About times and seasons 33 Sun 2017

Friends, now we are approaching the end of the Church's liturgical year and the texts begin to speak of the last days of the Lord's return. We are encouraged to take advantage of the time that is and use God's gifts in a way that bears lasting fruit.

The Book of Proverbs is a collection of words of wisdom and shows religious ordinances for daily guide of lovers of God and wisdom. The book is attributed to King Solomon. The book had different authors and was written after the exile. It is possible that some of them may have been spoken orally by Solomon. The text we are reading today is a praise to a good and faithful wife. It was unexpected and unusual at the time of the Old Testament in which women played less role in public and religious life. Nevertheless, the author thought of a woman, and rightly he raised the important role that a good and faithful wife can play in a man's life and thus in a nation's life. Such a woman is worth more than gold, silver and pearls for her family. From experience, we know that women can contribute to family success and failure in many cases. Many women have also broken family harmony, peace and success. Some married women may be in the family as volcanoes waiting for an opportunity to get an outbreak. It is often said that without knowledge, there is no wisdom. Knowledge is knowing what to say and wisdom knowing whether to say it.

The Apostle Paul writes to the converts in the Church in Thessaloniki that it was unnecessary to speak to them about the day, times and seasons of the Lord's return because, as he knew, the Lord had said that he would come as a thief at night (Matthew 24: 36-43). This means that he will come unexpectedly and therefore there is no point in speculating about it or seeking to know. So long as we live our lives every day as Christ teaches, we do not need to worry. It is very worrying that those who claim to be secular humanists in Sweden are engaged in occultism and spiritualism. They want to know about loved ones who have passed on. They want to know how the future looks like for them in terms of family, love, career and health. There are hundreds of thousands of registered and practicing occultists and spiritisms in Europe. For some time in Sweden, TV4 has had a series of "One Night at the Castle", where Lena Ranehag, a well-known medium, helps celebrities come in contact with the occult world. Since true religion and spirituality have been marginalized, people are now looking for substitutes. They are going back to pre-Christian era, enslaving themselves to false gods.

Times and seasons are eschatological language describing the moment of God's intervention in human history (Dan 2:21). God has not revealed when this will happen. In other words, what time we will meet God should not interest us. God has come to billions of people at their death. God does not tell us when our last day comes so we can prepare ourselves. Today's gospel reminds of the last day when everyone will face God and make accounts. God's thoughts for us are thoughts of peace. He promised that when we call upon him he will hear and answer us. Everyone does not receive the same kind of talents. Nevertheless, each one receives enough according to his or her ability. It is important to note that the talents relate to both material and spiritual gifts. When the servants received the talents, none of them complained about the distribution. The expectation was that each of them would use what they received responsibly and be able to report what they had done with the talents. Here we see that God encourages entrepreneurial and trusteeship. Awareness of business ethics is growing today, and companies are encouraged to provide good business ethics that promote the common good.

Last week Thursday, the 16th of November we attended our Denary meeting where we had the opportunity to hear a lecture by the Vicar General of our diocese, Revd Fr. Pascal Rene, on the sacrament of the confession. He told us about an experience that he had when he belonged to a youth group in France. Everyone in the group was Protestants besides him. One day during a meeting, the youth Chaplain asked when each converted. Each of these protestant youths could remember year, day and place when they converted. When the priest asked Pascal, he replied: "Today." Everyone stood up and applauded believing that he meant just he was accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. But Pascal explained that every day and hour is a conversion day for him because every morning he wakes, he must choose to follow the word of God. Conversion does not happen once for all times. It happens every day and time. We can learn from this to better understand when Paul speaks of time, moment and the Lord's day. So long we choose the Lord every day, God has prepared us with all that we need to bear fruit in the world while we wait in joy for what has been promised to us. When we discussed some of the pastoral problems we encounter in the sacrament of confession, one of us suggested that we should not raise the threshold, or we risk losing people. Then I wondered if Christ changes his expectation for us because we live in the time that is. Is he not the same yesterday, today and forever? He cannot adapt his word to the world. We are the one that must adapt to the word of God.

­­­­­­­­­­­God is the giver of all good gifts (Matthew 25: 14-30). Everything have come as a God’s gift. We would be expected to render account of our stewardship when our sojourn here on earth is over. Nobody will escape this. Nations and individuals have received talents from God. One might perhaps wonder how comes a few persons have unbelievably a lot while so many have very little. What do you have that you have not received as a gift?  The parable reveals that after a long time, the Lord comes. Yes, he's coming whatever you may think! That you do not believe may be part of his eternal plan.  Still, it is you that decide what you want. One thing we are sure of, one day you will move on from this world. Do you go to the joy of your father or to a life with the presence of God? In time and seasons, we use our talents. God's wonderful and unimaginable gift is not the talents but the eternal life he gives to anyone who has used the talents responsibly. Your talents are God’s gifts to you. What you do with it is your gift to God.

Our time is characterized by denial of God and his actions in the world. God has given each of us talents and expects us to bear fruit during the time we have. That the moment of death is secret is a blessing for us. Today's parable reminds us that we will be judged according to how we used God's talents to us. Probably, the ungodly servant had convinced himself that his lord would never return. In this, he lied to himself. The fact that the servants returned the original capital together with profits demonstrate the wicked servant’s charges were fake. The Lord was gentle and generous. This parable teaches us the same thing today as the people learned in Jesus' time. Like the people in the parable, today's people struggle to convince Jesus that he is not the Son of God, the saviour of the world, that there is no Day of the Lord. For these and former disciples of Christ, today's parable has an encouraging message; surely God will come and call home the faithful. Let's take care of the time that is and prepare us so that when God comes, he will find faith on the earth (John 8:18).

Last Friday, November 17, 2017, Gothenburg hosted the EU Summit aimed at discussing about jobs and growth. Sweden's prime minister Stefan Löfven together with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hosted the summit. For us who live in this neighbourhood, the meeting was close, because the meeting took place in Eriksbergshallen in Hisingen, Gothenburg. The topics on the agenda were: Access to the labour market, fair employment and fair working conditions, support in job conversion and government promotion of fair job and growth. Of interest, today's gospel text deals with similar topics- resources, work and investment and growth. The investor expects a profit. These Heads of State who came to talk about jobs and growth have no religious reasons when they talk about creating jobs and helping people get a living. They act like people of good will. For us Christians, God has also given us what we have to help us create jobs and other opportunities for fellow human beings. God will also require an account of each of us at the end. You cannot be blamed for being born poor, but to die poor you can be guilty of. Therefore, we all shall use our talents and bear fruit that our Lord expects of us.

I know what thoughts I have for you, peace thoughts and not injustices. You will call me, and I will hear you. Our joy will be perfect if we only serve God-when our highest happiness is to love and worship him. I have come so that you will have life in its fullness (John 10:10). In a survey conducted by Anglican bishops in 1984, half claimed that people are not obliged to believe that Jesus is God. This heresy is of course the lies of the enemy the father of lies.

The Lord's Day comes like a thief at night. You do not live in the dark; the day cannot surprise you like a thief. You are the sons of light and sons of the day. You do not belong to the night or the dark. If anyone remains in the Lord, he bears rich fruit. The Lord wants us to wake up. This is the Christian endurance before the return of Christ. A wake-up call to the people, yes to expectation and hope. If we read Jesus' words superficially, one can get the impression that Jesus allows the fall of Jerusalem to coincide with the end of the world. At first glance, it seems that only Lukas has mitigated this. Between Jerusalem's destruction and the destruction of the world comes the time of Gentiles. Asking for time and seasons is explicitly rejected. A disciple's attitude should not be speculating about the future, looking out for any future extraordinary occurrences. Christianity is now: gift and mission, to receive the inner presence of God as a gift, and from it as a witness of Jesus Christ.

The Church was also born in the opposing winds of history through the agitated ocean of time. Often it looks like she's going to go under. But the Lord is there and comes in time. That is the reason for our joy. As John calls us, we will not accept anything from the Gentiles (3 John 5 - 8) so that we can cooperate with the truth. It is emphasized that it is not the disciples' task to look at the sky or to know times and moments hidden in the secret of God. The task of the disciples is to bring testimony to Christ to the end of the world. Keeping his eyes on God and from him, the measure of the right act and the opportunity to do it - that's what matters. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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