Parable of the Talents: Fearless or Fearful? (Matthew 25.14-30)

Parable of the Talents: Matthew 25:14-30

John of the Cross wrote that “In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.” The two servants, probably more experienced in loving, fearlessly invest their portions of love. Heedless of sheer foolhardiness, they risk ego, rejection, derision, even death, adventurously increasing the master’s wealth of love in the world. The last servant misses the point, and like sinning against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:32) the poor clueless man finds himself in the outer darkness for clinging to the supposed safety of burying his love in the ground. John Wesley comments, “So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation.”
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless. –Tertullian

Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

Only those who risk going too far will ever know how far they can go.
– T.S. Eliot

Whatever you do you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you into believing your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories but it takes brave men and women to win them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Moving ahead requires us to face the present with its hardships and afflictions, knowing that these, too, are part of the way. To do this requires a measure of courage, that word formed from the Latin cor, or heart. In such circumstances, the challenge before us is not simply to avoid losing our heart. Rather, it is that of finding our heart, of living “heartfully.” – Mark S. Burrows and John H. Ohlson, Love is a Direction from Weavings, Aug/Sept/Oct 2012

Click here and here and here for three thoughtful reflections on this passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Zephaniah 1:12
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.”

Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
… and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
– Henri Nouwen

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Prayer of a Minor Prophet by AW Tozer

will of god aw tozerFrom A Passion For God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett (Chicago, IL; Moody, 2008), pp. 65-68.

This is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Savior in the secret place and in the silence, farther in than his well-meaning brethren could take him. And he said:

O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou hast called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou are about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, our Lord, Thou has stopped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man takes this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.

My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine but Thine. Thou hast said, “I knew thee—I ordained thee—I sanctified thee,” and Thou has also said, “Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou wilt honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.

It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to distinguish the false friend from the true. Give me vision to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.

Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet; not a promoter, not a religious manager—but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from the bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that I could make my life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I shall have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that it will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.

And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven. Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I may do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.

Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen.

You Summon and Send Us, three prayers based on Matthew 10

Barefoot-Walking on path

Based on Matthew 10:1-7. This prayer can be voiced by a single speaker or by a single speaker (light print) and group (dark print).

Jesus, you summon and send us
You give us authority over all that is unholy and destructive
You give us power to heal
to cast out evil and injustice
to cure and make whole

Jesus, you summon and send us
You call us by name
You give us a voice and a message
Good News! God is near
Good News! God’s kingdom is true and in your midst

Jesus, you summon and send us
You gather us and release us to find what is lost
You focus us on a specific mission for a specific moment
Show us what to lay down in order to pick up
Show us what to leave in order to go

Jesus, you summon and send us
Make us worthy of all you entrust to us 
Your word
Your power
Our very names
Amen

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Based on Matthew 10:7-15

Jesus, Lord of all,
Send us out as you did your first followers

Fill us with your Spirit
that we may share the fullness of your good news
You are with us
Your kingdom draws near

Fill us with your saving power
Make us ambassadors of your healing and wholeness
your justice and welcome
your resurrection and deliverance

Fill us that we may trust you completely
Free us with simplicity
Break the chains of over planning
earthly comfort and
mortal securities

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah to our Savior and King!
Thank you for meaning and purpose
Thank you for entrusting us with your good news
Thank you for the honor of serving and baring your name
Amen

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Based on Matthew 10:16-23

Send us out Good Shepherd, the ones who know your voice
Make us wise
Make us innocent
Make us gentle

Open our lips with your truth
and our eyes to the cost of obedience

There will be trouble
You will provide the strength, the courage, the words

Help us stay true
Help us endure
Amen

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You summon and send us, three prayers based on Matthew 10
© 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Glory of Your Saving Love (Isaiah 49.6)

light to the nations

The Beacon
Abigail Henrie

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. – Isaiah 49:6

This is the glory of your saving love
That you don’t just bless us,
Heal us,
Guard and guide us

That you don’t just forgive us,
Redeem us,
Save and sanctify us

For you that is too light a thing

You make a place for us in your saving work

You call us
Empower us
Each of us
You make a place for us in your family
and a place for us in your plan
that we might have purpose and meaning
that we might experience the fullness of your grace
that we might experience your power and the wielding of that power
Your hope and your hope made real in the world
Your love and your love in action

Glory to you, Most Blessed Savior!
Glory to you, Lord of Mercy and Light!
Glory to you and to the fulfillment of Your Kingdom
in us and in all!
Amen

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The Glory of Your Saving Love  © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Church as Healer and Redeemer

Healing Touch by Frank Ordaz

The church taught me that though racism steals, kills and destroys,
the church can partner with God to restore, resurrect and heal.
Christena Cleveland, Everything I Know About Reconciliation I Learned in the Church

At the time, I had nothing going for me. Well, I had killer abs, but that really was about it. I was an angry, hostile, but ultimately just kind of injured young woman. But for some reason, Suzanne Lynch saw more in me – something no one else (most especially myself) could see. She dared to think I was something more than the mess I was in the moment. She believed that I was not irredeemable – that I was more than the sum total of my mistakes. And in the end, that whole Suzanne taking in Nadia thing was like, I don’t know… emotional venture capitalism on her part.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, A Eulogy of Sorts…

I think Christians have yet to learn the pattern of redemption. It is evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided. It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds— much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe. Much of the Christian religion has largely become “holding on” instead of letting go. But God, it seems to me, does the holding on (to us!), and we must learn the letting go (of everything else).
– Richard Rohr

It’s worth any sacrifice
however great or costly,
to see eyes that were listless,
light up again;
to see someone smile
who seemed to have forgotten
how to smile;
to see trust reborn
in someone
who no longer believed
in anything
or Anyone.
-Dom Helder Camara

Matthew 10:1
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. … These twelve he sent out….

Apostle by Steve Garnaas Holmes
The word apostle means “sent.”

We are not given a mandate to judge
or an obligation to convert.
We are not required to argue religion.
We are given power to heal.

We need not muster up the strength.
We are given authority.
Christ is in us to heal.

May I be a healer today;
may I set free those who are bound
by spirits that diminish life.
May I cast out fear with love,
cast out greed with wisdom,
cast out anxiety with calm,
cast out anger and bitterness with deep listening,
cast out hate with forgiveness.

May I bear your spirit of peace,
the authority of blessing,
the power of love.
May I be a healer today.

Prayer: Jesus you are praying, you are calling

go send traffic light

John 17:17-18
At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

Jesus, you are praying, you are calling.
Open our hearts to what you want us to do. Guide us in our “yes” and “no” to opportunities that we may choose your sending above all else.

Jesus, you are praying, you are calling.
Open our souls to the mission that is beyond what we can do without you- your vision, your compassion, your presence, your intervention.

Jesus, you are praying, you are calling.
Open our lives to your inspiration and blessing. Sanctify us in your truth. Grant us a double portion of wisdom and unity and courage. Strengthen us beyond ourselves to accomplish the saving work you place in our hands.

For the victory of your love and grace we pray.
For the glory of your name we follow. Amen.

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Jesus, you are praying, you are calling © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Live Hope, Give Hope: a Plan to Share the Goodness of Jesus this Christmas

live-hope-give-hope-1

Live Hope, Give Hope
A plan to share the goodness of Jesus this Christmas

  • Helping
  • Offering
  • Praying
  • Encouraging

December 1: Luke 1:5-25
Zechariah and Gabriel
Merciful God, you offer me new life. Help me receive it and believe it.
– Hold the door for people today and say to them what you’d want to hear.

December 2: Luke 1:26-38
Mary and Gabriel
Holy One, reveal my role in your saving work and give me the courage to say yes.
– Do one thing out of your comfort zone for someone.

December 3: Isaiah 9:2-7                
Isaiah’s Prophecy
Lord of Life, fill me with your hope and light!
– Celebrate the season of light. Decorate your home or a neighbor’s

December 4: worship and rest

December 5: Luke 1:26-38
Mary and the Holy Spirit
Power of the Most High, overshadow me and make your home in me.
– Tell three people that they’re valuable and needed

December 6: Luke 1:39-45
Mary Visits Elizabeth
Jesus, fill me with a spirit of hospitality so I may see and welcome all people as you do.
– Go out of your way today to make someone feel at home

December 7: Luke 1:46-56
Mary’s Song
Mighty God, open my lips with a witness to your just and saving power.
– Tell someone how God has changed your life

December 8: Luke 1:57-80
Zechariah’s Prayer
Holy Spirit, complete your saving work in my life and fill my mouth with praise.
– Say thank you to as many people as you can today

December 9: Matthew 1:1-17
Genealogy of Jesus
God of the Ages, help me to believe and respond to your plan, even when your plan is far beyond my imagining.
– Connect with one person today that it’s been too long

December 10: Isaiah 61:1-8            
The Prophet Isaiah
Hallelujah to our Savior, our Healer, our Deliverer!
– Set three alarms to pray for someone’s salvation throughout the day

December 11: worship and rest

December 12: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph’s Dream
Holy Comforter, you are near when my dream dies.
You are near the brokenhearted. Thanks be to you.

– Ask, “How can I help?” as many times as possible today

December 13: Matthew 1:18-25
God With Us
O come, O come Emmanuel, encourage me with the promise of your steadfast presence and love.
– Make invitations to Christmas Worship Services

December 14: Luke 2:1-7
No Room
Gift of Heaven, order my desiring and my time so I don’t miss you this season.
– Set aside 15 minutes to be quiet with Jesus

December 15: Luke 2:1-7
Jesus Is Born
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.- Phillips Brooks

– Belly laugh with someone. Look for laughter and multiply it.

December 16: Luke 2:8-14
Angels and Shepherds
Son of Mary, Son of God, bring peace to all on earth.
– Call someone and sing your favorite Christmas song

December 17: Isaiah 11:1-11          
The Prophet Isaiah
Prince of Peace, break down every dividing wall.
– Take 15 minutes to listen to someone different from you

December 18: worship and rest

December 19: Luke 2:15-20
The Shepherds’ Visit
We welcome you O Christ, long awaited Messiah.
We receive you with joy and pray others will as well.
– Tell as many people as you can that you love their smile

December 20: John 1:1-18
Jesus, the Word of God
Jesus, make me hungry for you and your word.
– Tape a Bible verse to your mirror to memorize this week

December 21: John 1:1-18
Jesus, the Word Made Flesh
Holy Christ, I sit in wonder before your willingness to be vulnerable so we might be saved.
– Make a sacrifice or take a risk today

December 22: Luke 2:21
Jesus is Circumcised
Heavenly Father, mark me, name me, claim me as your child.
– Wear something that identifies you as a follower of Christ

December 23: Luke 2:22-38
Simeon and Anna
Faithful God, grant me a persevering and active faith.
– Send three notes or texts encouraging perseverance

December 24: Matthew 2:1-12
The Star
Bright and Morning Star, lead me with your truth and light.
– Hug someone today and tell them, “God loves you!”

December 25: worship and rest

December 26: Matthew 2:1-12
The Wise Ones
Jesus, what am I really searching for?
– Take a quiet walk with God today asking, “What do you want from me?”

December 27: Matthew 2:1-12
Gift Giving
King of Kings, receive the best I have, with all my adoration and love.
– Make a donation of money or items to a local charity

December 28: Matthew 2:13-15
Run for Your Life
Light of the World, protect all who are displaced by violence and evil.
Grant them a safe home.

– Find a map of the world and pray as you touch each country

December 29: Matthew 2:16-18
Herod’s Genocide
Lord of Life, hear our cry. Rescue your beloved.
Deliver us from bloodshed. End the madness.
– Write 12 notes saying, “You are so loved” and hide them at the grocery store, food court, library, etc. for people to find

December 30: Matthew 2:19-23
Returning from Egypt
Lord of Heaven and Earth, save me from my wandering. Lead me home.
– Pick a special spot in your home to do your devotions in 2017

December 31: Psalm 100
Prayer for New Year’s Eve
Holy Trinity, Eternal One, for the blessings of today, which remind us of the blessings of the past, which point forward to the blessings still to come we give you thanks.

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Live Hope, Give Hope © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.