Saturday, November 15, 2014

23 Pentecost Yr A Proper 28 Nov 16 2014

Audio 11.16.2014

The kingdom of God is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He handed everything over to his servants according to their ability, and then he left on his journey. After the man left, the servants did as they pleased with what they were given. When the man returned, each servant gave an accounting for what they had chosen to do with what they had been given. Kathy's translation/interpretation. In this parable a question that gets asked is, is the man, the landowner, God? I think that answer is up to you, I'd like us to look at it just a little bit differently before we get there.

How do we imagine God? And how does how we imagine God shape our relationship with God and with others and with things? I wonder if we imagine God primarily as an enforcer of rules, do we get hung up by the legalism of religion? If we visualize God as stern and prone to punishment, do we come to believe that everything bad in our lives is punishment from God. If we see God as arbitrary and capricious, and that’s what we experience, do we experience a fickle and unsympathetic God who meets our expectations. Is it possible that this is how the third servant in our story today imagined the master? Since he imagined a hard and fearful man, his response to life was out of fear, so he hid what he was given, he grabbed it tightly, and the reality he lived in was weeping and grinding of teeth.   

On the other hand, when we view God primarily in terms of grace, we are surprised and uplifted by the numerous gifts and moments of grace we experience all around us. And when we imagine God to be a God of love, we find it far easier to experience God’s love in our own lives and to share it with others. What you see, all too often, is just what you get. And so perhaps this parable is inviting us to examine closely the pictures of God I believe we each carry around inside of us. 

What do you think of when you think of God? Is God gracious or stern, loving or judgmental, eager for peace or prone to violence. Does the picture you carry of God match the picture of the God we know in Jesus? What events have shaped your picture of God? Who has shaped your picture of God? All of this matters as we hear these parables told by Matthew. 

So what I wonder about this particular parable today is, how does the picture that each of these servants have of this master or any other master for that matter, shape their response to being given the masters' gold? Does that picture shape the way the third servant deals with the gold? I believe so.  

So let's go to the place today where we think that indeed in this parable the master is God who loves creation, who loves humanity. Let's go to the place where the master is God in our midst, God who loves creation so very much that God is willing and wanting and yearning to be in relationship with God's people. This God whose love is so deep and so wide and so broad, and walks through this life with us, each of us and all of us. In this kingdom God is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He handed everything over to his servants according to their ability, and then he left on his journey. It sounds to me like this is a relationship of trust and of grace. The man entrusts all he has to his servants. No instructions, no lists of what to do and what not to do, nothing. And yet this abundance doesn't belong to the servants. This abundance was not assigned to the servants based on who deserved what and how much. This abundance is not even dependent on my ability today, tomorrow, or any other day to do exactly the right thing with it. 

It seems to me that the kingdom of God is this way. God trusts us with the entirety of creation. At least this part of it that we can see and experience. God entrusts us with the sea and the sky, with the animals and the vegetables. God entrusts us with all that is valuable, and God entrusts us with one another. And God lets go of the outcome, God does not control what we do with any of it. We can do with it what we want. That is what is at the very center of this relationship. God creates us and all of what is seen and unseen, God declares it good, and God loves us. God trusts us, what are we to do? 

Imagine a God who loves us so very much that this God is willing to live and die as one of us to show us the way. Imagine a God who is the creator of all that is seen and unseen, and to whom each and every one of us matters. Imagine a God whose hearts desire is to be in relationship with us. Imagine a God to whom justice matters, the kind of justice that includes everyone having enough to eat, everyone staying warm when it is cold, everyone working to feed their families. 

We are to respond to this abundant and amazing grace with all of our heart and our soul and our strength. It's not about our trustworthiness, it's about God's trust and love and grace. It's not about our ability or inability to use the gift properly, it's about God's trust and love and grace. 
It's not about what we deserve or don't deserve, it's about God's trust and love and grace. It's not about our fearfulness, but it is about fearlessly being about God's business of love, and healing.

We can choose.
We can choose in small ways and in large ways how God's amazing gift is made available by our lives and by our love. Choose love. Choose to be a steward of all of God's gift. Choose not only to care for creation and all you have been given, but do something great with it. Don't bury it out of fear, but share it knowing that is was never yours in the first place. Choose to be a part of relationships that do what Jesus asks us to do, feed those who are hungry, love your neighbor. Share your hearts and your lives and your treasure, not because of what you will get, but because of what you have been given. Love. Amen.

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