OT 33 – 25th Sunday After Pentecost

November 19, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Judges 4. 1-7 — Deborah, a judge of Israel, gives advice to Barak, a local military leader, about a conflict.

Psalm 123 —We look to God like a maid watches the hand of her mistress.
Psalm 76 — God overwhelms for forces of war and saves the oppressed.

1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 — Stay awake and be alert for the coming of Christ.

Matthew 25.14-30 — The parable of the talents.

Preaching Thoughts

       This is a glimpse into the period of the Judges before Israel was really a “nation” yet. But a pretty tiny glimpse. And it’s a paltry attempt to include a little (token?) spotlight on a woman in the history of Israel. It’s not very illuminating. I’d rather offer folks a fuller picture of woman’s leadership than this little snippet of Deborah’s military advice. Why not Tamar, or Rahab? Yes, those stories are “adult content,” but they show women as resourceful, wise, courageous and definitely part of God’s care for Israel.

1 Thessalonians
  As we ramp up toward the big climax of the liturgical year on Reign of Christ Sunday, we hear again about the Second Coming. Whether or not we anticipate an actual incident in our future we can label as the “Second Coming,” it’s clear that in this world torn by greed, violence, hate and oppression, we are clearly in need of divine intervention. As alarming as the images of “sudden destruction” are, that’s not the heart of Paul’s message. (After all, maybe the Second Coming is really gradual!) The message is twofold: the promise that the God of love and grace is not done with us yet, and the importance of “belonging to the day” instead of the night. When we focus on the image destruction our image of God’s judgment becomes destructive. But Paul is clear: “God has destined us for salvation.” The point is to live with God’s light, now, in this long night of evil and injustice. The point is not to separate ourselves into the saved and unsaved, but to “encourage one another and build up each other.”

     It’s hard for us in our capitalist society to grasp the truth that nothing is ours, and hard to let go of the idol of personal possessions. The framers of the Declaration of Independence, perhaps influenced by John Locke, considered naming our inalienable rights as “life, liberty and property.” (Other contemporary declarations do.) Jesus knew better. This story suggests that everything that we think of as “ours”—our whole life— is actually God’s, given to us to steward. No matter how hard you think you worked for it, it’s not yours. (Besides, there’s always someone who’s worked harder than you, and they don’t have what you do.) Think of your whole life—your health, your skills and abilities, your possessions, your time, your income, your loves and cares and prayers, all of it—and imagine it’s a plate of fine food the chef has given you, as a waiter, to serve to some customers. It’s not yours, and not for you! It’s for you to share, to act as a steward. How would God spend your life? How might God want you to give away your time, your skills, your resources? A talent is a measure of weight (it works out to about 15 years’ wages), so even one talent, not even two or five, is what we might call “a ton of money.” So the one-talent worker doesn’t have much to complain about. “I was only given a measly million dollars to invest. Poor me.” How much do we have—what spiritual gifts—that we dismiss because others have more skill, fame, talent, charm or luck than we do? It’s all good. How do you focus on what you do have, not what you don’t, and share those gifts?

Call to Worship

Leader: Loving God, you create us in your image and claim us as your children.
All: We give you our lives in thanksgiving and praise!
You give us gifts, each different, and bless us with your grace.
We give you our lives in thanksgiving and praise!
Fill us with your Spirit, that we may serve you with love and joy.
We give you our lives in thanksgiving and praise! Alleluia!

Leader: Joy of heaven, you shower us with gifts!
All: Fountain of life, you bless us.
Spirit of abundance, you flower in us.
God of grace, we thank you. We worship you.
We give our lives to you in gratitude and praise. Alleluia!

Leader: What light God has given us,
that we might shine in the world’s darkness!
All: What love Christ has give us,
that we might love with his love!
What gifts the Spirit has given us,
that we might be for the world the good news of God’s grace.
Alleluia! Come, Love, and inspire us
to be your gifts for the world. Amen.

Leader: Creator God, eternal Love, we praise you!
All: You bless us with good things.
You surround us with Creation, and bless us with human community.
You give us your presence in Jesus.

You forgive our faults and encourage us in our weakness.
You give us spiritual gifts, and your grace shines in us. Why then would we not trust you? Why would we not be generous, as you are generous?
Alleluia! Fill us with your spirit of giving.
Come, Spirit of Life, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Abundant God, you have given us every good thing, and so we thank you.
All: Enrich in us our spirit of generosity.
You provide for us, so that we may share abundantly in every good work.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, you love this world, and you choose to accomplish that love through us. You have given us gifts with which to bless this world, to heal the hurting, to feed, the needy to encourage the downtrodden. Stir up those gifts in us, and give us love and courage to share them, by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit and the presence of your loving Jesus. Amen.

God of abundant blessings, you give us the gift of Creation; you give us the gift of life; you give us the gifts of all that we possess. Everything is a gift from you. We turn to you now to receive the gift of your Word, so that we might be transformed by your grace and filled with your spirit of abundance. We listen for your Word, and we open our hearts to your presence. Amen.

Gracious God, unending source of blessing, unceasing well of grace, we thank you for the abundance of your good gifts. You have laid the treasures of your goodness in our hands. Stir up your grace in us so that we may bear your love and trust gladly into the world, by the power of your Spirit working in us. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Generous God,
you have invested your prayers in us
for the sake of your gospel.
Let your prayers multiply in us
for the sake of the healing of the world.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, we confess our sin to God with one another.
God have mercy.
We recall those times when we have invested what you have given to us
in love of others, and we give thanks for your grace.… Silent prayer …
We recall those times when we have kept your riches to ourselves,
and we give thanks for your grace. … Silent prayer …
God, we have seen your love in Jesus Christ.
We give thanks for your mercy.
People of God, by the grace we have seen in Christ we are assured
that our sin is forgiven entirely.
We are forgiven, and set free to live by the power of the Holy Spirit,
to the glory of God. Amen.


             One talent

Sunrise and its gold,
a single kiss,

the sea that never tires
throwing its beauty at you,

trees scattering jewels,
stars saying their prayers

by candlelight
in their little houses—

such loveliness,
such precious coins.

You can’t say what they’re worth,
there is no measuring them

any more than the one you are,
little star among millions,

generous, infinite Talent

mere single radiant

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) In gratitude we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You have given us each gifts with which to live your gospel and share your grace. Send us, each with our own way of blessing, and together as the Body of Christ, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ and the power of your Spirit. Amen.

…. Having received abundantly, we offer ourselves abundantly. Send us into the world, transformed by your spirit of generosity, to invest ourselves in the mending of all Creation, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

All of the Gifts I Have (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

All of the gifts I have, all that is within me,
you give to me, O God, with care;
all of my prayers and skills, passions and energies
you grant to me to freely share.

Here are my hopes and dreams, attitudes and deepest loves,
all of the treasure to which I cling.
I will not hold them in, stilling my ardent song,
but serving you I’ll freely sing.

In all I keep or give, may I do my very best
in everything I say and do,
in harmony with you, only to love and bless,
with joy, to serve and honor you.

All That We Hold in Our Hands (Original song)

What do we hold in our hearts?
The hopes of a hungering people,
longing for you, and for bread,
and to truly be free.
What can we do, who are small?
The power is not ours at all:
God, you have hidden such grace
here in our hands.

What do we hold in our hands?
Nothing we have is unworthy.
An everyday gift you can use
in miraculous ways.
All that we hold in our hands
you’ll use if we give it to you.
Use what we hold in our hands
for what you will do.

What do we hold in our hands?
In it you’ve hidden the wondrous,
fishes and loaves you can use
to feed thousands with love.
All that we hold in our hands
we give in the name of your Son:
more than we ask or imagine,
may your will be done.

What do we hold in our hands?
Grace is abundant, not lacking.
Look now and see what we have
and find power and life.
All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

Giving Heart (Tune: The Water is Wide- Gift of Love)

O God of grace, you set us free
and feed us all abundantly,
so help me trust the gifts you give,
with giving heart and hands to live.

Come, Spirit, come, and set me free
from all I cling to fearfully.
Come heal my heart, my fears relieve,
so I may give as I receive.

Your Bread of Life transforms us, Lord,
so we become your living Word.
Our lives no more are ours to hold,
but yours to share with all the world.

The Giving Song (Tune: DOVE OF PEACE — I Come with Joy)

God, send me out into the world to share all I possess.
My generosity shall be the faith that I confess,
the faith that I confess

For you have given me such gifts, grace infinite and deep,
that I can only share them all. There’s nothing I will keep,
there’s nothing I will keep..

And let my giving change me, Lord, to make me more like you:
to let your blessing flow through me, creating me anew,
creating me anew.

My life will not be known by what I have, but how I share,
courageously, with trust in you, with love and joy and care,
with love and joy and care.

God, We Give You All Our Gifts
(Tune: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, or Come Thou Long Expected Jesus)

God, we give you all our gifts, for they have come by grace from you.
Take them, bless them, use them for the work that you intend to do.
We are grateful for your blessings, grace you give a million ways.
May our gratitude resound through all our lives with joyous praise.

All that you entrust to us is meant for all the world to share;
we are stewards of your grace to scatter wide your loving care.
All our gifts are yours, not ours, and meant for us to humbly bear
to the world, in trust that in our grateful giving you are there.

Take our treasure, all our earnings, all our silver and our gold;
take in grace the things we cling to, those possessions that we hold.
In our giving may we find release from fear and trust in thee,
love for all, not just ourselves, for all the whole community.

Take our prayers, our loving presence; let compassion be our creed;
help us be there for each other and for those in greater need.
Take our many, varied, gifts, our works and service, God, employ;
let our lives bear witness to your grace, with thanks and boundless joy.

The Harvest of Your Grace (Original Song)
[2 Corinthians 9.6-15]

God scatters abroad, and gives to the poor, and fills the hungry with good things.
    Alleluia! O God, we rejoice in the harvest of your grace.
How blessed the poor, and all those that mourn. “You do to me as to them.”
     Alleluia! We offer our gifts for the harvest of your grace.
Now come to the Feast. Our cups overflow. With grateful hearts we remember.
    Alleluia! We come now to work in the harvest of your grace.
God’s grace will abound, in seed and in bread. In joy then sow as you reap.
   Alleluia! God, gather from us the harvest of your grace.
You will receive, so that you can give, and yield a harvest of good hearts.
   Alleluia! God send us to share in the harvest of your grace.

I Belong to You (Tune: Water is Wide / Gift of Love)

Beloved, I belong to you.
You give me birth; you make me new,
your image formed, by Spirit stirred.
You are the Song; I am your Word.

Whatever pains I may endure,
I still belong. Your love is sure.
Since I am yours, your will I do.
I trust and give myself to you.

I am your coin to richly spend,
so spend me, God, as you intend.
You bless my end; you hold my worth;
send me to love throughout the earth.

Beloved, I belong to you.
Do with me what your love will do.
Bear me, and I, through ease or strife
will find in you eternal life.

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