Jeremiah 31:31-34 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Hebrews 5:5-10 Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
John 12:20-33 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
You know the story. A rich man is going out of town, and he leaves his sizable fortune in their care. 5 Talents, 2 Talents, and One Talent. Now a Talent is no laughable matter. We talk about our talents, and it is something that cost us nothing. Maybe time and effort, but most of us have come across it by birth. In Jesus’ day, it was about 75 pounds of gold coins. In today’s money, that is $1 ¼ million dollars. So $6 ¼ Million, $2 ½ Million, and $1 ¼ Million divvied out. When the rich man returns, he asked what was done while he was away. The one with the most doubled it, the one in the middle doubled it, and the one with one talent hid it in the ground. And the one who was trusted least, proved that the rich man’s judgment was right. He asked of his servant, just as God will ask of us, “What have you done with what you have been given?”
Jesus said: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”
We will all be accountable for that with which we have been responsible. And we all have been given different amounts of gifts, and all of us have different burdens to bear. I am so thankful of how encouraging you all are of one another. It shows in the love, and care, and concern I have seen shared. The other day someone asked me about doing something for the church on a Saturday. And I decided to be honest. I try really hard to keep my Saturdays for my family. You all have me as your priest. There were priests before me, and there will be priests after me. But my wife only has one husband, and my daughters only have one dad. In that role I am irreplaceable. They understood it.
We often avoid thinking about the idea that we only get one ride on this Merry-Go-Round. We spin on our axis for as long as our ride lasts, so the question remains will you go for the brass ring every chance you get?
I have not spoken of this here much, but my father passed when I was 10. He was an electrical engineer by trade, and a woodworker by passion like many of the men here, and made beautiful carpentry. I remember many a Saturday sitting with him in his workshop, watching him sand whatever he was working on, and bombarding him with questions. He was patient, and quiet, and he loved me. And as he patiently listened to me, and answered my questions, he would talk about his work at the Shipyard in Newport News. And he would talk about all the things we were going to do one day. The trips we would take one day, the sights he would show me one day. But one day never came. All those hopes and wishes pinned up there, only to never come. None of us, no not one, are promised another day. We presume. We anticipate. We hope. So often we mean to get around to it.
As a teen, I went to see the movie War Games with Matthew Broderick, and at one point when his character believes that the world is about to end in a nuclear cloud he stops and looks at a lake they are walking beside. With deep sadness it strikes him that he never learned to swim. He always meant to learn to swim. He wanted to, but always thought that it would happen some day.
How can we live today so that we do not worry if that one day never comes?
Little do we realize what God has in store for us, what God wants for us. It is bigger, better, bolder, grander, more beautiful, richer, more precious than we could possibly ever hope or imagine.
So often I hear people wish they could know clearly what God wanted from them, what God has in store, but more likely if we knew we would run away scared, like Jonah.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
What will we do with the time we have been given?
In today’s collect, it says it so well:
I have watched in fascination as the steps were removed and rebuilt. What seemed so solid and firm had no foundation. It had washed away over time. They were not hazardous yet, but with simple taps the bricks were able to be removed, and underneath the cheap fill was no longer reliable. So, the transient, unreliable foundation was taken away, because it could not remain. And in its place, a firm foundation was laid. A trench was dug, and sturdy bricks were set in the ground. They were level and aligned so that what was built on them would be level and true. Then row after row, brick by brick, the new steps were put in place. It was solid and steady, and it will be here after many of us will have spun off this mortal coil. That is what happens when you lay a good foundation and take the time and effort to make it to last a lifetime. If we do this for some steps, nice, good steps, but just steps, how much more important is it for us to do it for our lives?
As Jesus said, the wise ones build their house upon the rock, and the foolish ones build their house upon the sand. As we build up our lives, what is your foundation? We have but once to get it right.
As we move towards Holy Week, what better time to focus on what it of highest value, what is of most importance? For Jesus, it was you. Willing to give it all and gain everything. Amen.