering our time to befriend or serve those who are lonely or shut-in or weak or ill. It may mean using our influence to fight on behalf of the marginalized, voiceless and poor. It may mean using our creativity, our attention or our insight to help someone else heal their lives or relationships. Whatever it may be, we only find life when we step up and do what we can as participants in the world. As we do this, we become those who help to bring the Kingdom of God into reality with those around us in our neighborhoods and churches.

If, however, we refuse to contribute and we keep our resources for ourselves, we inevitably find that we lose life’s joy and vibrancy, and we end up disconnected and depressed. The good news, though, is that when we do respond and seek to act, we have resources beyond just ourselves, because God and God’s people join with us to make a difference in our world.