the one about risk...
November 20, 2017, 7:33 AM

Sermon from November 19, 2017

Text: Matthew 25: 14-30

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

So, The Parable of Talents. At first glance, this text is a hard pill to swallow. No one likes to hear of weeping and gnashing of teeth. We hear a story that has to do with something regarding property or money, the talents the servants were given, and how each of them treats the lot that they were gifted.

To better understand this parable, we may need to know what a talent actually is. According to my research, a talent is equivalent to 6,000 denarii.  If we remember from some past lessons, we have learned that 1 denarii is equal to about a day’s wage for an average worker during this time in history. So, a talent equals 6,000 days’ wages. That is roughly TWENTY YEARS of days’ wages. One servant is given 5 talents, another 2, and the final servant is given 1. 

100, 40, and 20 year’s wages. All at once. Wow. That is a lot of money. 

An average worker today in the United States, according to the latest census data makes roughly $45,000 a year. So, in today’s dollars each servant is given roughly 4.5 million, 1.8 million, and 900,000 dollars. That is A LOT of money. It is even more impressive that after some time the first two servants DOUBLED the funds they were given. We of course know the ‘plight’ of the third servant. Out of fear this one buried the gift from the master and waited for the master’s return.

J. Ellsworth Kalas once told an old fable about a conversation between two farmers. The first farmer asks, “What are you going to plant this spring?  Corn?  The other replies, “Nope, scared of the corn borer.” So, the first farmer asks, “What about potatoes?” The other replies again, “Nope, too much danger of potato bugs.” “Well then,” the first farmer sighs, “what are you going to plant?”  The other answers, “Nothing, I’m going to play it safe.”

This is what the third servant suffered from. The third servant in our reading today suffered from fear, wanting to ‘play it safe.’ Fear of what he perceives to be a harsh and cruel master. So, instead of doing anything with the gift given to him; he buries it.

He hides it. He hordes it. 

What I find shocking in this logic of the servant is that he has described in his mind a master who is harsh, yet we see a master who is more than generous, he fears a master who is cruel, yet we read of a master who has given his servants incredible leniency on what to do with the substantial gift they are all given.

Something does not add up. The only thing I can conclude is that the servant was resistant to doing anything because he was paralyzed by the fear of not living up to the masters supposed standards; he was in fear of failure.

If we look through Christ colored glasses, this text can begin to take on a clearer shape. The man on the journey is Jesus, the servants are followers in the faith who are blessed over abundantly with gifts from Jesus.

All the gifts that we have received – the material gifts we possess, our own finances, our intellect, our physical abilities, our talents in areas of art and music, the ability to cultivate plants, and so much more. But, we also have been gifted an overabundance of life, love, service, grace, mercy, justice, forgiveness, and faith from God. We are also given the most incredible gift of all, we are gifted Christ.

We have been given so much from God that we are called to invest our love, service, grace, mercy, justice, and forgiveness. We come to realize that when we do live our lives in the ways in which our God has called us, that we will take risks. God risked everything in Jesus; we too are called to take risks as well.

Yet, taking risks can be scary. No one – not one person – can deny that. When we fear that risk we can become so bogged down in failing that we can become paralyzed and just bury those gifts given to us by God. 

If you’re anything like me, as you approach decisions regarding anything you seem to always ask yourself, “What if?” 

Have you noticed that the end of that question seems to always be negative?

What if I’m rejected? What if no one likes me? What if they look down on me? What if I fail?  What if... What if…

What if instead of listing negative things, our ‘what ifs’ focused on our faith and trust in God?

We as disciples are in this time of waiting. The ‘master’ has gone off and we do not know when that one will return. Much like those bridesmaids we read about last Sunday, we wait.

We wait for the second coming, we wait on Christ.

Within that time, we are called to use our gifts that God has blessed us with – those gifts of life, love, forgiveness. We are blessed with the gift of Christ himself. We do not bury these gifts. We are called, encouraged, and commanded to use those gifts to enact God’s justice in the world. We use those gifts to show God’s work through our hands in the world. We use these gifts to show God’s Word put into action.

As we do things, we will take risks. We could be subject to mocking. We could be rejected, could be yelled at. We could get hurt in a variety of ways. But, we also know that God is ever faithful. God will walk with us. God will be with us. God will continue to love us, to bless us, to hold onto us tightly because we are God’s own creation.

We might see those whom a group of people stereotypes as ‘misguided,’ ‘foolish,’ ‘sinful,’ or any number of terrible descriptions. What if we loved them as we love ourselves? The risk would be great wouldn’t it?

What if we shared the hurts and the pains that we live with? What if, we wore the scars of our lives uncovered and unashamed? What if, as we shared those hard truths – uncovered from the sterilized and ‘fake’ clean of social media posts – we proclaimed a God who is present with us in spite of those hurts? What if we proclaimed a God, who through such a great love, hunkers down into the trenches of life with us because of those pains? The risk would be great wouldn’t it?

We’re always fearful of the ‘negative’ answers to the question of ‘What if?’

What if we as the church, as Christians, talked openly about our faith? What if we invited everyone we met to come and worship this loving God? What if we reached out and helped that family who is a little dirtier than we’d like?  What if loved the sick despite their illness? What if we believed the stories of those hurt and walked with them through their healing? What if we stood firm against injustice and proclaimed God’s righteousness and love to all who could hear? The risk would be great wouldn’t it?

When we walk that path that God has set before us, we open ourselves up to risks. We risk rejection, we risk fear, we risk being hurt. But, we also risk being loved, we risk showing and receiving grace, we risk being changed, we risk living into those gifts that God has graciously handed to each of us.

What if we could change our thoughts and ways so that when we ask ourselves ‘what if’ we moved away from listing all those negatives and instead asked ourselves “What if we see God here? What if Christ is with us?  What if our faith and trust in God through Christ Jesus overshadowed or own fears and trepidations.”

What if, indeed. Amen.

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