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Year A, Ordinary 33, 2017 – Return on Investment

November 14, 2017 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

Hey All! Welcome back! You know that Sam Cooke song called “What a Wonderful World“? In it, Mr. Cooke runs through all the academic avenues that stymie people but the one topic he did not mention was finance. If I were to re-write the song with lyrics that apply to me, the first verse would be:

“Don’t know much about monetary theory.

Don’t know much about hedge funds, either.

Don’t know much about high finance at all

It’s a puzzling world to me!”

The parable in Matthew’s gospel for this week deals explicitly with money and its handling by three servants. The Old Testament and Epistle lessons are not about money at all but do share a common theme of getting a return on one’s investment. In Judges, God invests in the leadership of the people so that the people will advance into the land. While that advancement does happen, the leadership falls out differently at the end of the story than expected at the beginning. In Thessalonians, Paul continues to encourage the believers to invest in ways of living that will not catch them unaware when Jesus returns. The bottom will not fall out on them if they listen to Paul and wear the armor of faith, hope, and love. We hope we can help you invest in your preaching for this Sunday with the illustrations and special effects suggested below.

 

This week’s texts are:

Judges 4:1-7 [01:59]

Complicated money markets are not the only thing that makes me scratch my head; why the Lectionary Committee stopped at verse seven is another mystery. Of course, it would be very difficult to preach a concise sermon on two chapters of Scripture – which is where the entire story of Deborah is found. We suggest in WORD smart, that you not truncate the whole story by stopping at verse seven but find a way to include the intrigue with Sisera and Jael found later in chapter four. You might even want to try telling it in the style of film noir! We base this suggestion on an article we talk about in EYE smart (see the worksheet for the citation). Also in EYE smart, we have several links below to maps that show the movement in the story. The movement is reminiscent of chess, so for MATH smart, talk about strategy and even bring in a chess board and pieces. We mention another article in MUSIC smart that examines the opera Debora e Jaele by Ildebrando Pizzetti. The entire book of Judges contains within it a refrain of obedience, falling away, crying out, God’s response and deliverance, rinse, repeat. Find a hook and turn it into a country song or a blues tune, or an epic poem. Investing in any of these options could make the story come alive for your congregation. 

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 [09:32]

Last week, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to grieve the death of those they love as people who have hope. This week, he visits the idea of Jesus return with imagery that captures the attention, borrowed from the Prophets. This is not an accident, for like the prophets before him, his intention is to refocus the peoples’ vision on God. We have a suggestion as to how you might literally refocus during worship in EYE smart special effects as well as using your lights to demonstrate contrast between light and dark. Also in EYE smart, we have links to articles about lighting up the dark, especially in populated areas, and links to a fresco in a Greek monastery that depicts the Day of the Lord. Paul talks about the sudden nature of Jesus’ return on that day being like labor pains, so in BODY smart, we have a link to six of the most common signs or symptoms of labor onset. In NATURE smart, we consider the power of God’s holiness and the judgment that effects on us. In PEOPLE smart, we wonder what being children of light or darkness might look like. And in SELF smart, the armor Paul encourages us to wear might make us live life with more courage and tenacity, investing boldly in our witness to Jesus. 

 

Matthew 25:14-30 [20:33]

Jesus’ Parables have been studied for two millennia and still they offer fresh insights every time. Carolyn Dipboye writes that the parables do not offer neutral ground to those who really hear them; they require a decision both for interpretation and application. To that end, we suggest playing a game in WORD smart (that can also be used in PEOPLE, BODY, and SELF smarts, too!) For EYE smart, we have a link to a current adult beverage advertisement that turns the parable on its head. We also have links to art that has tackled this story. The plot of the parable contains MATH smart illustrations and pushing the master’s aggravation of unused gold buried in the ground, we came up with an illustration for BODY smart. For PEOPLE smart special effect, we have a script for Reader’s Theater (see the Resource Page for this and a MATH smart chart that shows the master’s return on his investment). As another special effect for PEOPLE smart, think about giving your congregation the chance to actually invest real money on behalf of mission.

 


Image Credit: Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo. Used by permission.


 

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