2nd Sunday before Advent

15th November 2020
2nd Sunday before Advent

Year A

 

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.

 

Zephaniah 1.7,12-18

     “Be silent before the Sovereign LORD,
         for the day of the LORD is near.
     The LORD has prepared a sacrifice;
         he has consecrated those he has invited.
     At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps
         and punish those who are complacent,
         who are like wine left on its dregs,
     who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing,
         either good or bad.’
     Their wealth will be plundered,
         their houses demolished.
     They will build houses
         but not live in them;
     they will plant vineyards
         but not drink the wine.
     The great day of the LORD is near –
         near and coming quickly.
     Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter,
         the shouting of the warrior there.
     That day will be a day of wrath,
         a day of distress and anguish,
     a day of trouble and ruin,
         a day of darkness and gloom,
         a day of clouds and blackness,
     a day of trumpet and battle cry
         against the fortified cities
         and against the corner towers.
     I will bring distress on the people
         and they will walk like blind men,
         because they have sinned against the LORD.
     Their blood will be poured out like dust
         and their entrails like filth.
     Neither their silver nor their gold
         will be able to save them
         on the day of the LORD’S wrath.
     In the fire of his jealousy
         the whole world will be consumed,
     for he will make a sudden end
         of all who live in the earth.”

 

1 Thessalonians 5.1-11

About times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

 

Matthew 25.14-3

Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

 

 

 

 

Reflection by Rodney

As we embark on the second week of national lockdown, it would be easy to feel that we are entering a dark tunnel with little light at the end of it - but, suddenly, we have heard the news this week that tests on the effectiveness of a vaccine have shown that it is unexpectedly effective and that several more similar vaccines  are also on the brink of proving themselves.  Hope is in the air and there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Thanks be to God for the talents of those who have worked to develop these vaccines for us in record time.

 

In the first reading for today, from Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul writes about the capricious nature of life’s events, you never know what is just about to happen – all seems to be peaceful and suddenly calamity strikes, as indeed was the case with the pandemic at the start of the year.  But Paul goes on to reassure us that we are not in a dark tunnel with no light at the end, hopeless victims waiting for the next disaster to strike, we know not when or where, because, he says, we can put on the breastplate of faith and love and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation.  And he instructs us to encourage one another and to build each other up, because God calls us not out of wrath but out of love.  Of course, it is not always easy to be strong, faithful, loving, hopeful and encouraging to others in times of adversity but that is what we are equipped, commanded and called to do as disciples of Jesus – to be children of light not of darkness, of hope not of despair.

 

In the second reading, from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the talents, in which three servants are entrusted with five, two and one talent whilst their master is away from home.  A talent was worth about 6000 denarii, and a denarius was roughly one whole day’s pay – so a single talent was worth more than 15 years’ pay.  We are talking about serious sums of money here!  The first two servants make good use of the money entrusted to them and by the time that the master returns, they have doubled his money for him, much to his delight.  He praises them as good and trustworthy servants and promises that he will place even more trust in them in future.  However, the third servant, the one with only a single talent, confesses that he was frightened of losing the money and so he buried it safely so that he would be able to return it in full to his master on his return.  The master is furious with him for not making use of the money in his care and takes it away from him, condemns him as being worthless and casts him out.  And this, Jesus tells his listeners, is what the kingdom of heaven is like.

 

What does he mean?  We are helped to interpret this story by the fact that the meaning of the word ‘talent’ has subsequently mutated, so that it no longer refers to a sum of money, but to the gifts with which God has endowed each of us.  We are told by Paul that we are commanded to live lives that are loving, hopeful, and encouraging; lives that build up the faith, strength and hopefulness of others so that they will not live as hopeless victims in a dark tunnel.  We are told by Jesus that we are each entrusted by God with talents and they are to be used on his behalf in the building up of his kingdom.  We have before us the example of the scientists who have used their talents so effectively to rescue the whole of mankind from the dark tunnel caused by the pandemic and maybe we can understand why God might be frustrated, even angry, with those who fail to use their talents to build up and bring hopefulness to their fellow human beings.  Happily, we are told that he is a God of love rather than of wrath but, even so, to fail to use our God-given talents is to fail both him and our neighbours.

 

So, the challenge for each of us is to discern the gifts with which God has equipped us and the ways in which they can be used, as Paul put it, to build up the people of God and thereby to fulfil God’s purpose for us and, as Jesus explained it, to advance the kingdom of God.  As children of light, of hope and not despair, may we recognise and respond to that challenge today, tomorrow and in the whole future way of our lives. 

Amen

 

Post Communion Prayer

Gracious Lord,
in this holy sacrament
you give substance to our hope:
bring us at the last
to that fullness of life for which we long;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Matthew 25.14-30 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Zephaniah 1.7,12-18 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (2nd before Advent) ©  1985 Mowbray, a Cassell Imprint:After Communion compiled by C L Macdonnell
Collect (2nd before Advent) ©  The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)