The Parable of the Talents
This week I happened upon this lovely activity of encouragement
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you ….
Take the time to be curious about by asking question.
Pick up the litter on the sidewalk
Cut your neighbours lawn.
And I learned ….
You don’t have it all figured out and that you are open to learning.
You take responsibility for more than your own actions.
You care for your neighbour by helping.
The difficult part is not so much the noticing but precisely articulating the part about learning. In so doing, it cradles the gifts being shared. Try this exercise at home this week. Words and actions of encouragement go far. They plant seeds for the kingdom. And foster a healthy and vibrant community.
When delving into the the parable of the talents today, what is the good news for our lives?
The traditional interpretation is what we start with in Sunday school. You can find a video on our Youtube channel that doodles the parable. I’ve enjoyed learning how to use new forms of technology during this pandemic and this is the latest. The parable suggests that the master is God who gives talents (gifts) to each person. How we use our talents matters.
Two of the people use and grow the gifts given to them. They don’t hide them under a bushel basket but multiply them. How this happens is left to our imagination and experience. The master, God, rewards them with encouraging words, giving kudos for a job well done. Well done, good and faithful servants. Words we all hope to hear.
The third worker stands in contrast to the first two workers. Given only one talent he is afraid to lose, he guards. The talent is hidden and buried in the ground for safe keeping.
Although he is only given one talent, it was worth a considerable amount. One scholars suggest the equivalent of 1.5 million today. So it makes us aware that all three workers were entrusted with much. No one was lacking. The master was exceedingly generous in giving which is not an unusual characteristic of God. The master gives abundantly and then trusts the workers to wisely use the gifts.
This parable balances on trust. The master - God - trusts the workers to use well the gifts for the the kingdom. The outcomes: Hide and stagnate or use and multiply.
It makes us ask of ourselves as land barrens here at St. Matthews, are we using the gifts given to us well, and which of the three workers are we? Are we multiplying or are we hiding a talent? Likely it’s a continuum and we fall into both categories.
The encouragement for us is to carefully consider and then act on upon what it means to use this land in a way that cultivates, grows and multiplies the kingdom of God among us, even if that means considering the flexibility of the sanctuary without pews.
When the master returns and asks the third worker what has been done with the talent, we hear it is in good shape. Protected. Maintained. Preserved. The master should be pleased, right?
Not in the least. Instead, we hear an overly harsh judgement. The master’s words are borderline abusive, calling the worker worthless and throwing him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
While I get the point that using gifts is important, I critique the harsh response of the master. The crucified one meets people in their weakness. While the third worker does not multiply the gifts or act as the others, the worker cares for the talent. Perhaps the worker is either greedy, lazy or fearful of losing what has been given to him. Clearly, this approach lacks inspiration or any element of taking a Gospel risk.
But what I wonder is what empowered the two workers and what held the third worker back?
Using Our Gifts
The church is one of the great cultivators of gifts and partnerships for the sake of community. Together we contribute our skills but we are also invited to continue learning new skills along the way.
There have been times in my life when I’ve felt my gifts were being used and that I was growing in the way I lived out my faith. The church can be a very good place for cultivating gifts for the kingdom. Sometimes you end up doing things you never dreamed of and in a way this gives life. God empowers you to grow with the support of others.
Promise are made during baptism. Soon, one of our newest, little Kane will be baptized. And those gathered will be asked to support him as he grows in his faith journey. In non- covid times, you would be present to say a loud, I do, to support Kane even if you’re still figuring out how to support the newly baptized.
Now help me out here for a moment. I am going to record your support. I want you to clap your I do with a thunderous applause. People of God, do you promise to support Kane and pray for him in his new life in Christ?
If so, applaud your, We do.
There are time when we know our gifts are being put to good use. This brings a sense of deep purpose. We are invited into the arena not as spectators but participants.
Like the third worker, there are other times when our gifts aren’t being used. There have been times when no matter what I did, nothings seemed to work out as I thought it should. But I think this is also an important part of the faith journey. Continuing faithfully even when the results are not what you expect. For who are we to determine the outcome. This is God’s work. We give glory to God for working through us.
This is why, the third worker is as vital as the first two workers in teaching us something about living out our faith.
As we adjust to the realities of ministry during Covid, many of the ways you have shared your gifts in the past are not possible. For those of you, who deeply love to offer face to face hospitality through the ministry of food and fellowship at coffee hour, loaves and fishes and Out of the Cold, there might be a void where these once were.
Now churches and other organizations have to be creative about how we do ministry and pivot on a dime. We need to bury one way of doing things for the time being, and adapt to a pandemic way. Learning how to use technology so a Zoom mtg is like second nature. Now, we do contactless pick up with a wave. Baptism and communion avoid touch. Picking up the phone instead of driving to someone’s house is the best choice. Meeting in the sanctuary of the great outdoors blows away our fears. And through it all we hope our eyes speak of the grace shown us.
God gives us gifts. Using our gifts enlivens us with a deeper sense of purpose, belonging and and gratitude. We are empowered and equipped by God, so that we can do the same for others.
Out of the Darkness: Equipping and Empowering Others. (World)
Out of one of the darkest moments of her life, came Hilde’s life passion. Both of her parents died in concentration camps during the war. The kindness of a stranger helped the young girl escape to Sweden. She eventually became a teacher, often remembering the days as a Jewish girl in Germany when she wasn’t allowed to attend school.
As an adult she decided to support others who had barriers to education. One child was Chris Mburu who grew up in a poor family in rural Kenya. Chris was bright but his family could not afford to pay the small tuition to study beyond elementary school. Hilde paid his way through secondary school and Chris went on to earn degrees from the University of Nairobi and Harvard Law School to become an attorney and human rights advocate for the United Nations.
Chris wanted to give back some of the gifts of empowerment he had received so he
created a foundation in partnership with others. Later in life, Chris tracked down Hilde who had played such a big role in transforming his life and named the foundation after her.
Little did Hilde know that her small act of kindness to help empower Chris, grew in ways she never could have never imagined, helping to give education to nearly 1000 Kenyan children over the years.
God empowers us, so that we may empower others. Hilde, Chris and Malala are good examples of this, it might be that so are you. The world needs people to be empowers - equipping the most vulnerable and the oppressed in our midst.
Finally, I’d like to note of the placement of the gospel within Matthew as it nudges us further into its meaning. It is framed by the parable of the ten bridesmaids which encourages us to be ready and prepared. Followed by today’s encouragement to use our gifts. What comes right after the parable of the talents are words to guide how we use the gifts entrusted.
Come you that are blessed by my Father… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
Be ready and prepared, God shows up and prepares a celebration, asking us to use our gifts to care for a world in need.
So be it. Amen.