Enter the Gates

Our Hymn of Grateful Praise

Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

Three weeks before the end of the liturgical year, and we turn to gratitude as the guiding theme for worship. What does a life of gratitude look like? Or perhaps more importantly, what does it feel like?

Matthew 25:14-30 NIRV

The Story of Three Slaves

1 “Again, here is what the kingdom of heaven will be like. A man was going on a journey. He sent for his slaves and put them in charge of his money. 15He gave five bags of gold to one. He gave two bags to another. And he gave one bag to the third. The man gave each slave the amount of money he knew the slave could take care of. Then he went on his journey. 16The slave who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work. He earned five bags more. 17 The one with the two bags of gold earned two more. 18But the man who had received one bag went and dug a hole in the ground. He hid his master’s money in it.

19“After a long time the master of those slaves returned. He wanted to collect all the money they had earned. 20The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you trusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have earned five more.’

21“His master replied, ‘You have done well, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you trusted me with two bags of gold. See, I have earned two more.’

23“His master replied, ‘You have done well, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest where you have not planted. You gather crops where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid. I went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26“His master replied, ‘You evil, lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I have not planted? You knew that I gather crops where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money in the bank. When I returned, I would have received it back with interest.’

28“Then his master commanded the other slaves, ‘Take the bag of gold from him. Give it to the one who has ten bags. 29Everyone who has will be given more. They will have more than enough. And what about anyone who doesn’t have? Even what they have will be taken away from them. 30Throw that worthless slave outside. There in the darkness, people will weep and grind their teeth.’

Props: Wastepaper can with paper wads to serve as basketball and goal.

Children’s Message

Jesus told stories, called parables, about what heaven is like. Many of those stories described how we need to prepare for when Jesus returns and how we are all God’s children. Jesus wanted his followers to listen and be ready. Today’s Scripture passage is a story called “The parable of the talents.”

Today’s scripture got me thinking about my favorite sport that is played this time of year by many college athletes, both men and women. Can anyone guess what sport I am talking about? That’s right: basketball. Just as I did last week, I will retell this story a little differently, so that you might understand it better.

There was a great basketball coach who was going to miss many practices that his team would have. He told three of the players on the team that he would be gone for a while and that he was leaving them in charge of the practice sessions.

To the first player, his point guard, he gave five DVDs with skill drills to practice that would teach the player about ball handling and passing. These are skills that a good point guard needs to learn. To the second player, he gave two DVDs on defense. Those did not provide as much instruction as for the first player, but it still would help the player improve. To the third player, the coach gave one DVD on shooting the basketball. Even one DVD of drills would help the player improve.

The first player took the drills that his coach had given him and went to practice to teach his teammates all about dribbling and passing the basketball. The second player also took his skills and taught better defense to the team. The third player didn’t even watch his DVD of shooting drills. It got buried in his room under dirty laundry.

When the coach returned to practice, he was pleased when he saw the team’s improvement in dribbling, passing, and playing defense. He told the first two players, “Well done. Because you were faithful with the instructions on the DVDs, your skills have improved. You are a better teammate as you have shared those skills with the rest of the team.

Then the coach asked the third player to show him how he used his talent of shooting to teach the rest of the team. The third player said that he was afraid the coach would be hard on him because he thought he was a pretty good shooter already. That player left the DVD of instructions in his room and didn’t even watch it.

This upset the coach. He told the player, “You could have at least given the instructions to one of your teammates so he could learn and improve.” He took the DVD, gave it to another player, and told the third player that his playing time would be less than the other players who had watched the DVDs and shared their skills with teammates.

In the parable of the talents from scripture, God is the master; the talents given to the servants were in the form of money. In my story, the talents were basketball skills. But God has given us talents too. God created each of us with special gifts, and God expects us to share those gifts with others.

Does everyone have the same gifts and talents? (Let the children respond.)

Some people sing. Others dance beautifully. Some can play basketball. Others play incredible music on the piano. Some people can put things together and build great things. Some are good with computers; some are good at art.

God wants you to take what you have and use it to the best of your ability. If you can draw, you could make get-well cards for someone who is sick. You may not get paid big money from this, but you are using your talent wisely.

If you are good at talking and listening, maybe you can tell others about Jesus. If you can sing or play an instrument, make beautiful music for God.

Don’t waste the talent that God has given to you. Don’t waste the gifts that God gave you. If we use our talents to help others, then we can show others what it means to know, love, and follow Jesus. We know we have done our best with what we have been given.

(If worshiping in person, give each child a piece of paper to wad up in the shape of a ball. Hold the wastepaper basket very near to them, so they are guaranteed to make a slam dunk.). Say: “Each of you has been given a piece of paper. Let’s make basketballs out of them. I will hold the hoop in front of you. Even if you have never played basketball before, just like player one and two in the story, we will ‘cheer’ one another on as we use our talents to encourage others. As you dunk the ball, think of your own talents and gifts that God has given you. Quietly think how you can use those gifts to help others.”

Let’s pray, and then you can each say “Amen” as you make a “slam dunk.”

Prayer: Thank you God, for giving us each the ability to do so many wonderful things. Help us to use our gifts to help others. Give us the ability to see how our gifts affect one another. In Jesus’ precious and strong name.

(Hold basket in front of each child and let each slam the “ball” and say “A-men.”)

Bible verses from the New International Reader's Version (NIRV) Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

In This Series...

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Reign of Christ/Thanksgiving Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes