Use The Mina
Last week I told you the end of the world would come with no more warning than a sermon and that those in the Church were safe. This week we see how the Lord, the man of noble birth in the parable, delays bringing the world to an end even though all things are ready. God has fulfilled all of His promises by sending Christ to suffer and die for the world's sins. Christ has risen from the dead victorious over sin, death, and the devil. Christ could come at any time, yet He delays. What are we to do in the meantime? "Use the mina!" is what the text says. Like a chant at a football game, a cheer at a pep rally, "Use the mina! Use the mina!" rises from this text.
Well, what's a mina? If you remember your King James Bible, this was the parable of the pounds. More recent translations don't try to convert the amount into English or American money. They just transliterate the Greek word, mina. How much that is in American dollars is hard to say because we don't know if Jesus was referring to the Hebrew gold mina, the Hebrew silver mina, or the Greek silver mina. We do know, however, that a mina generally was considered to be a 100 days wages.
The point in the parable isn't that each of the 10 slaves got precisely this much money, but that in the eyes of the world each slave got very little. Another parable in Matthew show this. There a man also goes away on a journey leaving his slaves talents. A talent is 15 years wages. What is 100 days wages compared to that? Actually if my math is right it's 3/10's of 1 percent. So in the parable before us, Christ is telling us He leaves His slaves very little in the eyes of the world.
Furthermore, while Jesus doesn't tell us the precise amount He leaves us, He does tell us He leaves us all the exact same amount. That is not the case in the parable of the talents. There not only is Jesus depicted as leaving His slaves a huge sum that the world would admire, but not all the slaves received the same amount. In fact there is quite a difference between them. One slave received 75 years wages, but another less than half of that, 30 years, and still another only 15. The talents stand for the different abilities the Lord gives His people. In fact our word talent comes from the Greek money used in this parable, talanta.
But the parable before us is about minas, and minas are nothing compared to talents. What does the mina stand for? Not the money we have because when Jesus ascended into heaven He didn't leave us the same amount. The mina doesn't stand for our talents or abilities because these too differ. What did Jesus leave us, His slaves, in the same amount? He left us all the same Word and Sacrament. Baptism belongs to all of us equally. Absolution, the forgiving Word, belongs to all of us equally. Communion is not more mine than it is any slave of Christ. These 3 things deliver to us all that Jesus did and won on the cross. At the cross, Jesus defeated sin, death and the devil. They are delivered to us today in Baptism, Absolution, and Communion.
These 3 great treasurers, however, are nothing in the eyes of the world. Baptism looks to be just plain water. Absolution appears to be just words. And Communion appears to be nothing more than bread and wine. If Jesus had left us a fountain of youth rather than a font of forgiveness, we would have something in the eyes of the world. If Jesus had left us magical words rather than forgiving ones, why then we would have something in the eyes of the world. If Jesus had left us rich foods like caviar, filet minion, or oysters on the half-shell, then we would have something that the world admires. But as it is, we have ordinary, weak looking things.
Jesus left to His Church, to us His slaves, all the same thing, but it is only ours in the using of it. You don't have the mina, if you don't use it. This we see in the case of the one slave who buried his mina. Jesus refers to him as the one who has nothing, and therefore, loses even what he has. In the parable his mina was taken away from him and given to the one who had 10.
How are we to use the mina? Here is where this parable has been twisted. People have been taught that you use the mina by doing evangelism or even by stewardship. You are to use the mina to build the kingdom of God. But, friends, this just doesn't fit with the parable. Jesus plainly says that He must go away to receive the kingdom. The kingdom is something Jesus built for us by suffering, sighing, bleeding and dying on the cross under the weight of our sins. Having done that, He ascends into heaven, He goes to the far country, to receive the kingdom.
The kingdom is not something we build. It is something that Jesus announced as arriving and being in Him. Jesus didn't come preaching, "Repent and build the kingdom." But, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." We Lutherans should know this better than anyone for we sing in "A Mighty Fortress," that "the Kingdom ours remaineth." It is not something we need to build but something we receive and retain in Christ through Baptism, Absolution, and Communion. The slave whose mina makes 10 more doesn't build the kingdom, but he does receive, in terms of the parable, a larger share of the kingdom Christ built and received. He gets 10 cities.
So what does it mean to use the mina? Use Baptism, Absolution, and Communion by being baptized, being absolved, and being communed. Use them by believing and trusting in them. When your sins bother you, and they should at times because they are great and worthy of hell, you use the mina by setting your baptism against your guilt. You use the mina when you say with St. Peter that baptism has sprinkled your conscience clean. That baptism is your answer when your conscience bothers you. When the devil accuses you of doing this or doing that, you use the mina by setting the Words of the Absolution against his accusations. The Words of Absolution speak louder and better than the devil. When death stalks you in your grey hair, in your aging body, in your bad medical chart, you use the mina by setting the Body and Blood of Christ that you eat and drink for life and salvation against death.
Friends, when we try to reason our guilt away, we are not using the mina. When we try to deal with the devil by pretending he isn't really here, we aren't using the mina. When we try to deal with death by health food and medicine, we are not using the mina. Don't misunderstand. Sometimes we have no reason to feel guilty. Sometimes we are seeing the devil when he is not really there. And of course, we use medicine and eat wisely, but none of these things can deliver us from sin, devil or death. The ultimate answer to these cannot be what we reason, think, or do, but only what God has done in Christ on the cross. And that only comes to us by the mina He has left us which is Baptism, Absolution, and Communion.
I'll tell you what has happened in the past. We've taught people that Christ left them the mina to build His kingdom. Faithful slaves of Christ, tried to use the mina by getting others to baptize their babies. They tried to use the mina by telling people of the forgiveness of sins. They tried to use the mina to get people into adult class so they could eat and drink Christ's body and blood. And all of that is just fine. But all the while these slaves of Christ were doing this, they felt guilty. They didn't have good results. They could've done more. They felt like second rate slaves of Christ. They were just sure Christ would return and toss them out of the kingdom because they had failed Him so miserably.
The mina Christ had left them wasn't used by them the way Christ wanted them to. They didn't take comfort in the fact that Baptism saved them even though they were sinners. They didn't hear the Absolution as spoken to them; no, it was for others. And the Body and Blood of Christ didn't bring them the certainty that they were with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. No, Communion was to strengthen them to do a better job next time. But doesn't it do that? Yes, of course, but dear friend, first you are to walk away from this altar certain that not one single thing needs to be done by you to go to heaven. Jesus doesn't feed you with His Body and Blood so you can do something for Him; He gives you these treasures so that you might have the joy, the peace, the certainty of sins forgiven.
Use the mina! Rejoice that in your baptism your conscience has been washed so clean that Jesus knows nothing against you. Celebrate that in your Absolution your sins have been sent away from you as far as east is from west. Jump for joy that as sure as you have eaten and drank Christ's Body and Blood that you belong in heaven as much as Christ does. It's from using the mina this way that you will touch others with the mina. Nobody wants to share food or drink that you don't ooh, ahh and rejoice over. Others are drawn to what you first rejoice in.
Use the mina! This text says, and why would anyone not use it? All slaves of Christ are given the same treasure in the same amount. The same forgiveness, the same certainty, the same joy that I have in my mina, is in yours too. Because I'm a pastor I don't have a better mina, or more minas. What I have, you do too. You are enslaved by your sins; you are fearful of the devil who can drop planes out of the sky and send cancer into you bones; you are hounded by death, not because you are a greater sinner than me, have poorer health than me or don't have as much of the mina, but simply because your Baptism has dried up to you; your Absolution isn't ringing in your ears, and the Body and Blood of Christ isn't given and shed for you. But, all this is not true. You have the same living, powerful mina that I do. You are as freed of you sin as I am of mine; the devil is as defeated for you as he is for me; and death is no more of a worry for you than it is for me.
And the mina, not me or you does it all. Did you catch that in the parable? The slaves say to their Lord, "Your mina has made." Scripture says, "Baptism is a washing of rebirth." You don't add something to it so it can reborn you. Scripture says, "Whosoever sins have been absolved, they are forgiven." Absolution really does send sins away as sure as God's Word turned water into wine, healed the cripple, and raised the dead. Christ is no more waiting for you to do something to be forgiven then He waited for the dead to do something in order to live. And Communion really is the Body and Blood of Christ and Christ says His flesh is life giving. Something doesn't need to come from you in order for there to be life for you in Communion.
The mina does it all. All credit, all power, all certainty is to be found in the mina that Christ Jesus has left all of you. But get this. Although all the blessings, all the power, all the credit goes to God's mina, God rewards the use of it. He rewards trusting in your Baptism, relying on your Absolution, and taking comfort in your communing, beyond your wildest dreams. This is expressed in the parable by the king giving a city for every mina made by his mina. It's even better expressed by the one with 10 minas getting yet another. How do you get more Baptism, more Absolution, more Body and Blood? The point is that if a 1% cash back induces people to use their Discover card, how much more does the Lord motivate us by showing that using His mina is rewarded beyond what anyone of us can imagine?
Use the mina! It gives forgiveness, delivers from death and the devil, and gives life here and now. And hereafter, it brings unimaginable blessing. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Second Last Sunday Church Year (11-18-01) Luke 19: 11-27