Lessons for Proper 28, Pentecost 24, November 19, 2017

Judges 4: 1-7

The book of Judges follows that of Joshua and details the stories and legends of some 200 years of Israel’s life in the conquest of land in Palestine.  A judge in those days was a warlord, not a legal decider.  The book asks “How did Israel live without a great leader?”  The answer: It lived, but not always well. For Israel it was a period of uncertainty and danger.  Of the 12 judges the book covers, only six were significant to the story, and in this passage only Ehud and Deborah (with Barak) are involved.  This time the threat is from Jabin of Canaan and his general, Sisera.  The judge, Deborah, the only woman judge of the period, prevails upon her aide-de-camp, Barak, to organize a large army to confront Sisera and victory is won.  But it is God’s victory, once again pulling Israel’s chestnuts out of the fire.  For it is the sin of the people which brings down the wrath of God and engineers repentance which results in a judge, acting for God, delivering peace, albeit through war.

 

Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Paul continues the theme of salvation for his community in Northern Greece, exuding confidence in the gift of Jesus Christ to all who believe in him.  With dramatic language in describing the end times – “The Lord coming as a thief in the night” – he calls for clear heads, for being fully awake, for being sober as life plays out in devotion to God.  Certainly Paul is confident for his community, for their future.  His mission to Thessalonica was a most positive one, and so his words today – “Put on the breastplate of faith and love” – seek to reassure the community both of his belief in them and in their abiding faith in the Father.

 

Matthew 25: 14-30

As Mother Kathy said in her homily last Sunday, we are in the midst of four parables of Jesus as we come to the end of the liturgical year.  Last week it was the bridesmaids                                                                                                                                                                     and their oil or lack thereof; today it is the parable of the talents.  The talent, it should be understood, was an enormous sum of money, roughly 15 years of wages for a single slave; giving that sum to an ordinary employee is difficult to understand in today’s economy, but that is what the boss has done here.  We would think today of investing in the stock market.  But Jesus is teaching once again of the end times of life.  The two slaves who “traded” (invested) the money in devices that would increase in value, were witnessing their commitment, their belied in being with the Lord; they were acting the Gospel truth of peace and forgiveness and thus were welcomed.  The “one talent” slave cannot see light at the end of the tunnel; all he can see is darkness, the end of promise.