The Rule of the King – Rejection or Submission

The first came before him, saying, “Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.”  And he said to him, “Well done, good servant!  Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.”         Luke 19:16-17 [11-27]

During a sermon, the country preacher said to his congregation, “Now let the church walk.”
Deacon Jones said, “Amen, let it walk.”
“Let the church run,” said the preacher.
“Let it run,” said Deacon Jones.
“Let it fly,” said the preacher. .
“Amen, brother, let the church fly,” said Deacon Jones.
“Now it’s going to take money to fly, brother.”
“Let it walk,” said Deacon Jones. “Let it walk.”  [Baptist Record, quoted in Reader’s Digest]

This particular parable from Jesus is not a very gentle one.  On one hand you have the ten servants who have been entrusted with the ten pounds, and on the other hand, almost as if it were a parable of its own, are the citizens who hate this ruler and are doing their darnedest to get rid of him.  This is a hard text to preach upon – here are two seemly disconnected thoughts: one which is of properly handling what has been entrusted to us, and the other, that of outright rejection of the One Who is over us and our life – Jesus has made them go together.

Our Lord places some stark realities before us – unpleasant ones since we like to accent the love of God, His gentleness and concern for us.  Yet one has the impression of a monarch who has been wearied by the resistance both within his servants and within the citizenry.  The time of patient tolerance is over.  Now comes the judgment.  Whatever you are will be revealed and dealt with appropriately – no beating around the bush.  The time has come to call a spade a spade.  What is perhaps most uncomfortable is Jesus, Who would seem to be alluding to Himself in this parable, commanding the enemies to be brought in and killed before Him.

I find my reaction is like a student in a classroom, who together with my classmates have been giving the teacher a really hard time.  Finally, the teacher explodes in wrath and heaps upon us extra assignments, takes away all sorts of privileges that we had taken for granted, and then sends us to detention.  In shock, we look at each other in amazement, as if to say, “But I never thought that he would do something like that!”  We had only been playing games, avoiding the reality that more serious things were at stake, and now we have been rudely awakened.

It would be easy to simply lift the parable about the servants out of the lesson and emphasize the stewardship of the gifts we have been given by the One Who rules us.  In fact, many do exactly that with this lesson.  But the second part is ignored.  Just how do you deal with the idea of full-out rebellion and the harsh consequences as pictured in the neglected part of this parable?

It sort of makes the idea of stewardship a bit scary.  It kinda makes you look over your shoulder a bit – almost with the sense, “Is God really this serious about stewardship??”  Like the students in the classroom, we have the tendency to play games, to treat this subject as more or less optional – sort of like when and if we ever get around to it – , to forget what we deem “unnecessary,” to fudge just a bit in our responsibilities, to think that the Lord’s trust of us doesn’t really matter all that much.  And then Jesus comes with this parable and it blows our minds.

In the Matthew version of the parable [25:14-30], it is the rebellious servant who is cast into outer darkness, into weeping and gnashing of teeth.  In Luke, this rebellion is tied together with certain citizens’ deep-seated utter rejection of the supremacy of the King, here representing Jesus.  What appears to be indicated is that stewardship is not merely some church program, but has an important connection to the Lordship of Jesus over all the world, and especially over those who are under His rule.

What is the “pound” which the ruler gave to his servants?  It was a quantity of SOMETHING – what?  In the parable  it was money, however most realize that the money is only a symbol of, well, a talent or ability or some other gift, perhaps even the people who are around us.  Really the substance is left wide open – it could literally be almost anything.  What has the Lord given us?  Just think how barely a month ago, on Thanksgiving we emphasized all the vast amount of blessings which God has given us, and now today do we turn around and say that we don’t have anything for Him, that whatever we might have should just as well be kept hidden away for all the good it will do – for all the good He would do with it?  We fold it up in a napkin, expecting nothing, giving nothing.

Forgiveness signifies that you merely cialis line order give up or cease the resentment whatever the offender. 3. This will make the generic levitra person face better results in daily activities through improved biomechanics. cialis 5 mg Anxiety disorder, however, is inappropriate anxiety. Many people suffer from the problem of impotence. There’s no way around it!  This parable forces us to ask ourselves what are we doing with what is entrusted with us?  What is it that Jesus is looking for?  Merely for more money??  I don’t think that’s it.  Jesus didn’t come to die on the cross just so that He could get a lot of money.  The stakes He is after are far greater than that.  He IS interested in what we give in terms of money, but only because it reflects our attitude toward Him, whether it be rebellion or humble submission to His rule in our lives.

His undistracted focus is that mankind might live – now and forever – and live abundantly in all the grace, love, forgiveness, power, blessing, and life that God can give.  This is for you and me – but this more than just for us.  What about the neighbor next door, the co-worker, the handicapped, the unborn, and those in different countries?  When Jesus entrusted to us our whatever-pound, just what is He seeking in return?  What will He say to our standards and values when He comes to call us to accounts?  What are our excuses, and what will they say about us when we actually must speak them aloud to His face?

As St Paul reminds us in I Corinthians (3:11-14):
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

The problem of today is that the King is coming, not in some far off time, but is here among us today, as He promised where two or three are gathered together.  He comes in physical Person in His Body and Blood here at the altar.  The King ascends His throne.  What will be His judgment?

The consequences of our laziness to use His gifts, of the reluctance to let His will affects our actions, even of the outright rebellion which refuses the rule of our God in our lives – the stark penalties are identified in the parable:  God has every right to withdraw His blessings, to take away from us even what we think we have and what we think are owed to us.  Our rebellion is to such degree that we deserve to be slaughtered in penalty.

But wait!  There is a cross on the altar!  That changes everything.  The agony which results from our selfishness and rebellion has been fully suffered, even the death required by our well-set rejection in our hearts has been fully experienced – by the very Judge Who has delivered the sentence.  Yet fearfully we still face the altar in apprehension because our faith is such a weak thing in the face of what we deserve.

However, it is a precious thing that our faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  This gift is not merely a one-time bundle which can be easily misplaced.  Instead it is something which constantly flows from His presence into our lives.  Sometimes we constrict its flow, sometimes it has an unhampered free course throughout our day.  But is it always there through this indwelling presence of God.  It is something to stop and rejoice in and to give God thanks for such patience and boldness to actually be so intimately involved in our lives.

This cross is also the place where we meet the extreme goodness of God’s love which has sacrificed so much for us.  It is time then that we repent of our resistance, rebellion, and even rejection of not only the Lord, but also of His rule in our hearts.  Repentance means to lay everything out before our King, not so that we can be condemned, but so that He may do what is His pleasure: to fully remove these things from our hearts and therefore from our attitudes, perspectives, mindsets, and lives.

And then we come into the physical presence of the Body and Blood of our Lord contained in the Bread and Wine, and extended to the Body of Christ which surrounds us.  Here we discover not the deserved condemnation but the steadfast love in the rule of the King.  Yes, He takes away what we think we have as He does to that last servant, removing the arrogant pride which prevents us from recognizing and receiving the depth of His gift, that “pound” referred to in the parable, which He has entrusted to us.

Behind all this is the emphasis of the Baptismal font.  It is the reminder of how in the forgiveness of our Lord we are returned to the state of new-born babies, having the ability to make a fresh start each time we receive forgiveness.  This is the truth of Paul’s words in Second Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.’”  We are able to leave behind the old rebellion, the old reluctance, the old attitudes, the old perspectives, the old mindsets, the old life.  Instead we can reset our minds on pleasing our King and Savior, not left to our own devices, not left to our own power, but to the flow of faith from the Holy Spirit’s presence, where we cling to the promises of our Lord and Redeemer.

Indeed, the parable for today is a warning that, yes, God is serious about our stewardship of what He had given us.  He does seek for the increase of His trust, His gifts, to us, particularly that of faith and of a love which reflects Him.  It is a “pound” entrusted to us which challenges us, sometimes making us uncomfortable.  In its fullness, the parable is about accepting the rule of Jesus over our lives.  Will we react with the willingness of seeing His gift increase, perhaps dramatically, maybe less so dramatically, or do we fold it up in a napkin, expecting nothing, giving nothing, or even go so far as to uprightly reject His rule over us?

Thankfully the whole story encompasses the message of both Baptism and Holy Communion and the active presence of God in all His forgiveness and blessing to bring about the increase He knows we can have, to the Glory and praise of His Name.

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