Posts From November, 2020

The Parable of the three Talents

Matthew 25:14-30-- Stewardship Sunday

Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras

Matthew 25:14-30-- Stewardship Sunday

November 15, 2020


The evangelist Matthew gives us three stories back to back to explain the end of time. The Parable of the Ten Virgins, The Parable of the Three Talents, and The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. The parable of the three talents is not about salvation by works. The apostle Paul teaches us that "by grace, you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8), and the apostle James teaches "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2: 17). The purpose of this parable is to encourage us to prepare for the second coming of Christ.


Let us look at the symbols of this parable:

In this parable, the owner represents God, and the servants represent us. Jesus describes the master as a hard man, harvesting where he has not sown and gathering where he has not scattered seed (v.24). The parable's point is not the evil character of the master but how the servants prepared for his second coming. Therefore, do not assume that Jesus is describing God, the Father, as unjust and harsh God. A talent was "the largest unit of currency at the time… possessed five talents of gold or silver was a multimillionaire by today's standards."[1] The talents represent all gifts God entrusted to us, such as the gift of children, time, work, skills, money, community, technology, spiritual gifts, and more.



The master gives the first servant three bags of gold or silver, and the second servant two bags of gold, and the third servant one bag of gold. God gives talents to us according to God's wisdom and our abilities.


Often leaders in Jesus' time journeyed to Rome to lobby for power or position themselves politically with the new emperor. The journey took a long time, and it could be dangerous. Those leaders could be robbed or killed by thieves. So, their return was not for sure. Before they started their journey, the masters put their servants in charge of their business and properties. Those servants were called stewards; they acted on behalf of their owners. In this parable, the Lord emphasizes the fact that the master may delay, but he is coming back.


The delay of the master is a crucial point. It proves who is faithful and who is unfaithful, who is good and who is wicked. So, the delay is significant. The faithful steward or servant prepares for the coming of his master. Our Lord Jesus may delay, but he is coming back for sure. Our calling is to be faithful stewards by preparing for his second coming.


In the principle of stewardship: God owns it all. Everything belongs to God, and I am responsible for managing everything God gives me. These stewards were given stewardship responsibilities to act on behalf of the owner when he went away. The owner expected his servants to manage the money as he would do. They were expected to adopt the priority of their master. Stewardship is using God-given resources to accomplish God's given goals. For example, the judge and prophetess Deborah used the prophecy gift God gave her to judge in Israel. She rescued her people from their enemy, Sisera (Judges 4). Deborah demonstrates an excellent example of a faithful steward because she used God's gift to accomplish God's goal and priority. We rob God by using God's resources and ignoring God's priorities and goals. As stewards, we are accountable to God for everything.


The wicked servant did not put the master's priority first. Jesus is telling us what would happen in his followers' lives if they do not manage God's gifts to prepare for the second coming of Christ. Our Lord encourages us to be faithful stewards because one day, we will stand before God to give an account for what we did with what we had. You will fail as a steward when you do nothing with what God has given you. Instead of entering into the joy of your master, you will be left out in the darkness. The first and second stewards worked hard to double their gifts. The third servant was lazy and irresponsible. It is easy not to give money or share your time and skills with the church. Remember that God does not need your money or skills and gifts because they are already God's. The point is what you are doing with what the owner has given you to prepare for his second coming.


My friends, stay awake and watch for the second coming of the Lord. I pray when he comes he will tell you “Well done, good and trustworthy servant [steward]; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”



Matthew 25: the parable of the ten virgins.

Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras

Matthew 25: the parable of the ten virgins.

November 8, 2020.


Matthew 24-25 is one discourse where Jesus shares with his disciple his final teaching about his second coming. After he left the Temple, he went to the Mountain of Olives and explained to his disciples the events that will take place before the end of time and encouraged them to be ready.


One of the parables that Jesus uses to encourage his disciples and us to be ready for the second coming is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Let us go through the symbols of this parable.

  • The groom represents Jesus, and the bride represents the church.
  • The virgins or the bridesmaids are the church members. Jesus calls all the bridesmaids virgins. He does not name five virgins and five harlots, which indicates two types of believers.
  • The light is the word of God, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).
  • The oil refers to the Holy Spirit, as explained in the book of Zechariah chapter 4.
  • Midnight hour refers to spiritual darkness, spiritual crisis, and spiritual weariness.
  •  The wedding is a symbol of the union between Christ and the church.


What do the ten virgins, or the ten church members have in common?

  1. Every church member is presented in this group. Jesus does not compare believers with unbelievers as he does with the parable of the sheep and goats. Jesus is talking about us who are churchgoers.
  2. All of the virgins, those who call themselves Christians, are baptized and partake in the body of Christ. Both the wise and foolish have their Bible and familiar with it. They believe in the doctrine of the church and experience the grace of God. The virgins or churchgoers are watching for the second coming of Christ by participating in church activities.
  3. Both the wise and foolish became weary of the long night, waiting for the second coming. They grew tired and found it difficult to resist the temptation of the flesh.
  4. All the virgins heard the midnight call and were taken by surprise. They arose and began to prepare their lamps. It seems that the lights were unattended, and they had to fix them.


Up till this point, there is no difference between the virgins.


Let us look at the differences:


When the foolish virgins lit their lamps, they discovered a lack of oil. They found the wise virgins brought additional oil, and they asked them to share it with them. The wise cannot share the oil, so they asked the foolish to shop for oil.

A person can't share the character development of the Holy Spirit. I can share the word of God with you, but I cannot give you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a matter between you and God. Only God gives the Holy Spirit. So, the foolish virgins found themselves unprepared to welcome the groom.


It seems that the foolish virgins did not find oil because it was midnight, and no shop was open. This confirms that God alone gives the Holy Spirit. The groom arrived and entered the banquet and the doors shut behind him. When the door is closed, no one can open it. The foolish virgins shouted, “Lord, open the door for us.” They pleaded in vain. The Lord responded, “surely, I do not know you.” The groom rejected the bridesmaids because they were strangers to him. He refused to open the door to them not because they were a few minutes late but because the door was secured to protect the banquet members and prevent the wedding crashers.

They knocked on the door, not because they wanted to be in a relationship with Christ, but because they did not want to be left out in the darkness. The foolish virgins or Christians want the privileges of being Christians; they want the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and grace, but they do not want discipleship. Amos tells us that God rejects this type of Christians.

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps (Amos 5)



Stay awake and prepare for the second coming of our Lord. You might get tired and exhausted. The only thing that keeps you awake is your strong relationship with Jesus Christ and dwelling in his word. The Holy Spirit will always be with you to help you fight the darkness and evil and to stay awake. Now we have an opportunity to be open to the Holy Spirit, but at the final judgment, it will be too late. The door will be shut. What you are doing now is what matters, but later at the final judgment, it will be too late. Amos explains to us how to prepare for the coming of the lord by

But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.(5:24).



John 8:31-36 Reformat Sunday

Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras

John 8:31-36 Reformat Sunday

October 25, 2020


 “In 1510, Luther was sent to Rome, where he witnessed the corruption of the Roman church. He climbed the Scala Sancta (“The Holy Stairs”), supposedly the same stairs Jesus ascended when He appeared before Pilate. According to fables, the steps had been moved from Jerusalem to Rome, and the priests claimed that God forgave sins for those who climbed the stairs on their knees. Luther did so, repeating the Lord’s Prayer, kissing each step, and seeking peace with God. But when he reached the top step, he looked back and thought, “Who knows whether this is true?.” He felt no closer to God.”


“Who knows whether this is true?” All of us want to know the truth. Daily we receive lots and lots of misleading information about politics, health, history; you name it. “Some people appeal to reason and logic to adjudicate competing truth claims. Others appeal to sense experience. Still, others refer to themselves and their own subjective sense of things.”[1]


Martin Luther struggled to find the truth. In the 16th century, the Catholic Church was dominant in Western Europe and indoctrinated Christians with misleading information about their faith and salvation. Selling indulgences that offered forgiveness was a single example of the church manipulation. The relationship between people and church was essentially based on money, which increased the wealth of the Catholic Church.”[2] Wealthy families secured their salvation by buying positions for their sons in the church.[3] The church, not Christ, was the gate to heaven. In other words, if you want God be happy with you, make your priest happy. These examples show you that the Catholic Church of the 16th century fed illiterate Christians fake news about their salvation taking advantage of their ignorance. As a result of the church practices, the essential biblical truths muted for centuries.


Jesus tells the” Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (31-32). In ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament,  the word (alḗtheia), truth, “was synonymous for "reality" as the opposite of illusion, i.e., fact].”[4] Based on these two verses, we know the truth or the fact/reality if we know the word of God. If we dwell and study the word of God, then we will know the truth, and the truth will liberate us from misleading information that clouds our judgment about who we are in Jesus Christ and about our salvation.


Martin Luther based his reformation on one question, “How can I be made right with God?” In other words, how can I be justified in the eyes of God? The answer is not through following the church practices. Luther summarizes his response with two phrases: sola fide, faith alone, and sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. That said, our Christian life should be based on what the Bible says and not on what the culture teaches us. We are not justified by our good works but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who set us free from sin and Satan tyranny to become children of God.


The Catholic Church of the 16th century argued that Scripture did not have the final authority, but the pope did. As a result, Pope Leo X persecuted Luther and excommunicated him, but Luther stood his ground in God's word and refused to change his position. In the Leipzig Debate between Martin Luther and Johann Eck, who defended the Pope, Luther responded that “… A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.… [N]either the Church nor the pope can establish articles of faith. These must come from Scripture. For the sake of Scripture we should reject pope and councils.”[5]


The word of God has freed people from all kinds of oppression and delusion. I will give you a few examples:

God's word that tells us facts about our freedom and dignity as people created according to God’s image has liberated slaves and demolished slavery. Martin Luther King depended on God's word to challenge the apartheid system in the United States, and the ELCA continues to challenge systemic racism.

The word of God inspired the liberation theologians in Latin America and Palestine to challenge the unjust socioeconomic structures and the Israeli military occupation of West Bank-Palestine. Through the word of God, liberation theologians are advocating for the poor and underprivileged. Scripture stands on the side of the oppressed and demonstrates that God wants to transform their lives.


The word of God has lots to say about discrimination against women and has led to emerge of Feminist theologians. These theologians depend on Scripture to explain the quality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership and that God does not discriminate based on a person's gender.


The reformation of the church and society has no end. We are called to continue this reformation that our Lord Jesus Christ has started. We need to continue to rely on the facts that Scripture proclaims about the relationship between God and us and one another to continue to reform our world and advance God's kingdom on earth. When we are rooted in the word of God as Martin Luther did, then we will be true disciples of Christ, and you will know the truth/facts, and the truth will make us free.