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Written by Pat Ireland   
Thursday, 11 June 2015 16:46

 

First Presbyterian Church, Cottonwood Falls, KS

All We Do:  Matthew 25: 14-30?

Rev. Pat Ireland, Pastor

June 7, 2015

 

Matthew 25:14-31 (CEB)

14 “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. 15 To one he gave five valuable coins,[a] and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey.

16 “After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. 18 But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

19 “Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received five valuable coins came forward with five additional coins. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’

22 “The second servant also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’

24 “Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. 25 So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You evil and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest grain where I haven’t sown and that I gather crops where I haven’t spread seed? 27 In that case, you should have turned my money over to the bankers so that when I returned, you could give me what belonged to me with interest. 28 Therefore, take from him the valuable coin and give it to the one who has ten coins. 29 Those who have much will receive more, and they will have more than they need. But as for those who don’t have much, even the little bit they have will be taken away from them. 30 Now take the worthless servant and throw him outside into the darkness.’

“People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.

I once heard a story about a couple that received a gift certificate for their anniversary for a nice dinner out.  They put the card in the drawer and forgot about it.  More than 6 months later the wife remembered it and suggested it be used to pay when taking some friends out to a favorite restaurant.

The meal was delightful.  However, when it came time to pay, the couple discovered that, because they had not used the card within a defined time, it had lost some of its value.  In fact, if they had waited longer to use it, the card would have lost more value eventually becoming worthless.

Though God gifts us with faith, an assortment of talents and skills, and even a calling, it is up to us to accept, use or live into that faith, skill or calling.

Let us Pray:  Generous God, guide the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts that we might receive the blessings you offer.  Amen

 

My mentor always said a parable has only one point.  Don’t allegorize it!   Don’t try to make parts of the story representative of a character.  Traditionally the parable of the talents has been seen through eyes of the protestant work ethic and the moral we have been taught is to use the gifts God gifts us.

More recently scholars have struggled with the story of a Lord who punishes those who don’t use their gifts.  Some have even turned the parable on its ear suggesting that the slave who did not participate in the oppressive system is the hero of the story.  Those scholars make an interesting case – if we consider the story an allegory rather than a parable.

The story is told at the climax of the Matthew in an effort to teach the disciples about the kingdom of God.  And I suppose that if Jesus primary concern were the oppressive system of Rome, he might tell a story about not participating in the work of the Empire and rejecting the values of the world, but I’m not entirely convinced.   I feel like there are more important lessons we can take from Jesus’ story.  So, I’m going to share some comments and let the Spirit guide you to the message that you need to hear this morning.

Warning:  there will be short periods for prayer between comments.  The time will close with a short chorus from the Majesty Hymnal that goes like this:  Mike sing it here:  “All we do our whole life through, is use the gifts you have given for praising you”.    The refrain will be played first and then sung.  Join in the singing as the Spirit moves you.

In some parables, we instinctively know that the protagonists do not represent God. No one would ever have the idea of identifying the wicked judge “who neither feared God nor had respect for people,” with the Lord. Luke 18:2  Similarly, in some parables, the characters behave in a way quite different from Christian values.  The five wise virgins who refuse to share their oil are far from being an example of Christian love and sharing! Matthew 25:1-12

Just because Jesus told the stories to teach about God and God’s Kingdom doesn’t mean that all the elements are consistent with the gospel message.  These elements are trying to bring across a point that certainly is in line with the Gospel.  The important thing is finding that point.

That is true for the parable of the talents.  It is not the harsh master, who harvests where he has not sown and who gathers where he has not scattered seed, that should make us think of Christ.  What is in harmony with the Kingdom is found elsewhere.

One of the characters behaved in a completely wrong way. He totally misunderstood the time in which he was living. The first two servants, who received 5 and 2 talents respectively - an enormous sum, since one talent was worth twenty years of a worker’s average wage-, realized that they were shown trust so that they could undertake initiatives.  That is what prompted them to work to make a profit out of what the master had entrusted to them.  The enormous error of the third servant was to have thought that the time between his master’s departure and return was a time for fear. v. 25  That’s why he went and hid his talent in the ground.

Jesus tells this story to help his followers to understand the nature of the time in which they will have to live until his return.  It is not a time for fear and paralysis.

Forced to live in a changing world, disciples are called to something other than passivity.  They have to make the treasure entrusted to them bear fruit under new conditions.  They must make use of their imagination and that requires a good measure of daring and creativity.

What then does this parable say to this congregation as it faces the future?

Interlude:   “All we do,” instrumental and then sung.

John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic during the Counter Reformation.  He wrote "In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone."

We might say that the first two servants in this parable were probably more experienced in loving, so they could fearlessly invest their portions of love.  Heedless of sheer foolhardiness, they risk ego, rejection, derision, even death, adventurously increasing the master's wealth of love in the world. The last servant misses the point, and like sinning against the Holy Spirit Mt. 12:32 the poor clueless man finds himself in the outer darkness for clinging to the supposed safety of burying his love in the ground.

Two hundred years after John of the Cross, John Wesley commented, "So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation."   Adding: "He that had received one" - made his having fewer talents than others a pretense for not improving any.  Went and hid his master's money, art thou doing the same?  Art thou hiding the talent God hath lent thee?”

I might phrase it:  Are you hiding the love God gave you to share with others?

Interlude:   “All we do,” instrumental and then sung.

Australian Pastor and professor William Loader suggests that the tragedy is that people are afraid of losing God and so try to protect God from adventures, to resist attempts at radical inclusion they fear that might compromise God's purity and holiness.

He writes that protecting God is a variant of not trusting God.  Matthew wants his hearers to share God's adventure of inclusiveness.  God is bigger than our religious industry.  Sometimes we find God is pulling in great profits in areas, which we had deemed beyond God's interests.  It is a fascinating thing to have God compared to the entrepreneurial multimillionaire.

"God's mercy never ends" is a way of saying that grace has capital; love is rich.  We need to encourage people to stop putting God under the mattress.  As we begin to trust allowing God to move through us, our lives change as individuals and our communities have a better chance of change and growth.

How can we trust God to lead us in the future God desires for us?   Do we trust God to lead us into the Kingdom?

Interlude:   “All we do,” instrumental and then sung.

The Kingdom of God is both mystery and simplicity.  We meet Eternal Love here at this timeless table.  In common elements of bread and cup the Spirit moves to release our fear, shower us with love and nourish us for life.   Let us prepare to receive the gifts of God.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 June 2015 16:49
 
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