Sermon Pentecost 24 November 19, 2017

Judges 4:1-7              Psalm 123                   1 Thessalonians 5:1-11         Matthew 25:14-30

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We know little about Deborah but we do know she was a Judge in Israel, that is a leader of the people, and a prophet, that is one who has the ear of God.  Judges were appointed to their positions for there bravery and wisdom.  Barak the commander of the Israelite army was summoned by Deborah to attack the army of the Canaanites and free Israel from two decades of oppression.  Barak’s army although ten thousand strong was ill-equipped, the Canaanites had taken all their weapons away, so they could only fight barehanded.  Barak knew that his forces would probably be defeated and that he needed a hand from God so he did the obvious thing, he asked a woman for help.  (Right ladies ?)

If we read on we find that God through a miracle caused panic among the Canaanite army.  The text infers that a great noise from heaven disoriented the horses and the men and the Israelites were able to defeat the army in hand-to-hand combat, instead of being annihilated by charging iron chariots.  The meaning of Barak’s name is  ‘lightening flash’  maybe that is what happened to cause the panic !  Barak knew he needed help, asked for it, and got it.

Now let’s consider the parable in the Gospel.  The poor slave who was given one talent must have known he needed help, but unlike Barak, he didn’t ask for it and it cost him.

We see other people, genuinely talented people, sailing through life, fulfilling every expectation of them and they seem to do it effortlessly.  Now you could argue that it’s easier to make a million dollars if you start with a million dollars.  A million dollars brings with it power.  Donald Trump started with only one million dollars and was able to spin that modest sum, as he called it, into a billion.  Starting with a little is tough, many of us have started with very little, but we have applied ourselves and done quite well.  The third slave though acted in fear of failure.  He wasn’t even smart enough to ask for help.  If he had his financial adviser may have told him to buy government bonds and put them in an offshore account to avoid taxes and when his master returned he may have made a tidy profit.

Why not ask ?

Sometimes we don’t ask out of pride, not wishing to seem ignorant.  Humility in that case is valuable.  If there was one thing I learnt at seminary it is that there really never is a dumb question, well it actually may be dumb, but everyone else in the class is questioning the same thing !  Never be afraid to ask, but be careful about the answer you receive.  The person you ask may be as ignorant as you.  Always go to an authority on the subject.  There is of course one authority you can ask and always get a reliable answer from, God.  Barak needed help from God, he asked, he received.  The answer may be a parting of the waters in your life or it may be a thunderstorm in it that causes problems but those problems will bring about an answer.  Just ask.

Another reason we don’t ask is we don’t know what to ask.  If that is the case we need to pray asking for clarity;  making assumptions is never a good idea, they can lead you down the wrong path.  So if you don’t know what to ask, say so, and pray about your dilemma.  Again an answer will come.

And then of course there are the preconceived opinions that we hold and we don’t know why we should ask.  Maybe it’s been a pillar of our beliefs.  It might be a prejudice or just a bias, you know those sweeping statements that all things or people of a certain set are bad.  It’s easy to do because some things and some people are not all that likable but painting them all with the same brush is not Christian at all.  If you have something like that in your life pray for better understanding.  That’s terribly difficult to do when you don’t think there is a problem in the first place.  It needs a lot of self-reflexion to go down that path but you will be happier for it.

You might be too shy to ask.  Well if it’s an asking prayer shyness toward God is not necessary.  God knows your question already He just wants you to voice it, so that you can identify it and recognise it yourself.  Being shy because of God’s awesomeness shouldn’t get in the way either.  God’s awesomeness is not changing or diminishing because you do or do not ask.  And at the core of God’s being is His love for you, you are a child of God and nothing will alter that or stand in the way of that.

Another reason not to ask is plain bull-headedness.  In this case we say  “Even if I’m wrong I’m going to push forward regardless of right or wrong”.  Usually we are the latter !  Step back from the situation and be candid with yourself and if you can’t step back, just stop and have some downtime of meditation and prayer.

In all these circumstances God is with you and ready to listen to your petition and ready to help in answering your prayer.  It works, it has worked since time immemorial, and if you are like me you can attest to it with answered prayers you have experienced.  Prayer works.  When you sit down to have some snacks later share some of your answered prayer experiences.  You will find you are not alone.  Amen.

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