In Jesus Holy Name November 15, 2020
Text: Matthew 25:14-15
“Making the Most with Your Opportunity”
Who is that man on the cover our Sunday Bulletin? Why is he there? I’;; answer that in a moment. (cover of the bulletin was the Dodger pitcher Dylan Floro from the World Series) The message today is not about how to get to heaven nor have peace with God… it is a reminder from Jesus about how we are to live our lives while we wait for His return.
I was thinking about using our talents, our abilities when given the opportunity and I was remembering a pitcher who made good on an opportunity in the recent baseball world series. His name is Dylan Floro. The Headline in the Los Angeles Times read: Dylan Floro goes from the “forgotten man to an integral part of the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Some of you may be Dodger fans, some of you didn’t even watch the Baseball World Series. So why am I telling this story? Dylan Floro is not a multi million dollar pitcher. He pitches a few innings and then returns to the bullpen. He has been traded around. His unique skill and talent gave him a fancy ring and life time memories.
Dylan grew up in Merced. Attended Atwater High School, played college ball at Fullerton State. He was drafted in the 13th round in 2012 by the Tampa Bay Rays and spent years in the minor leagues playing for the Rays, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds before being traded to the Dodgers. He made it to the “big leagues” in 2018 as a relief pitcher. As a relief pitcher you may pitch one or two batters or one or two innings.
Floro pitched 1.1 innings in the 2nd game of the Word Series. He did not allow a base runner. He threw 19 pitches, a beautiful 93 mph Sinker with action, ten of which were strikes. At his next outing…runners were on base, the Dodgers were in trouble. He came in and threw his 93 mph sinker with action. Batters swung and missed. The Dodgers eventually won the World Series.
The parable of the talents is a reminder not to waste opportunities. Dylan Floro did not waste his talent nor his opportunity.
We are coming to the end of the church year. We have been hearing stories from Matthew’s gospel. Jesus told these parables during Holy Week. During those short few days between riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, being hailed as King and then being arrested and put on trial, Jesus took the opportunity to preach and teach. The Parable of the Talents is the last parable that Jesus tells before being arrested and put on trial.
After the parable of the Ten Virgins Jesus tells this wonderful little story. It is called the Parable of the Talents. It is simple, clear and easy to understand. And its lessons are impossible to miss.
This parable tells us what we should do while we wait for Jesus to return. We are not to go off to the mountains, sit in a tent, drink RC Cola, eat Moon Pies, and play Trivial Pursuit all day long. There is a warning here against laziness and passivity. And there is a call to action, to vital living, to risk all that you have for Christ and his kingdom. Salvation is not simply a “cheap bust ticket to heaven. We are to work and use our talents to bring glory to God. We are to be in service for the common good, expanding the kingdom of Jesus.
These stories are well known: the parable of the wise and foolish virgins; the parable of the sheep and the goats; and the parable of the talents. These parables are familiar but we might miss the importance of their setting. Each story is told in the context of His second coming. Jesus is teaching us how to prepare for his return.
We are living between the ascension of Jesus and His return. The Parable of the Talents is not about salvation but about how we invest our time, talents that God as entrusted to each of us. The unfaithful steward in the parable didn’t so much as waste the master’s money….he wasted an opportunity.
In one of his books Chuck Swindoll challenges believers to live with excellence, to go the second mile, to stop making excuses for non-performance, to turn our faith into deeds that change the world. He says that excellence is possible if you:
Care more than what others think is wise Risk more than others think is safe
Dream more than others think is practical Expect more than others think is possible.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus share what is now known as the Golden Rule. He said: “So what ever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is message of the Law and the Prophets.” On another occasion, the evangelist Mark recorded Jesus telling His listeners: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than this.
The Gospel of Luke records the expectations of Jesus concerning how His people are to act toward others. The Savior instructed: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Even on the night He was betrayed, as the sins of the whole world were being unfairly placed upon Him, Jesus did not forget to instruct His disciples on how they ought to live. Concisely, and clearly, Jesus says: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Tangible acts of caring and kindness do get the attention of the world.
William Blackaby in his recent book “Flickering Lamps” notes that the local “Church” must proclaim the good news of Jesus, His offer of forgiveness and eternal life. The church must also serve our neighbor as a reflection of our love for Jesus. Each church in each community must fine it’s unique ministry.
Rev. Stott in his book “The Cross of Christ” writes: “The cross demands our worship and celebration but it also demands our conduct in relation to others, including our enemies. We are to be “imitators of God” where we live, play and work. (The Cross of Christ p. 295)
Then he asks: “But how in practice do we combine love and justice, mercy and servanthood and walk the way of the cross, it is often hard to do. For example the statement by Jesus to “be peace makers, and live at peace with everyone”…is qualified by two conditions: “If it is possible” and as far “as it depends on you”. The incentive and the reason for seeking peace is love, but it can not degenerate into appeasement when justice is ignored.
“To forgive and to ask for forgiveness are costly exercises. As authentic Christians we know that the primary act of faith is forgiving. It is the characteristic of God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is an act of faith. I forgive, when I forgive, because I can, because I am imitating Jesus.” It is not always easy. I do not pretend to do it well. Nor does any other Christian that I know. I must remember that forgiveness like love is an act of my will, as the Holy Spirit lives through me. When the “opportunity” comes our way and we have 1 inning in which to play…make the most of the opportunity. (Seventy Times Seven by Robert Hoyer p. 22-23)
All three servants were judged by how well they managed someone else’s resources. When the master gave the talents to the servants, both they and he knew that it was still his money. Indeed, the first two men clearly call it “your money.” They never thought it was theirs. They understood that the master was loaning them the money with the understanding that some day he would call for an accounting of how they had spent it.
The third man was called a “worthless” servant and was rejected by his master. He represents those phony-baloney “Christians” who come to church but never give their hearts to the Lord. They don’t do good deeds nor share God’s love when the opportunity came their way.
The third man played it safe and ended up losing everything and was cast out.
The three men in this story certainly had plenty of money to invest.
It is noteworthy that each man is given a different amount. Verse 15 tells us that each one was a particular amount “according to his ability.” Who made that determination? The master. Why did he do it that way? Because he wanted to. No other reason is needed.
God is not obligated to treat you like he treats anyone else. He can give you more or less than others. And he does! You have more than some and less than others. You have more money and talent and opportunity, more strength, better health, and better connections than others. And you have less of all that than others. In the great pecking order of life, there are always people above us, people on our level, and people beneath us.
The comparison game is useless and nonproductive. Who knows why Jane got more and Alice got less? Who knows why one man has cancer and another doesn’t? Only God knows those things and he’s not telling. Every moment you and I spend worrying about that is a truly a wasted moment. We’re not all equal in terms of talents, gifts and opportunity. But we all have the same chance to do something with what we’ve been given. The question is not, “What have I been given?” but rather, “What will I do with what I’ve been given?”
Think of it this way: Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God. It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have that makes the difference. Dylan Floro is not going to be a starting 9 inning pitcher. He is a relief pitcher. Will he always be one? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. He used his talent when the opportunity was given and helped to win the series.
What is the positive side of the parable? The reward promised to those who faithfully use their “talents” in the service of Christ and his Kingdom will be the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master”.
This little phrase “Enter into the joy of your master” is too often overlooked. This is the invitation to spend the Wedding Banquet with our Savior in eternity with our glorified and resurrected body. Nothing is wasted when we serve the Lord. Even the “unseen” acts of kindness are seen by Christ and will one day be rewarded by him. Even a cup of cold water given to a thirsty person is noticed in heaven.
We each play an important part on God’s team at Redeemer. Use your opportunity to serve others. Maybe your opportunity to share the savior’s good news is in the school where you work. Maybe the hospital where you work. Maybe the shop in which you are employed. Maybe it’s when you meet a friend in a grocery store or shopping and you stop to chat. God may want to use you in that moment.
…(share the story of Joel Dickson’ s wife at the health club…wondering how to hear God’s voice regarding a “call” to be the pastor of a congregation.)