Sunday, November 16, 2014

Team Jesus: The Parable of the Talents (Part 1)

God has a commanding word for you . . . a call . . . for you . . . a job . . . for you . . . now you can react to that with fear and hide in the dark.  

Even then, God’s will will be done.  But you’ll be left standing at the gate.

And when you’re in a race, that’s a very silly place to be.

Let us pray the words of Brigid Rees:   O God, you claim me as your partner, respecting me, trusting me, tussling with me.  Support me as I dare to be vulnerable with you, encourage me as I dare to take risks with you, and together we can transform the world.  Amen.

In the parable of the talents that we’re about to read, as you listen, ask yourself what in the story stands for the kingdom of heaven? 

Matthew is writing to a church that has been waiting for Jesus’ return for a long time.  And they’re starting to waver . . . to doubt . . . to forget . . . 

The challenge, then, is to reawaken in them a sense of Jesus’ imminent return, the reality of his claim upon their lives.

So what, then, stands for the kingdom of heaven?

Is it the talents?  The ‘settling of accounts’ – the day of judgment?  The absentee master?  I suggest it is none of the above.

The servants, the men themselves are the kingdom of heaven . . . they are the ‘in the meantime’ kingdom . . . the waiting or preparing, standing pat or investing kingdom of heaven . . .

The kingdom of heaven is not riches, not even well-invested ones . . . it’s not streets of gold and gates filled with pearls . . . and the kingdom of heaven is not an absentee landlord . . . nor is it an event, not even the day of judgment . . . no . . . the kingdom of heaven is what is ‘at hand’ in the words of John the Baptist and Jesus . . . the kingdom of heaven is not far, it is near; it is not abstract, it is concrete; it is not an idea, it is a reality; the kingdom of heaven is not what we do, it is who we are . . . yes, we . . . we are God’s kingdom . . . 

If we are God’s territory, perhaps the question this parable raises is ‘what are we saying about the king’s very self?

A man at a church conference once remarked that our call to ministry is a call to be “Stewards of the Story”, the story of God.

The Stewards of God’s Story . . . 

It seems to me that the problem of the talent-hiding servant was that he mistook himself for the author of God’s story rather than the steward of it.

A steward is someone who takes care of something that belongs to somebody else.

And when it comes to God’s story, we are the stewards of that story; but God is the author of God’s story, not us.

But here’s the twist to the story . . . although the story belongs to God, if you insist on rewriting the story, God will let you. . .  

So frightened by his own imagining, the third man wouldn’t even invest in God what God had already invested in him. . .

How often we are like that servant . . . 

God gave him a chance, but he thought it was a trick.

God gave him wealth, but he saw it as poverty.

God gave him a challenge, but he saw it as a test.

God gave him trust, but he saw it as deceit.

God gave him love, but he saw it as hatred.

God counts on us . . . God . . . invests . . . in . . .  us . . . Isn’t that extraordinary?  The last servant just couldn’t wrap his mind around that one . . . he could not believe it . . . how about you?

The poem Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson perhaps best expresses the downright silliness of the third servant, of us when we freeze in doubt or fear . . . 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. . . Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. . . It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. . . We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?  Actually, who are yo not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.  There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.  And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

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