22nd Sunday after Pentecost (November 13, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ps. 90; Zeph. 1:7, 12-18; I Thess. 5:1-11; Matt. 25:14-30
Our granddaughter Sydney is now two weeks old. She is still at University of Virginia Medical Center until she is able to consistently eat on her own. Her parents report that she is making good progress. Sydney is using a feeding tube intermittently because she sometimes falls asleep while eating – typical for premature babies.
This week an auditor from Winnipeg was here to review MCC programs and finances in the region. This process happens every three years and includes lots of questions and recommendations for changes that could strengthen program operations. We are hopeful for a good report!
In the region this week a controversial report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) hinted that Iran may be carrying out research aimed at developing nuclear weapons capacity. The report fueled further speculation of possible Israeli military strikes against Iran’s nuclear program, while others acknowledge that such strikes would come at a high cost. Palestinian leaders announced that they will persist in their bid for membership at the United Nations, in spite of running into obstacles at the 15-member Security Council.
Fittingly, with an audit underway in our office this week, the Common Lectionary readings are also about accounting.
The psalmist notes the brevity of human life and pleads to God: “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” (Ps.90:12)
In the Old Testament reading the prophet Zephaniah speaks of the day of the Lord as a time of judgment on those who complacently say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, no will he do harm.” (Zeph. 1:12) “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath,” says Zephaniah. (v.18)
In the Epistle reading Paul says “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (I Thess. 5:2) and that there will be “no escape!” (v.3) However, we need not be afraid. “For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” encourages Paul. “Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” (vv. 8-9)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable about a master who gives large sums of money to three servants before leaving on a journey (Matt. 24:14-30). Two of the servants trade with the sums entrusted to them, but the third, fearful of his master, buries the amount given to him. Eventually the master returns and demands an accounting. Two of the servants report that they have doubled the amount entrusted to them. “Well done, good and trustworthy slave,” replies the master. But the third servant is chastised for not at least investing the sum entrusted to him.
In a world where mistrust, injustice and violence are the daily realities for far too many people, we pray that we will faithfully use and multiply the gifts entrusted to us in ways that are consistent with God’s restorative work. With the psalmist we pray, “Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.”