Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/05/17 Sermon - Great Expectations

“Great Expectations”

Matthew 25:14-30

In 2008 a survey was taken of American’s view of God, with questions that were similar to the paper you filled out earlier. Two professors from Baylor University, Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, compiled the results of this survey and wrote a book entitled, “America’s Four Gods.”

The survey showed the following:

28% of Americans believe in an “authoritative God.”

22% of Americans believe in a “benevolent God.”

The next largest percentage believe in a “critical God”

While the remaining believe in a “distant God”

What is more interesting, is what type and gender was connected to these beliefs.

Those who believed in an “authoritative God” tended to be evangelical and male. They believed that God was very judgmental yet, also very engaged in the word at the same time.

Those who believed in a “benevolent God” were mostly evangelical women, who characterized God as thoroughly involved in their lives, loving, but not stern.

The “critical God” believers had God removed from daily events but rendering judgment in the afterlife, and tended to be African-American, with lower levels of income and education.

The “distant God” believers, had God setting the universe in motion, but then disengaging. They tended to be the higher educated, more “spiritual” people.

The authors of this book argued that such questions were not merely academic. Their claim was…

that a way a person views God

profoundly impacts

one’s morals, behavior and politics.

Paul Froese is quoted as stating, “A person’s conception of God is central to how they perceive their world and behave in it.”

This statement definitely describes the third person we read about in today’s parable, in Matthew 25. Did you notice the reaction of the third servant? Not only his reaction, but his motivation was certainly a response to his perception of what he thought the master was like. He believed his master to be harsh and aggressive in his dealings. He even confesses to be terrified of his master. Up to his confession, we have no evidence that the master was, in fact, this way. But regardless of whether he was or not, the third servant believed it, so for him it was truth. The third servant was petrified…. Afraid…. And fear freezes people. So, as a result, the third servant did nothing, as he was afraid that if something horrible happened to his money, there would be dire consequences for him. How ironic.

Interestingly enough, we know nothing of the feelings of the first two servants concerning their view of the master or their motivation for the way they handled their business deals. We only know they doubled what they had been given.  Did they do this out of love for the master? Or, did they also fear the master but were driven to succeed at any cost, rather than to freeze and fail? Perhaps they were naturally born risk-takers and doubling their money was easy? We don’t know. But what we do know, is that whatever it was that made the third servant behave as he did, the first two servants were not affected in the same way.

I think we can all agree that perception constitutes a very large part of our reality. Think how often that is true in our everyday life. What we expect is most often what we see.

How do you look at conflict?

  • Do you see it as something awful and to avoid at all costs?

  • Or do you see it as a chance to grow and stretch?

What about your response to a crisis?

  • Is it a threat?

  • Or an opportunity?

If someone disagrees with you, are they

  • An opponent?

  • Or a colleague?

Our experience of life is so deeply shaped by our expectations.

The great scholarly debate over this passage is whether or not we should see the landowner as God.

Some scholars have God as the Master and suggest that Matthew is encouraging Christians to be watchful and to have an active faith, that doesn’t sit back but takes risks for the sake of the Gospel.

That may be accurate, but then that leaves us with a description of God, as the landowner who has a dubious work ethic, in making the servants do all the work, and he takes all the profits, and with a cold-hearted approach to business and a violent response to a servant who was obviously being prudent, and at least he didn’t lose the landowner’s money?

The idea of God being the landowner has its merit and I will leave it for another day. This morning, let’s focus on the factor that is different in this parable, which is the perception the third servant has of the landowner. Not that the other servants didn’t have the same perception, we don’t actually know whether they did or not.

But the third servant’s response to his perception perpetuated a different action, that in turn, caused a different response from the landowner. Perhaps the landowners response to the third servant was the fulfillment of a self-fulling prophecy, and he acts just as the third servant characterized him.

I wonder if this doesn’t also occur in our relationship with God.

We imagine God to be an enforcer of rules,

and we get hung up on the legalism of religion.

We see God as stern and prone to punishment,

therefore we see everything bad in our lives as a punishment from God.

Maybe you see God as loving and kind, like a benevolent grandparent.

Or is your view of God that He is impatient and dour.

What is your picture of God?

Let’s take some time and turn to someone sitting next to you and share what you have written down on your paper and discuss where you think that view comes from and how that may impact how you see things around you.

Hopefully, your discussions have opened your thoughts on not just how you think about God but how you actually experience events in your day-to-day life that we connect to God and to our life of faith. I also think it is important for us to realize that the reactions and comments we hear from non-Christians, often comes from their perception of God.

It is important for us to note where Jesus was when He shared this parable. He tells this parable just days before He will give His own life on the cross,

not as a substitute or surrogate to be punished in our place, but as a testimony as to just how far God is willing to go to communicate God’s love for us and all who are in the world.

Up to this parable, Jesus had spent his time on earth, proclaiming the Kingdom of God was here, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, offering forgiveness, and welcoming anyone who recognized their need for a loving God to embrace them.

And for that message he was crucified.

That’s it! Amazing love!

And the message doesn’t stop there. After three days, when all seemed lost again, God raises Jesus from the dead proving that life is stronger than death and love more powerful than hate.

Let’s not go the way of the third servant. Let us instead, rejoice in, and live under the love and grace represented by the bread and the juice. He welcomes you to this table where we celebrate His demonstration of real love.