November 26,  10:00 a.m.

Pentecost 26. proper 28A* 11/19/17                                                             St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                         Judges 4:1-5:3;1Thess.5:1-11;Mtt25:14-29

The world is a hard master, reaping where it has not sowed, and we have only the one pool of talents entrusted to us to use in our one lifetime to make a difference and to build up the reign of God. This life is the final exam. This is the one that counts. Our clocks are ticking.

Here’s the bad news (the good news is that you really already know this!): all around us there is great suffering, trouble, rage, and wars and the rumor of wars. Things haven’t progressed much since the warriors Barak and Deborah, and the woman Jael who assassinates the enemy general Sisera by pounding a tent peg through his head! (The lectionary leaves out that next part of the story in the Book of  Judges.) There seems to be less loyalty, less honor, less truth than we suspect might have been around in earlier ages, maybe even than in some of our own childhoods. History doesn’t seem to be getting better and better – quite the reverse. On top of ancient hatreds come new hatreds. Now not only nations can wreak havoc, but individuals mightily armed with guns, bombs and hatred. The great engines of injustice and greed seem to go on turning, carrying us all along, no matter what we might wish to do differently. Just when we thought there was peace and security, (as that ancient Roman empire slogan said – Peace and Safety) comes sudden destruction, a day of ruin and anguish, terrified children, clouds of dust and thick darkness, from which no wealth could deliver us. The bad news we know!

But truly there is good news as well. The ministers of hate would like to hide it from us, but it is real. A bit of it is hidden in Matthew’s Gospel story. Now, I bet you have no idea what a talent is  in New Testament-speak? Actually, a talent in the first century was a commercial unit of weight equal to about 75 lbs. In coinage – usually silver – it was worth about 6000 days’ pay for a laborer. 6000 days. So at, say, $50 a day for a $6.25/hour wage, that would be $300,000 per talent. If the coins happened to be gold, they would be worth 30 times that – today about $1.3 million! Who would leave such wealth in the hands of their servants? The exaggeration of the parable should grab our attention.

Now under rabbinic law of the times, and under common practice in that ancient world, burying the money of someone who entrusts it to your care in the ground was the perfectly reasonable and appropriate thing to do, even the ideal thing. It was a world of limited resources in which the rich did get richer, and usually by dishonorable means of extracting wealth from others; and the poor usually did get poorer! For a poor person to invest someone else’s money – as it were, in the stock market – would be outrageously risky, even dishonorable and dishonest…for what would that person have to give should the money be lost? Besides, speculation with borrowed money would be seen as the same sort of greedy, bad behavior expected of rich oppressors. So this story turns things on their head.

The master has gone away – how could one read this and not think of Jesus Christ, gone from the world but expected back sometime soon to receive an account from the faithful? And what they – we -  have been left by his going is an astronomical amount of wealth. They are not to do the expected thing and conserve it quietly, but rather are to venture all in order to increase the total.

Hey, this is the moment where – if we had a parish endowment, I might be calling for us to spend it all on a parking lot or building plan! But what we have is not a huge bank account, but you. What God has in the world is you. And you are not to bury yourself, or your resources, in the ground of your daily life, but to invest and risk yourself extravagantly, for you are a great treasure. At some stage, God will be asking what you have made of the talent of your life, and if you offer back no more than you were handed at the outset, God will seem a harsh master not pleased. After all, our opportunity will end up in the ground alongside the talents we have buried there.

Now I’m not a gambler by nature. I’ve never spent the first quarter in a casino and I have never bought a lottery ticket, since I don’t believe I would ever win – so why would it be fun? But I am thinking of my life in light of this Gospel story as gold dust in my pockets, those pockets having a small hole which represents my limited lifetime. Everything I have is in some sense leaking out of the holey pockets – nothing I can do to stop it. But what I can do it take out a handful of that gold dust and spend it for something really worthwhile – or alternately I could blow it for some briefly enjoyable trash. You too!

It’s a wealth of time given to you – maybe one talent of it, maybe four score and ten. It’s a wealth of ability – your natural gifts, your learned skills, the wisdom and insight you have accumulated along the way. It’s a wealth of love that you inherit, or generate, or bravely choose to act like you have, even when you don’t feel much of it. Even if you hole up in your room and stay in bed and avoid every risk in the book, your gold dust is leaking away by the day. Opportunity passes.

I think that God means to say to you: Pour it out! Exchange every grain of time and ability and love --and yes, your money, too—for that which is most worthwhile. The parent pours out these things for the child. The soldier pours them out for her country. The actor pours them out for his audience. The teacher pours them out for his students. Even the poorest elder in a nursing home can pour out the remaining wealth of her wisdom and love for the sake of the relationships  available there. The youngest child pours them out for sheer joy and appreciation of life itself. Be generous. Pour yourself out for the world and for God. Don’t hold back and live timidly. If this community represents the sort of kindness and learning and generosity and welcome that spreads the reign of God in this neighborhood, then pour some of yourself out here; if you haven’t yet done it, risk your talents by investing them here. Take the leap and join in.

If you find yourself weeping for those orphaned and damaged by war, then pour yourself out in some way for peace and putting roofs over their heads and food in their mouths.  If the brutalization of children appalls you, spend your venture capital on their nurture and protection. If your heart has been battered and broken, find new relationships with decent human beings who will blossom with the gift of your love and friendship. Be a really good friend. Be brave! Take heart!

And to all of you who are already poured out for the sake of the reign of God, and for all the little ones,  especially to those who might be feeling like your whole outpouring is just a drop in the bottomless bucket, I say to you right along with Jesus: blessed are you! Happy are you, (whether you realize it or not). You are to be congratulated! You are fortunate. You are coming very near to the heart of God.  

WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Office Hours:  
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Sunday Worship:  10:00  a.m. 
Wednesday Eucharist: 10:15 a.m.

This is St. John's Episcopal Church... please click on photo below to see more photos of church life!

This is St. John's Episcopal Church, Westwood MA

Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day?  Click below to go to the Lectionary page...  all readings available for 2017:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips

Sunday, November 26:
 ~10 a.m. Eucharist

Tuesday, November 28, 7:00 p.m.:
Bible Study followed by Celtic style compline @ 8:30 p.m., in the narthex

Wednesday November 29, 10:15 a.m.

Wednesday, November 22: 
No Eucharist this week

Looking Ahead:

Thursday, November 30:
11:00 A.M.
Funeral Service at St. John's for Joan Wells  followed by a reception at the Dedham Golf and Polo Club. 
Visiting hours will be at Holden, Dunn & Lawler Funeral home
55 High Rock Street in Westwood on Wed. Nov. 29th 4-8 p.m. 
Memorial contributions may be made to St. John’s Church or to
The Home for Little Wanderers, 10 Guest St., Boston, MA 02135.

Advent Adult Education Evening Programs
Wednesday, November 29, 2017:

7:00-8:30 P.M.

Waiting, Hope, and Spirituality For Our Aging, held in the rectory living room. Soup supper served.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017:
Advent Prayer Program for Women
7:00 -8:30 P.M.
St. Denis Parish Hall  Westwood, MA
The evening includes a meet and greet with others, light refreshments, prayer reflections for the Advent Season, a speaker, discussion and singing Christmas Carols.                                                                                                                                    

Needed: Table Hostesses to ask 6-8 family and friends to attend and to RSVP by November 20, 2017

For more information please contact Leslie Warner-Maloney

781-251-9310 or lwarnermaloney@aol.com 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017:

7:00-8:30 P.M.

A Difficult Mystery of Waiting: visiting and caring for people suffering memory loss and dementia, open to the public, held in the church narthex. Light refreshments. (little error in Hometown Journal re 12/20)


Wednesday, December 20, 2017:

Blue Christmas: Waiting to heal from grief and loss. Maybe you have lost a child, a pregnancy, a parent or sibling, or a part of yourself; maybe celebrating holidays is hard for you…. prayer and gentle conversation, held in the rectory living room. Soup supper served.

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 100 homeless neighbors in down- town Boston on 2nd Mondays.

Ecclesia outreachwe invite homeless and poor neighbors to Hale Reservation for a summer picnic and for a Spring bowling afternoon in Norwood.

Tutoring after-school reading and homework help for city children at Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan on Tuesday afternoons.

Pantry support for the Westwood Food Pantry and the Center for Life elderly housing complex in Mattapan – bring non-perishable groceries to church year round.

Habitat for Humanity home buildcoming soon, a St. John’s team to help build an affordable home in Westwood.

Prayer Shawlsknitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Urban Promise Honduras missioners from St. John’s & CHS travel to learn and work with children at a school in Copan every few years.

Boston B-SAFE summer program our team works during a July week each year to provide meals and a field trip & picnic for this large city children’s program.

Eucharistic Visiting members are trained and take the Sacrament, offer healing prayer, and make friendly visits to people who are homebound, in hospital, or other institutional settings.

Speak to Rev. Jennifer if you’d like to put your discipleship to work in one or more of these parish ministries!