The Pas Proper 28 – Ordinary 33 – Pentecost + 24
19 November 2017
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
God of the Covenant, even when we fall into sin, you remember that you have chosen us to be your servant people. Awaken us to the power and gifts you have bestowed upon us for the good of creation. May we be trustworthy in all things, working with purpose to increase your realm; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I wonder how many of us think about what it is that we’ve been given, by God, every day? Its something that I ponder, from time, to time. Its something that our forebears in theology have talked about, described, and pondered in their lifetimes, as well.
Today’s gospel is known, by those headings that bible translators have put in for our benefit, as “the parable of the talents”, and it talks about the master of the house dividing his wealth amongst his servants before going away for an unknown length of time.
We can acknowledge that the master is Jesus, is the Son, and that the treasure is the talent, the abilities we’ve been given to used in the world around us. Unfortunately, not all people use the talents they’ve been given, that we’ve been given for the benefit of themselves, and thereby for the benefit if the world.
Having said that, today, I wanted to acknowledge what it is that we receive from God, from the Son, from our Lord and Master, and how that treasure, how those talents have the ability to inspire us, to help us grow, to help us live into the covenant with God through Jesus Christ, to help us to live our lives, every day.
I read, recently, that a talent, in Jesus day was a measure of wealth. Today’s gospel calls it bags of treasure. For a common labourer, one talent was the equivalent to 15 years’ worth of labour for a common person. So, the master of the house distributes his wealth, his talents to his servants, and the master is trusting these three individuals to take those talents into the world.
He’s trusting them to take the risk that they may grow, that they may multiply, that they may be a mark of generosity in the hands of someone who will never realize this kind of wealth in their own bank accounts. He’s trusting them, us, to take that risk, to step out into the world, and to be the blessing we are encouraged to be to others.
In the same vein, how do we use that ‘wealth’ of talent, of ability, of love from and for God in the world and how do we express our thanks to God for all that we’ve received?
In this regard, today’s gospel has much to tell us.
At the same time, Paul points out that our treasure, our talents are offered to us by the action of Christ Jesus, who “died for us so that we may live together with him.” (1 Thess 5:10)
At the beginning of today’s gospel, we’re told, “[the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.” (Mt 25:14)
Yet, one of the servants, who is blessed with treasure out of the master’s stores, is terrified of him. He interprets the master and the master’s actions through his own fear and the image is of a miserly scrooge type of individual who sets out to trip up the servant.
But is this the true image of the master? Scrooge-like? Miserly? “15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.” (Mt 25:15)
In the same way, we have all received ‘wealth’ from God. We’ve received the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our baptisms; we’ve grown up learning about and what it means to possess these gifts from God, gifts that are ‘stirred up’ in our confirmations. Yet we’re not all given the same gifts.
At the same time, it is our individual and personalized gifts, talents, from God that we are able to demonstrate in our lives, as we seek out, as we live, as we learn the skills that allow us to gain employment, that allow us to keep a home, to raise a family, and teach them to love and worship God as well. That allow us to spread the love of God to all the world around us, and within our hearts as well.
Looking back on our lives, from life itself, to love, to our possessions, to our homes, to family, to whatever savings we may or may not have in the banks, all of this are gifts from the master, from the creator, from God, and we can remember this as we recite the words of the Lord’s Prayer, often.
It’s not always easy to remember to acknowledge, or to even realize that absolutely everything we have in our lives, from our ability to breath, to our ability to love, to our ability to support ourselves and make a better world for our families, is a gift from God.
The question presented in today’s gospel is will we take that treasure into the world? Will we allow it to grow, to enhance the world around us? Will we make the world better because of the gifts God has given us? Or will we bury it in a field out of fear of the master?
It is when we live in a sense of fear, of terror of the outcome, that we forget that God is loving, that God wishes only to be an active part of our lives. At the same time, our gospel today tells us that our gifts, our treasure from heaven is given to us to make a difference in the world. Of the two examples of the treasure being sent into the world, neither comes back less than it was sent out, but massive profit isn’t what the master is aiming for either.
“20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Mt 25:20-23)
Rather it is the fact that we’re willing to step out into the world, to take a risk, to grow in our lives, in our understanding, in our abilities. Some say that we learn by our failures, in life, but if we don’t strive, then how can we either succeed or fail? Instead by not striving, we don’t move forward in our lives, in our talents, in our faith.
Because movement, because investing the master’s treasure, talent in the world, is an act of faith. It is an act of trusting that all will be as God has planned it for each of our lives.
Sure, some days some events are better than others, but we learn from them all.
This is a common element of all of our lives. We are all given gifts to make the world better, to make our lives better. But if we sit on those gifts, if we bury them, if we hide them and don’t do anything with them, then how can the world around us better reflect the kingdom of heaven? How can we grow in our understanding of what it is that God has planned for each one of us?
I remember when I began my university studies. I wanted to follow the will of God for my life. I had completely put myself into God’s hands, and my daily prayer was for God’s aid to be successful and to move in the direction God wished me to move in. At the same time, I was learning, every day. I was learning the academics I needed to take the next step. I was learning to trust God in every step, every day, every decision. I was learning to love and to be loved.
It took me six years to complete an undergraduate degree at one of the best universities in Canada. But I didn’t graduate with just a BA (Bacheolor of Arts). I didn’t just graduate with a double major (an HonBA). Rather I learned enough to be able to receive an Honours BA with a specialist and a major. I had followed my heart to the point where I had more than I had even planned, and graduated with more skills than I began with.
Today, I can recognize that step was necessary for me, because as an individual with a learning disability, I was told never to go to university, that I’d never succeed.
Yet, here I am, here we are, together because I stepped out and helped the treasure entrusted to me to grow
I can recognize that it is a similar challenge, a similar journey for each one of us, as well. Will we take the talents, the treasure that God has given us and will we let it expand, grow, change shape in the world around us? Or will we be timid and afraid, and bemoan the lack of progress?
There are times, in our lives, when we want to hold on tight to what we have out of a sense of fear that it may be taken from us at some point.
But it is all a gift from God. It is all a gift from God, whether in our abilities, or in our possessions.
What the gospel is trying to tell us is that God hopes, God trusts, God risks so that we will step out into the world, the spirit of God supporting us, and make that treasure grow.
God is a loving and generous master and wishes only the best for each one of us, and hopes that we will take the opportunities that are put before us to grow, to learn to love, to learn to be loved.
Two of the servants took the wealth they were entrusted with and helped it to grow. They were received, in the end with the same spirit of generosity with which they accepted the talent from the master in the first place.
The third looked at the world, at his relationship with the master through the eyes of fear, and fear is what he received from the master.
Paul encourages us to live in the love and grace of God. Jesus encourages us to take the gifts we’ve been given and to use them to make the world a better place because of our lives of faith, because of the actions of Jesus, of God in and for all of creation.
Paul acknowledges that the treasure we have been given is being well and truly invested in the world around us, to better the lives of those who are just for the first time perhaps feeling the love of God in and for their lives, through our actions, our words, our presence.
We are investing the treasure with which we have been entrusted. Treasure we have because of the love of the master, because of the actions of Christ Jesus to encourage us to live in the love of God, every day.
We are wealthy beyond measure when we are able to look at the world around us, when we are able to take out the treasure we have been entrusted, the love and the faith, and the grace of God and spread it liberally around us for the benefit of our lives, our families, our community.
We are richer than we imagine when we are able to make a part of the lives of others better, and to encourage them to join us in the light of God, in the love of the master, in the use of our talents for the efforts to which God can see the outcomes, every day.