Twenty-fourth Pentecost Yr A Proper 28 Nov 15 2020
Judges 4:1-7, Psalm 123, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30
Here we have another terribly troubling parable from Matthew. This parable is the second of three in this section of Matthew, last week we heard the parable of the ten bridesmaids, and lastly is the parable of the sheep and goats. Usually, when placed like this, the stories have something to do with each other. The first parable taught us the importance of living ready and awake in the complexity of life. The parable before us today shows us what it looks like to live ready and awake.
The kingdom of God is like a man who was leaving on a journey. Upon leaving, he handed everything over to his servants according to their ability. After the man left, the servants did as they pleased with what they were given. The first two took what was given them, immediately went to work with it, and when the man returned, gave an accounting. Each of them had increased the original capital. The third man was a different sort of man. In contrast to the other two, he hid the money that had been entrusted to him. Now, this was a common way of hiding things. With no bank, no secure place to leave valuable things when going away, burying it was an accepted way to keep it secure. So the important thing for this man was that the money was safe and secure and that he could produce it when the time came. Keeping it in this way meant that there was no possibility of loss, but is also meant there was no possibility of gain.
Matthew makes a point to let us know that this master was a very rich man, and these amounts are huge, each talent may be worth about twenty years wages. And Matthew points us to a master who encourages his servants to use whatever they have been given for good, and to use it faithfully. The third servant was afraid, and did not use what he had been given for any purpose at all. The result of this fear was being consigned to the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
So let's imagine today that in this parable the master is God who loves creation, who loves humanity. This 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. God whose love is so deep and so wide and so broad. God who walks through this life with us, each one 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, it was given over in trust. This abundance is not even dependent on anyone’s 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 leaves us with and trusts us with the entirety of creation. So much more than we can even 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?
This is the same God who loves us so very much and is willing to live and die as one of us to show us the very best way this life may be lived. 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 heart’s 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 being able 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.
These stories about the kingdom are not about being safe and secure. This story, and the ones around it, are about being ready, awake and alive, not to be afraid.
You see, when it comes to serving Christ, when it comes to following Jesus, we can be bold and not be afraid of risks. Not so much concerned about securing our own lives but getting on with lives of self-abandon and witness, knowing that the grace of God in Jesus will more than compensate for any mistakes we may make. Instead, we behave more like the servant who hid his talent in the ground. It’s not a bad thing to do, but it isn’t living ready, awake, and alive, it is more like being afraid.
In these days it is so hard not be afraid. In A Wrinkle in Time, the main characters, Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace wrinkle travel, a little like time travel but not the same, to an in between planet before they get to their intended target, Camazotz. From the in between planet they can see the darkness covering Camazotz, the place where Meg’s father is being held captive. These days feel that, that there’s a darkness that hangs over us. A darkness that holds in its snare’s liars and bully’s. A darkness made up of quips and snipes. A darkness that covers rudeness. A darkness that feeds racism and misogyny. But you and I know the remedy to that. Hate and fear will not dispel the darkness, only love can do that.
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.