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Proper 28: The Second Sunday
before Advent, proper 28A, Tr 1 (C
of E provision), St Mark’s, 13.11.02
Zeph 1.7, 12-18: the day of the Lord’s wrath
Ps 90.1-8, (9-11), 12: Lord, you have been our refuge, satisfy us with your loving-kindness
1 Thess 5.1-11: keep awake; destined not for wrath but for obtaining salvation
Matt 25.14-30: Parable of talents: he who has shall have more. - weeping & gnashing of teeth. (1520)
God, our refuge and strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease and poverty and pain shall end, that
earth may know the peace of heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our reading from Judges is concerned with girding up the Israelites for
war, with Deborah calling Gideon to lead the Israelites.
Those who are called ‘judges’ like Deborah and Gideon, are not judges
in our sense, but much more like saviours or heroes.
It is no coincidence that when one looks at them carefully, there are
twelve of them, one for each of the twelve tribes of
But we are those who profess to follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Now today’s readings can be viewed as getting us ready for judgement,
with wrath being mentioned in our psalm, and the reading from 1 Thessalonians.
Even the gospel reading from Matthew ends up with someone committed to
outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Throughout the Old Testament the wrath of God is used to bring
As an example of what I mean, let us take the case of children who play
with matches and burn themselves. If
we provided the opportunity for this to happen because we did not lock the
matches away so that they could not get to them, then at the secondary level, we
are responsible for the children being burnt.
But if we always kept our children in cotton wool, so to speak, they
would never grow up to be mature, responsible adults.
In the same way, God has given us freedom to respond to his love, and to
take responsibility for our actions and their consequences.
When we come to the New Testament I believe that
But when we turn to the letters that are by Paul himself, it is only in
Romans that Paul ever uses the word “wrath”.
He does so eleven times, but he only speaks of “wrath” or “the
wrath”, and never of “the wrath
of God”. On the contrary, he
speaks repeatedly in Romans of “the
kindness of God” (2.4;8.12;11.22[3x]), and he says, “Do you not realise that
God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (2.4).
Why this apparent shift from “wrath” to “kindness”?
I believe it is because what he has experienced in Christ is an
overwhelming sense of God’s love
as made known in and through Jesus by the Spirit of God.
For Paul it is God’s love that melts our hardened hearts, not wrath.
God loves us and gives us freedom to love him and our neighbour.
If we turn away from his love and his loving ways, then there will be
consequences, and a code word for those consequences is “wrath”, or in
Matthew’s terms, “outer darkness, with weeping
and gnashing of teeth”.
When we look at today’s gospel with Matthew’s parable of the talents,
we hear of people being entrusted with talents, and those who make use of the
talents are given more, but those who make no use of what is given them lose
even that, and their latter state is worse than their first, for they are to be
thrown into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
There is an evident truth in this parable, for we have been entrusted
with the love of God. If we make the
habit of sharing it, then with time it becomes even easier to show and to share,
and it will grow both within us and in others, like the good servants made the
talents grow. But if we
do not seek opportunities to share it, then, it will wither and die, and our
latter state will be worse than the first. So
let us all seek opportunities to share God’s love with all whom we meet, in
big ways and little ways, even if it is only a smile as we meet others in the
street, for you and I are called to work in God’s vineyard, helping to raise
up a bountiful crop of love in every corner where we find ourselves, that when
the ingathering comes, we may hear the words, “Well done, thou good and
faithful servant. Enter into the joy
of your lord.”
This orientation should, I suggest, form the bedrock to our answer to the
question of what is our overall purpose in observing Remembrance Sunday.
After the appalling loss of life in World War I in which almost every
hamlet in the
Is it any wonder that the best we seem to achieve is that at least the
various ongoing conflicts are not in our own back yard.
We may be able to keep them at arm’s length, but even the body count
from wars, brutal oppression, and the like continues down to our day with, for
example, the bodies of our service personnel being received at Wooton Bassett
and now at Brise Norton from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And so we keep this Remembrance Sunday with poignant memories of those
whom we have known who have been lost in war, with gratitude for their service,
with concern for those left behind, the widows, the orphans, the wounded, the
maimed, the bereaved and all those who care for them.
And we do so with a determination that is guided and empowered by God’s
love made known in Christ that it shall not always be so, no matter how long it
[Sermon to be followed by 2 minute
silence and then the following prayer:
Eternal God, in
whose perfect realm no sword is drawn but the sword of justice, and no strength
known but the strength of love: guide and inspire all who seek your kingdom,
that peoples and nations may find their security in the love which casts out
fear; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.]