2014 11 09: Remembrance Sunday

Posted on 10 Nov 2014

Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

It was to be the “the war to end all wars.” One hundred years ago, that was how the nations of Europe looked upon World War I, the Great War. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the war to end all wars. In fact, the twentieth century that unfolded was a century of war. Statisticians tell us more people died in that century from war than all the other centuries put together.

Remembrance Sunday is an occasion when we are called to remember the men and women, who throughout the ages, have acted selflessly for others. It is a moment as well to share the human face of war and to remember those who acted bravely offering the supreme sacrifice for their nation. So, this morning’s gospel reading may come as an odd and awkward contrast to the act of remembrance. After all what does the parable of the talents have to do with remembering the honored dead of war?

Consider again Jesus’s words. The parable is the second part of a sequence of three parables warning of a final judgment day when we should be prepared, productive and caring. The first parable is the familiar story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids waiting into the midnight hours for the bridegroom to come. Unfortunately, the foolish maidens have forgotten to bring extra oil. They are not prepared for the wait and so they miss out on the wedding banquet. The third parable, which we will read next week, tells the story the king’s return when he separates the sheep from the goats. It teaches us that we can experience the Lord’s presence and blessing even now by taking care of the needs of the poor. The second parable, the story we have read today, has its own promise and warning.

There was a powerful and wealthy man who entrusted his wealth to his slaves while he was out of the country. The slaves literally had a fortune given into their hands. A talent was the heaviest measure of weight in the ancient world. Of course its value could vary depending whether it was a weight of bronze of silver or gold. For the average worker, however, it was estimated that a single talent was the equivalent of 20 years-worth of wages. Each of the slaves had been entrusted with a vast treasure indeed. In Jesus’ parable two of the slaves put the money to good use, and when the master returned they had made substantial profits. The third one, however, fearful of his powerful master simply buried the money entrusted to him. Nothing was lost, but nothing was gained either. The two slaves who were bold and adventurous were commended for their work, while the one who risked nothing and buried his treasure was condemned.

So what inspired the two slaves to take a chance with their master’s treasure, while the third chose to play it safe and bury it? I rather suspect their decision was based on their knowledge of their master. They knew his desires and ways. They understood his expectations- and so they did what they expected their master would do if he was there himself. They knew their master was both demanding and gracious.

The third slave, however, had a different impression of the master, and he dared to speak it to the master’s face. “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter see, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talents in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” For all three slaves, theirs actions were based on who they believed the master to be.

The question for you today is how do you perceive God your heavenly master? How do you view the creator of all things who has entrusted you with gifts and talents? If you are like the third servant, and you see the master as harsh and angry and waiting to hit you over the head with a lightning bolt or another teaching moment when you mess up, then you will risk nothing.

Well, you’re not alone. I dare say, we have all buried a portion of the treasure given us, and we are not risking or striving to make it grow. We comfort ourselves by saying that in the parable, Jesus was speaking about the treasures of God’s kingdom, and certainly that’s more important than the earthly treasures that we accumulate in our daily living. Yet there is a connection between the two. It is matter of our perception of God and a question of faith that motivates us to let the treasures entrusted to us to be used. If you are afraid of consequences- if you are motivated by fear, then you will never be able to do great things and your gifts will never grow. Like the third slave, you may question how you can be free to enjoy the wonders of God if your image of him is one of fear and condemnation. My friends, you must discover him anew and see the loving face of Christ in those in need. You must see his beloved’s face upon the cross, risking everything, his very treasure for you.

That is why the call to remembrance is so important. It forces us to reflect again on what convictions inspired the generation before us to fight and to die willingly for others. It wasn’t the love of war and country alone for which they fought. It was for the sake of a moral purpose and call. I remember my father’s own journey, as a part of that greatest generation, who as a soldier travelled to places in the South Pacific he could never imagined. Like others, he never spoke about it again. It was generation who believed of a benevolent and gracious creator who had promised them the assurance of another kingdom and it was their honor and duty to share their treasure for the sake of their neighbor. Remembrance Day is to reflect on those who risked it all- rather than to be safe and bury their treasure. And our challenge in honoring them today is to take the treasures entrusted to us and to take care of those whom they have protected with their lives.

Yet there was still a surprise. In Jesus story, the slaves brought the fortunes they had produced before their master. They might have expect they would receive a good pension and a life of ease after their labors – but no, we read, “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.” You see, those who have used their treasure well will find themselves given even more to use, they will find themselves sharing the tasks and responsibilities of the master.

On this Remembrance Sunday, as the silent army of the dead marches before us, let us demonstrate a renewed spirit of courage and place our fear, love and trust in God. If we shall remember the honored dead, let us live not burying our treasure, fearful of a judging God, but let us risk our treasure producing an abundance for God’s kingdom. If we shall remember them, let us live not for ourselves, but let us live striving for justice and righteousness. If we shall remember them, let us live courageously with mercy and charity for the least of these our brothers and sisters. Let us live trusting in a God who blesses our labors in his service. Yes, in these ways, we will remember them. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.