Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Harvest Feast Abundance

Matthew 25:14-30, Lectionary 33 A, November 16, 2014

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Recently, Professor Karoline Lewis commented about today’s parable saying, “A spirit of abundance produces abundance.” http://www.workingpreacher.org/brainwave.aspx?podcast_id=557 Did we not see this last night?

Out of our abundance, many of us donated food. Then the cooks took those simple items and made delicious beef stew. Combine that with the cornbread, applesauce, pie, and all the sides - we truly shared a feast last night!

Out of our abundance, many of us donated baskets. These simple items, some store bought and some homemade, combined together formed beautiful opportunities for families to have something new. Our events and services auctioned offered opportunities to do something new. 

Out of our abundance, many of us offered our time. Some spent hours shopping and creating homemade items. Others gave hours designing the event and its publicity. Others donated time during the event itself. 

We each contributed to the Harvest Feast in some way. We each have shared out of the abundance that God has given us. We truly have experienced how “a spirit of abundance produces abundance.” 

In today’s parable, the master entrusts his servants with various amounts of money. Then he leaves for an uncertain time. When the master returns, he finds that some have carefully invested and indeed doubled his investment. One did not. The master rejoices in those who took risks as they invested his money, and he curses the one who did not.

I think we are like the servant who was given the two talents. We may not be given the largest sums of money to invest, yet we certainly do increase our yield. Consider what we all donated to the Harvest Feast - the food, the sold items and events, and our time. Did we not double our investment last night?

We have taken our two talents and made them four, but exactly how much is a talent anyway? The short answer: a whole lot of money. For the long answer, let’s do some math. 

One website says that a talent is worth fifteen years’ worth of wages. With the average Iowa salary being about $56,000, that means that one talent may value $840,000. 

56,000 x 15 = 840,000

Another website shares that a talent is worth about 75 pounds, or 33 kilograms, of gold. So, if a gram of gold today is worth $20, then 33 kilograms of gold is worth $660,000. 

33 x (20 x 1000) = 660,000

It seems like each scholar and each website have a different answer for the exact value of one talent in Jesus’ time. However, most can agree on this: The talent was the largest monetary unit in the ancient world. It most likely was worth an equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars. That means that 5 talents was worth millions of dollars.

Can you imagine your boss just giving you millions of dollars and saying, “Take care of this while I am gone”? Well, in a way, that is exactly what God has done. God may not give each of us millions of dollars, yet God has entrusted this church to us. Between the property, our annual income, and everything else that we donate, certainly this church is worth at least two talents.

God has given us two talents, and we have invested and multiplied them. Now we hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:23) So, through the Harvest Feast, we have shown our worth. We have shown God that we are capable of  investing what God has entrusted to us. In the big picture, the Harvest Feast is such a small part of what we do.

Now we can invest much of what we raised last night by sharing our mission support with our synod of Southeastern Iowa. They will combine our support with that from other congregations. A small portion will then be shared among the synod staff to further their sharing of the Gospel through all they do. The synod will also invest in the local ELCA educational institutions, including Grand View University, Luther College, Wartburg College, Wartburg Seminary, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Our synod will also share about half of our mission support with the churchwide office. In addition to funding the churchwide staff and their ministries, our support also goes to Lutheran organizations like ELCA World Hunger, ELCA Malaria Campaign, and Lutheran Disaster Response. Our donation now covers staff salaries and supplies so that our designated giving later go directly to those in need.

Through our fundraising efforts from last night, we also are able to support local organizations like Lutheran Services in Iowa that provides family services and Churches United that oversees the food pantries across the Quad Cities. We also support local church camps. Of the money that we brought in last night, most of it will be going out. Our donations will then offer other Lutheran organizations to take their two talents and multiply them. For, “A spirit of abundance produces abundance.”

God has also entrusted us with the responsibility for some ministries that will not be covered by last night’s Harvest Feast. We have Thanksgiving food baskets to fill next week. The week after that is Noisy Can Sunday. Before we know it, we also will be filling Christmas baskets and angel tree gifts.
This may seem overwhelming for some. After the Harvest Feast, we almost immediately have to turn around and donate food, coin, and gifts on top of our regular giving. Even so, this is not a burden - it is a delight! 

Our God has granted us an abundance of blessings. When we are grateful for all that we have and for all that we are, we find that “A spirit of abundance produces abundance.” May God help us as we invest our talents to share God’s blessings with others. Amen.

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