Sunday 15th November 2020 – 2nd Sunday before Advent

Welcome!

Welcome to our worship. If it is still Sunday morning where you are, I hope you will join us at Zoom coffee at 11.30am. Details, as usual, are on the emailed notice sheet – the link is the same as it was last week.

Here is the link to the Prayer for the nation leaflet .

As usual, either use the playlist to play the whole service without needing to press anything else. Or, you can scroll down the page to play each section individually.

YouTube Playlist

Service written out in full

In the cycle of the Church year, we are nearly at the end. Next week will be the feast of Christ the King, which marks the culmination of our story with Jesus enthroned at the right hand side of God before it all begins again with Advent Sunday. Today we look towards that feast and consider what we are waiting for.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen

Jesus Christ has made us a kingdom of priests
to serve his God and Father.
To God be glory and kingship for ever and ever.
Grace, mercy and peace be with you
and also with you.

God of our days and years,
we set this time apart for you.
Form us in the likeness of Christ
so that our lives may glorify you.
Amen.

Hymn – O Praise ye the Lord

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Your faithful servants bless you.
They make known the glory of your kingdom.

Confession

Keep silence and reflect on the week

Jesus says, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
So let us turn away from sin and turn to Christ,
confessing our sins in penitence and faith.

God of mercy,
we acknowledge that we are all sinners.
We turn from the wrong
that we have thought and said and done,
and are mindful of all that we have failed to do.
For the sake of Jesus, who died for us,
forgive us for all that is past,
and help us to live each day
in the light of Christ our Lord.

Amen.

May God who loved the world so much
that he sent his Son to be our Saviour
forgive us our sins
and make us holy to serve him in the world,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Psalm 90: 1-8, 12

Lord, you have been our refuge  ♦
from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the earth and the world were formed,  ♦
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust and say:  ♦
‘Turn back, O children of earth.’

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday,  ♦
which passes like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away like a dream;  ♦
they fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes;  ♦
in the evening it is dried up and withered.

For we consume away in your displeasure;  ♦
we are afraid at your wrathful indignation.

You have set our misdeeds before you  ♦
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

So teach us to number our days  ♦
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

New Testament reading

1 Thess 5:1-11

Hymn – Be thou my vision

Gospel reading

Matt 25:14-30

Sermon

Parables are a genre of literature that is pretty unique to Jesus. We know one when we hear it. It is a story told to make a point, but also to make the listener think. When you hear a parable, how should you approach it? There’s several things you can do.

First – have a look and see if it is one of the parables with a helpful explanation printed next to it. In this case, there is no explanation. This is quite exciting however, because we can spend time with it, looking at the story from different angles and seeing how our picture of God is broadened or deepened.

The next thing to do, and I would possibly do this even before looking for an explanation, is to look back in the passage to see why the parable is being told. You often have to go further back than where the reading began. Here, we go back to ch 24 verse 3 where Jesus has just spoken about the temple being destroyed and the disciples ask him when it will happen and what is the sign of Jesus coming and the end of the age. More immediately, at the beginning of chapter 25, Jesus starts the preceding parable of the ten bridesmaids by saying “the kingdom of heaven will be like this”. We can be certain that this parable is also about the kingdom of heaven and meant to help us understand it. Remember that Matthew always used the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ rather than ‘kingdom of God’ but they mean the same thing. The kingdom of heaven is what it is like when God is in charge and makes everything new.

I wonder whether you are sitting there thinking that you know this story, you know what it is all about, you have been told the meaning before and what can I possibly tell you that you haven’t heard a dozen times before. Well, you may have a point, but I wonder whether we can find a new angle to help you to understand this parable more fully.

The common meaning of the word talent has developed from this parable. However, in biblical times, a talent was initially a measure of weight and then a measure of currency – quite a large amount actually. The weight and value of a talent varied across the Biblical world. When the people in the parable are entrusted with 5 talents, that is an absolute fortune, not just a small sum of money. We are talking life changing amounts. In modern day terms, probably enough to buy a house and a car and see you settled for life.

If you are going to be very literal in understanding this parable, you can use it to justify putting your money to work rather than hoarding it away. I think there’s more going on than that though.

The interpretation of this story has affected the meaning of the word talent. Now, when we talk about talents, we mean what we are good at, our gifts and skills – often the idea is the things that we are naturally good at, our innate gifts. We are all familiar with thinking about making good use of our talents. If we are artistic to create, if we are sporty to run, if we are strong to lift things that need lifting, if we are logical to solve problems. And that’s another level at which we can read this parable.

The question is whether that meaning of the word talent is really what is intended by this story. Or at least, whether that is the only meaning that could be intended. I think there is more to discover.

What is the next aspect of the story to consider? It’s always worth looking at a parable and figuring out who God is. In this story, the obvious answer is that God is the one who entrusts the talents to the other people. What does this tell us about God? He entrusts his property to his slaves – not to free people. Again remember that this is not just a small amount that he is entrusting – it is ridiculously extravagant. He entrusts this to people who are not permitted in law to own property.

So, we have a generous God who gives freely to people who might be considered undeserving. The key to this story is not only in the initial giving but also in the reckoning at the end. The first two people return their talents having doubled them and are rewarded.

What about the final slave, who was so afraid of the master that he didn’t dare to risk losing anything of the single talent? The reaction of the master to this slave is rather troubling. He is punished for not using what he is given and then cast aside into darkness.

So we have a master who gave abundantly but with the expectation that gifts would be used.

This, then, is how we could view this parable. What are the gifts that God gives to his people? What are the good things we have that come from God? We have life and a world in which to live, we have people with us and the capacity for love, we have hope, we are surrounded by opportunities for enjoying beauty and laughter and song. Yes, we also have our material needs met but remember that the talents entrusted to the slaves were worth far more than basic material needs. Above all, God has given Jesus to the world.

Think about the life that Jesus lived. Although he was materially poor, his life was one of abundant generosity. He shared his life with his disciples, with the crowds, with his enemies; he rarely held back. He healed those who needed healing, told stories and parables to those who needed help understanding, he ate and drank and enjoyed life. If Jesus had kept all of that to himself, he could not have fulfilled his purpose.

Our lives are a generous gift from God and we are called to live those lives in such a way that the lives of others are enriched.

Really, what we are talking about here is the economy of love. What happens when you love the people around you and show it by doing loving things? Love grows – it inspires others to do the same. The more you invest in the people around you, the greater the love that is shared. No wonder those first two slaves received a 100% return on their investments.

The significance of this parable hangs on the return of the master and how he judges his slaves. We know that we will all face God’s judgement but don’t worry about this. If you have been living wholeheartedly, giving back to the community what you have been given, then you have nothing to worry about.

This year, having spent so long shut away in our houses, you might be wondering what it is that we can actually do. Don’t sit there fretting that you have so little opportunity to bless those around you. Start with the little things, like a daily phonecall to people who might be lonely, or a letter to a friend, or a commitment to prayer. Any of those things, and I am sure you have other ideas too, any of these ideas puts God’s gifts to work and they will grow.

The kingdom of heaven is like this: full of abundant riches for us to use and enjoy and grow. How will you use your talents this week?

Affirmation of faith

Let us declare our faith in God.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

Hymn – The Kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.

Intercessions

Response:
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer

United in the company of all the faithful
and looking for the coming of the kingdom,
let us offer our prayers to God,
the source of all life and holiness.

Merciful Lord,
strengthen all Christian people by your Holy Spirit,
that we may live as a royal priesthood and a holy nation
to the praise of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Bless Stephen our archbishop, John, Bishop of Selby and all ministers of your Church,
that by faithful proclamation of your word
we may be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets
into a holy temple in the Lord.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Empower us by the gift of your holy and life-giving Spirit,
that we may be transformed into the likeness of Christ
from glory to glory.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Give to the world and its peoples
the peace that comes from above,
that they may find Christ’s way of freedom and life.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Hold in your embrace all who witness to your love in the
service of the poor and needy;
all who minister to the sick and dying;
and all who bring light to those in darkness.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Touch and heal all those whose lives are scarred by sin
or disfigured by pain,
that, raised from death to life in Christ,
their sorrow may be turned to eternal joy.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Remember in your mercy all those gone before us
who have been well-pleasing to you from eternity;
preserve in your faith your servants on earth,
guide us to your kingdom
and grant us your peace at all times.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Hasten the day when many will come
from east and west, from north and south,
and sit at table in your kingdom.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

We give you thanks
for the whole company of your saints in glory,
with whom in fellowship we join our prayers and praises;
by your grace may we, like them, be made perfect in your love.
Amen

The Collect

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed
to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory
we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lord’s Prayer

In whichever version or language comes most naturally, as our Saviour taught us, so we pray.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Offertory Prayer

Generous God, we thank you for all you have given us. We thank you for all the ways that we can give to you in return. We ask that through our gifts we will see your kingdom grow in our hearts and our homes, our neighbourhoods and our nation, to the glory of your name.
Amen

Praise

There is one body, one Spirit, one hope in God’s call,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
There is one God, Father of all, over all and in all,
to whom Christ ascended on high.
And through his Spirit he gives us gifts:
some are apostles, some are his prophets.
Evangelists, pastors and teachers he gives us,
so we can minister together
to build up his body,
to be mature in the fullness of Christ.

Blessing and Sending Out

May God, who kindled the fire of his love in the hearts of the saints,
pour upon you the riches of his grace.
May he give you joy in their fellowship and a share in their praises.
May he strengthen you to follow them in the way of holiness
and to come to the full radiance of glory.
and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen

Go in the peace of Christ
Thanks be to God.

Hymn – Thou, whose almighty word

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.