First Reading: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

Zephaniah (like the prophet Amos in last week’s first reading) presents the day of the Lord as one of judgment and wrath. Descriptions of the last day in the New Testament include details taken from Old Testament accounts of the day of the Lord.
7Be silent before the Lord God!
  For the day of the Lord is at hand;
 the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,
  he has consecrated his guests.

12At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
  and I will punish the people
 who rest complacently on their dregs,
  those who say in their hearts,
 “The Lord will not do good,
  nor will he do harm.”
13Their wealth shall be plundered,
  and their houses laid waste.
 Though they build houses,
  they shall not inhabit them;
 though they plant vineyards,
  they shall not drink wine from them.

14The great day of the Lord is near,
  near and hastening fast;
 the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,
  the warrior cries aloud there.
15That day will be a day of wrath,
  a day of distress and anguish,
 a day of ruin and devastation,
  a day of darkness and gloom,
 a day of clouds and thick darkness,
  16a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
 against the fortified cities
  and against the lofty battlements.

17I will bring such distress upon people
  that they shall walk like the blind;
  because they have sinned against the Lord,
 their blood shall be poured out like dust,
  and their flesh like dung.
18Neither their silver nor their gold
  will be able to save them
  on the day of the Lord’s wrath;
 in the fire of his passion
  the whole earth shall be consumed;
 for a full, a terrible end
  he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
 

Psalm: Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11] 12

So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. (Ps. 90:12)
1Lord, you have | been our refuge
  from one generation | to another.
2Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the | earth were born,
  from age to age | you are God.
3You turn us back to the | dust and say,
  “Turn back, O child- | ren of earth.”
4For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when | it is past
  and like a watch | in the night; R
5you sweep them away | like a dream,
  they fade away suddenly | like the grass:
6in the morning it is | green and flourishes;
  in the evening it is dried | up and withered.
7For we are consumed | by your anger;
  we are afraid because | of your wrath.
8Our iniquities you have | set before you,
  and our secret sins in the light | of your countenance. R
[ 9When you are angry, all our | days are gone;
  we bring our years to an end | like a sigh.
10The span of our life is seventy years, perhaps in strength | even eighty;
  yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow, for they pass away quickly and | we are gone.
11Who regards the power | of your wrath?
  Who rightly fears your | indignation?
]  12So teach us to num- | ber our days
  that we may apply our | hearts to wisdom. R
 

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Though we do not know and cannot calculate the day of Christ’s return, we live faithfully in the here and now as we anticipate the day when we will be given eternal salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus tells a parable about his second coming, indicating that it is not sufficient merely to maintain things as they are. Those who await his return should make good use of the gifts that God has provided them.
[Jesus said to the disciples:] 14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”

 

Prayers of Intercession

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.
Welcoming God’s reign of righteousness and mercy, let us pray with people of every time and place.
A brief silence.
 
We pray for the church. Enliven its witness in ecumenical ministries, feeding programs, and new ventures. Open our hearts to friendships that share faith, and open our mouths to share your good news. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

 

We pray for parks and open spaces, for clean air and clear water. Help us protect places where we are reminded of God’s work in creation and find renewal. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

 

We pray for those who have been and are still today enslaved, trafficked, or oppressed. Make clear the needs of those who are silenced by suffering, that we may listen and bring an end to exploitation. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

 

We pray for those who cry out for healing, hope, or help, and for those for whom we have promised to pray (especially). Bring relief to caregivers and surround those who are lonely with your powerful presence. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

 

We pray for this congregation and the talents and treasures each person brings. Bring new talents to blossom among us, as we encourage and build up one another. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

 

Here other intercessions may be offered.
 
Lord, our dwelling place in all generations, we remember with thanksgiving all who have died in you (especially). Teach us to count our days as gifts from you. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

 

Receive these prayers and the hopes and concerns of our hearts, O God, as we entrust into your loving care all for whom we pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.