A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on November 7, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Make the Most of Our Gifts!Luke 19:11-27Children, what gets you going in the morning?  Maybe it’s a parent pushing you, so you get to school on time.  But then once you get to school, what keeps you going?  Maybe it’s your teacher pushing you, because there are things you need to learn, so when you grow up, you can have a good job.  You adults, what gets you going in the morning?  Hopefully your good job, except work has a way of turning into work, and so maybe what keeps you going is you have bills to pay and you’re looking forward to when you get up and just do the things you feel like doing.  Wouldn’t that be the life?     It was a week before Good Friday.  The disciples sensed something big was about to happen.  However, even though Jesus had told them three times He would be crucified and rise again, that isn’t what they were expecting.  They were expecting Jesus to make this world a heaven on earth, where no one would ever get sick; everyday would be fun and exciting; and especially they’d never have to worry, but always have perfect security.   Instead of pursuing that kind of happiness, this morning Jesus urges His disciples of all ages to pursue making the most of their gifts.  1.  Making the most of our gifts is equally difficult for everyone.  2.  The rewards of making the most of our gifts vary according to our faithfulness.   Our text reads, ““A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.  So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’  “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’” This part of the parable really happened.  When the Herod who tried to kill the baby Jesus died, his son went to Rome, and asked Caesar Augustus to appoint him the new king of Judah.  But the Jews did not want another King Herod, and so a delegation went to Rome and asked that he not be appointed.    A similar thing was about to happen to Jesus.  Remember, Jesus spoke this parable on a Friday.  That following Sunday He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowds would proclaim the Lord of lords and King of kings.  But the leaders didn’t want that, so they crucified Him.  However by crucifying Him, the Heavenly Father made Jesus the sacrifice that pays for every sin.  Then on third day God raised Him to life and on the 40th day seated Jesus at His right hand, where He is even now ruling in all things for the spread of His Word and the good of His people.  And finally just like Herod made it back from Rome, which wasn’t good news for those who hated him, so Jesus is coming back.  We read on in our parable, “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.   “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’  “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’”  This is a picture of Judgment Day.  On Judgment Day we will each have to give an account for how we used our time, talents, and treasure with the goal of winning more souls for the Kingdom.  But some might argue, “That’s not fair.  How much can I do?  I have to earn a living, or I don’t have the training; or, I don’t have the temperament to talk with people about Jesus.”  Notice in our parable that each servant received one mina.  A mina was equal to 5 months average income.  Getting that much all at once would be nothing to sneeze at.  So also, don’t sell your gifts from God short.  True, we don’t all have the same.  But God has given us each gifts to use in our congregation and in our daily life.  These include serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leading, and showing mercy.  In addition there’s another gift we all have – the gift of prayer.       Regardless of what our personal gifts are, and regardless of our personal challenges and burdens, making the most of our gifts is equally difficult for everyone.  That point is emphasized in that all 10 servants each received one mina.  So, don’t look at others and think, “Serving the Lord is easy for them.  They have so many more gifts and opportunities than I have.”  From a human point of view, that might be true, but God sees the whole picture of each person’s life.  Furthermore, when Jesus returns, He’s not going to grade us on OUR accomplishments, because what we accomplish is only by His grace.  Rather we will be graded on our faithfulness, which means that out of faith in Jesus we keep doing our best with whatever He has given us to work with.  A case in point is that widow at the temple who only gave two cents.  Jesus said others, who had given a lot, gave from their abundance; but she gave all she had – that’s faithfulness!   So again, no one should judge another by how much or how little a he/she gives, nor by how much or how little he/she is doing.  God knows.  On the other hand the Book of Hebrews tells us that we are to keep spurring one another on to do more and more, better and better, and so let’s read on in this parable.  “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.   I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’  “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?  Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’  “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’” This servant wasn’t motivated to work hard; he just wanted to take life easy.  His excuse was this King had such high standards it was better to do nothing than to do something and possibly make a mistake.  And besides this King always got what he wanted anyway, so why bother?  Are you applying to your relationship with God?  Don’t be so afraid of making a mistake that you do nothing; but keep working hard at doing your best, because God can turn even our mistakes into blessings, so be faithful!But why do our best?  As Christians we have the motivation that gets a person going in the morning.  It’s not fear, because our sins are paid for.  Nor is it to have an easier life here, because we must through many trials and tribulations enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Rather our motivation is the forgiveness of our sins.  In the context, Jesus was eating at the home of Zacchaeus, the tax collector.  Zacchaeus had been a crook, and by being a crook he had everything money could buy.  But he didn’t have any joy in his heart.  He had only guilt and fear of the coming Judgment.  But Jesus forgave his sins, and as a result Zacchaeus got a who new outlook on life.  He said, “Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”   If only we could always realize our forgiveness, so that we too could have such a carefree attitude.  Actually we can!  Let’s spur one another on to keep hearing and reading the Word.  The Word reveals our sinfulness and our greed for an easy life here.  But the Word also reveals God’s grace and His daily love and care.  All of this together is where true faithfulness springs from.  It’s just too bad we often don’t make the most of our time, talents and treasure, until God uses a tragedy to wake us up.    But now while our forgiveness is our motivation to be faithful, in this parable Jesus also gives us encouragement to be faithful.  The servant, who earned 10 more mina through his faithfulness, was given 10 cities to rule over.  Or, the servant, who earned 5 more was given 5 cities to rule over.  So will be on the Day of Judgment.  Through the promises of our Baptism and the faith our Baptism gives, God remembers our sins no more.  He only remembers our faithfulness, minus our mistakes, and in heaven He will reward our faithfulness with even greater opportunities to serve Him.  What those opportunities will be, we don’t know.  But if the ratio of managing 5 months wages verses managing an entire city holds, our opportunities in heaven for our faithfulness will be outstanding! However there are also blessings to faithfulness in this life.  We read, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Children, pretty soon it’s report card time again.  Which student is more faithful – the one who gets Cs, but is doing his best, or the one who is slopping his way through and but still getting As?  We grow by doing our best.  And so right in line with what Jesus said, it’ll happened that a hard-working C student grows up to be a fantastic teacher, while a laze A student grow up to be a bum, who can’t hold down a job.  But what if that C student never has the opportunity to do anything really fantastic?  God sees!  And besides that person’s example, his day-to-day helpfulness and kindness and perseverance can go a long way to win many souls for the Kingdom.    So, then, what gets you going in the morning?  This week are you going to do your best at school or at work and then also do your best after work in serving your Lord?  If your answer is, “yes”, I invite you to look at the new time and talent sheet in your mailbox.  In being faithful we have nothing to lose.  In fact we can’t lose, but we have everything to gain.  But what if we have been unfaithful in the past?  Or, what if we’re still having trouble being faithful, and we all do, because being faithful is hard?  Then keep remembering your motivation – Jesus’ forgiveness.  Also remember Jesus’ encouragement that He rewards us according to our faithfulness.  But if that’s a scary thought for you, keep going back to His forgiveness, until you too become an example of making the most of your gifts!  Amen.        

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