Readings: Lectionary Year A, 2nd Sunday before Advent
Zephaniah 1:7,12-18 – A warning that the Day of God’s judgement is coming
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – Judgement is coming, and we need to be alert for it
Matthew 25:14-30 – A parable of what it means to live that ‘alert’ life
Can you identify with the bewildered and fearful people depicted? Does it help to see Jesus the Judge’s hand raised in blessing?
Some thoughts on the readings
– In the parable, the ‘one talent’ slave is not condemned for the amount made, but for not having even tried. God expects us to use the Holy Spirit’s gifts to the full, even if that means risking failure.
– ‘A talent’ was a very substantial amount of money (over £1million at today’s gold prices) so even the ”least able” slave was trusted with a great deal. Whatever we feel about ourselves, God always gives us plenty of gifts and resources for our task.
– In the passage from Zephaniah’s prophecy, God rebukes the people for complacency and unbelief, and the rest of the prophecy is against their idolatry.
– Paul, too, warns against complacency about God’s judgement, but adds the great message of Christian hope. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we can all find God’s mercy, now and at the Judgement.
– Judgement is not a popular concept in our culture, but it’s a constant note throughout the Bible. This, though, is not sinful human judgementalism, but God’s judgement, which is impartial, righteous, loving and merciful.
Suggestions for further Bible reading
Ephesians 6:10-18 Paul expands a passing mention in the Thessalonians passage into ‘the whole armour of God’ – ways to strengthen our protection against sin and to equip us to live Godly lives in a distracting world.
Malachi 3:1-5 Another prophecy of God’s arrival and judgement. God’s appearance will be sudden and unexpected, even to those who are watching.
Revelation 3:14-20 A warning not to be complacent or half-hearted. Instead Jesus asks to be allowed in to our lives so we can live to the full.
Do any other Bible passages come to mind when you read today’s readings?
Points for Prayer
– Thank God that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to all of us, for building up the church and serving our communities. Ask God to help us discern our gifts, and the gifts of others, then to put those gifts to use fully.
– Ask God to reveal what aspects of our lives have become idolatrous – leading us and our communities away from God. Pray for wisdom and strength to make sure God is central to our lives and our worship.
– Pray for those who are prevented from using their God-given talents, through discrimination, unemployment, or lack of recognition. Pray that our society will learn to value all people. Pray that our churches and our whole economic system will provide ways for everyone to contribute positively.
Points for Action
– Think of your budget for Christmas this year: gifts, tree, food. Commit to giving a small percentage of that to a charity for those who can’t celebrate.
– Look around your church congregation and your local community. Is there someone whose gifts you recognise? Find a way to give them encouragement.