1 Those Redeeming Moments “For God has destined us not for

The Twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 28 A – RCL
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Christ Church, Blacksburg, Va.
The Rev. Scott A. West
Judges 4:1-7
I Thessalonians 5:1-11
Those Redeeming Moments
“For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus
Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we live with him.
Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
How many times in life have you felt that no matter what you did, you could not
have changed a situation, even if you had tried? It’s a common phenomena for humanity,
that there are some things we can change and some that we cannot. Life sometimes feels
totally out of our control. Whether it’s aging and infirmed parents, a sudden illness,
financial difficulties, war and its ravages, or any number of life’s challenges, we face
circumstances quite often completely out of our control. Circumstances have had a huge
impact on our choices and our decisions. They also have a huge impact on our future and
our family’s future. Few of us, if any, would be sitting here today if our forebears had not
decided to leave their homes for someplace different, for a new opportunity, for new
chances, for a new start in life. Some of us may have had forebears who had no choice in
leaving home, yet as a result of a circumstance out of their control, here you are. Our
lessons this morning speak about circumstances. The lessons carry too a foreboding tone
but not without hope.
We meet the Israelites in the Book of Judges having lived “evil in the sight of
Lord.” In other words, the Israelites had fallen in their living according to the Law of
Moses, and as a result King Jabin of Canaan ruled over them with oppressive cruelty. The
Israelite Judge Deborah summons Barak and prophecies to him, that God commands him
to take a position on Mt. Tabor with 10,000 men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun,
and the General of King Jabin’s army, Sisera, will be given to Barak’s hand. Unfortunately,
our lesson ends here, but the circumstances of Sisera’s death take odd twists and turns, and
indeed Sisera is killed by Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Circumstances had not quite
given the General to Barak’s hand, but nevertheless, Israel’s burdensome yoke to King
Jabin was broken with the death of Sisera’s army and the general himself. The talk of
circumstances does not end with Deborah, Barak, Sisera, and Jael.
The parable told by Jesus in the Gospel lesson also carries a similar theme of
circumstances. We meet this parable in the midst of the series of parables about the
kingdom of heaven. The parable that Jesus told is one that is seemingly characterized by
unfairness, wrath, fear, hardness in being, and anger. It is the side of God that doesn’t
seem to fit with our images of God as love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. And again
circumstances come into play.
If we look at the conservative behavior of the one servant, the one who simply hid
the one talent he had been given, he at least didn’t loose it, right? That is at least what
appeals to our sensibilities. And yet, as Jesus told the story, the master calls this servant
wicked and slothful, and furthermore calls for his talent to be given to another. It’s a
parable that makes many of us uncomfortable. Could we end up in the same position as
the servant with the one talent? Or are we like the other two servants, who used the talents
given to make more? Do our circumstances dictate our response?
St. Paul seems to be able to lend yet another perspective on these troubling words.
Both the Old Testament and the Gospel reading allude to the day of the Lord, and Paul
bluntly said, “For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief
in the night.” In other words, just when we’ve let our guard down, trouble will come, and
we are not sure when. Still we have hope, because we, like the Thessalonians, are all
children of light, and children of the day, having put on the breastplate of faith and love,
and the helmet of hope of salvation to use Paul’s words. Plain and simple, Paul wrote,
“Our hope is that God has not destined us for wrath, but for salvation.” Despite the
ominous, foreshadowing of the dreadful day of the Lord, we need not worry about it. By
our baptism into the faith of following Jesus Christ, we become “sons” literally, heirs of
God. In the adoption process we are given grace and responsibility to use all that God gives
us. Just as the servants received their money in the amounts of talents – a talent is roughly
$1,000.00 – so we too are given abilities and non-monetary talents for which we are to use
to God’s glory and gain, just as the servants were to use the talents given to them for their
master’s glory and gain. There lies the connection with circumstances.
Circumstances have little to do with the abilities and gifts you posses as a created
person of God’s own making. However, those abilities and gifts of which all of us posses in
some sort and fashion, can be used to modify and change circumstances. If we allow
ourselves to be open and creative and also allow God to be part of the process, we can use
those abilities and talents in ways never before realized. Suddenly the circumstances may
look a lot different. What may have seemed impossible or hopeless or depressing can be
turned into something real and hopeful and joyful. Those instances are redemptive
moments, times when the redeeming work of God is most obvious to us. Salvation is not a
one-time, once-in-a-lifetime event; God is continually saving, redeeming his creation
through the work of Christ and his body, the church. There I find all of us obtaining
salvation about which St. Paul wrote. In the midst of circumstances, where these seems to
be not much hope, not much joy, or perhaps frustration, maybe even anger, remember that
we’re destined for salvation to be redeemed, to be made new in the here and now and in
the life to come. Circumstances do not have to get the better of us; that is not our destiny.
Salvation is. Amen.