Sunday after Pentecost ≅
Saint Paul's Episcopal Church
for the Day
Zephaniah 1: 7, 12-18
Thessalonians 5: 1-10
Matthew 25:14-15, 19-29
I greet you in the name of God our
Creator, Christ our Brother, and the Holy
Spirit who sustains us and empowers us to love and
serve them both.
Today's Gospel lesson -- the parable of
the talents -- is so familiar that most of us could
recount the outline from memory. And we've probably
heard it preached ad nauseum . . .
In fact -- by show of hands -- how many of
you have ever heard one sermon on this parable? How many
have heard more than one? I thought so . . .
We have heard this parable preached ad
nauseum, often on a tack that reinforces our
workaholic tendencies and celebrates success and return on
investment as a -- if not the -- primary
And I'm afraid that's missing the point.
But what is the point?
One commentator remarked that a parable
is "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning."
What heavenly meaning might we tease out of this story --
a story that, at least on the face of it, seems to be more
about judicious investing than about anything else?
Fred Horton remarked that, "Every
parable is offensive. If the parable is not offensive
to you, then you've missed something. And
the key to understanding the parable for
yourself is to ferret out where the parable offends you."
I don't know about you, but I can tell
you exactly what offends me about this parable.
The poor guy who only got one talent -- and who only
got one talent because, evidently, he was also short on
"ability" -- is the one who gets
There's just something so wrong
about all this.
It's like piling-on in football, like kicking
someone when they are down. He's already short on
abilities (you know he would have been chosen last
in the schoolyard games of his time), the master
only entrusts one talent to him, and then he gets
Come on, give me a
(As I listen to myself preach, it's
pretty clear I have found the part of this parable that
offends me! J)
-- both in the time in which they were told and in the
time in which we read them -- are not so much moral tales
as they are stories designed to help see the world
differently. They get us off balance, they
shake up our priorities so our priorities can settle
down -- in the best case -- more in line with God's
So what can we -- what can I
-- learn from my unease with the apparent injustice in
the parable of the talents?
Letís take a brief look at the central
character in this parable -- our one talent friend.
What did he do, and why did he do it?
As Jesus says in the Gospel lesson:
"Then the one
who had received the one talent also came forward,
saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man,
reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you
did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and
I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have
what is yours.' " Matthew 25:
"So I was afraid . . . " Our one-talent
friend was afraid, and his fear paralyzed him.
Well what did he fear?
He feared his Master, and apparently with good
reason. He cites his Master as "a harsh man, reaping
where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not
scatter seed." Sounds like fear was a rational choice
when relating to this fellow -- I'd fear him as well.
But what about us
-- you and me -- where can we find ourselves in
this parable? Let me suggest a couple of ways we might
find ourselves in the story -- or at least a couple of
places that I find myself.
I fear that I am a one-talent servant
-- chosen last on the playground of life and consigned to
be always less-than the brothers and sisters I see around
I fear my Master
-- and my Master is not the God of all
creation but the values of the fallen world around me.
I fear being ridiculed when I haltingly
articulate my faith.
I fear that
-- if I give my money or my time or myself away -- that
there "wonít be enough". I live out
of scarcity mentality, afraid that God will not provide
I fear the life of faith
-- afraid to jump wholeheartedly into the arms of God.
I fear my fears
-- afraid that, because of them and how they paralyze me
-- God will one day say to me, "You wicked and lazy
Does any of this fit for any of you?
I know this is an Episcopal Church -- and I know it's
early -- but can I get an "Amen" here?
And yet, that's not all these is to this
life of faith.
And yet, in the midst of all these fears
-- in the midst of enough worries and fears and neuroses
to make any therapist rich -- I
also know that my Redeemer lives.
I know that, " .
. . God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, to
that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have
-- and I want you to know -- that
God is not the harsh master of the parable of the talents.
Our God is a God who loves you far more
than you dare hope or imagine.
A God of grace and mercy. The God who made you, knows
you, loves you, and wills only good for your life. The
God who loves you holy and wholly, always and in all ways.
Fear not. Be of good cheer. You are not a
one-talent servant. You are the precious child of a
Now go forth to share that good news to a
dark a hurting world!
Thanks be to God!
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