1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Matthew 25:14-30
16 Nov. 2014
A Risky Proposition
The fire pit in the middle pierces this present darkness as they disciples finish their meal. Even though the days have begun to get longer, this evening they did not eat until after dark. They had been in and around Jerusalem for four days, Wednesday shifts to Thursday as the new day beings with the setting sun. Friday is passover, two days away. The crowds in the city of David have grown exponentially these last few days, and as they crowds have grown – Jesus, out of character, seems to be more withdrawn. Though they spent the day in the temple, this evening it has just been them with the master. It is kind of nice, like the early days – but instead of talking about the coming Reign of God as he had so much, now the stories have a more morose and somber tome. He is talking of judgement and of leaving them.
There around the fire pit Jesus tells them to be ready and watchful. He is leaving, but will be coming back again. At first the disciple think he will be going of for some time of solitude, as he frequently does. But as the dishes are put away his stories – his parables are telling a different story. He is going away. Without them.
First he tells them about the bridesmaids that were accepted by the bridegroom because they were there when he arrived. But the thing is, they did not know when he would arrive. They just are vigilant and prepared. And welcomed into the bridegroom’s household.
For a long time there is just silence as the disciples look at each other through the dancing flames. The smell of the burning cedar rising like an incense offering to the Divine, creates translucent white clouds that drift and disappear. Jesus stretches out – lounging – he begins another story.
“It is going to be like this. Imagine a man going on a journey – a long journey, and he summons his servants and gives them his property. His wealth is beyond imagining. Hear this, he gave the first one – a blessing of 100 years worth of wages, the second he gave a blessing of 50 years worth of wages, and the third one received blessing of 25 years worth of wages. He give them each according to their abilities – true all of them were gifted for the amount they were given was so generous.
The first servant took the blessing of the master and used his imagination and in time had doubled the blessing. The second servant took his blessing and used his gifts and eventually she, too, had doubled her blessing. But the third servant just took the blessing he was given and dug a hole and hoarded it for himself.
After a long, long time, the master returns and when he does he calls al the servants together to get an accounting of how they used their blessings and what the results were.
The first one tells him, “Lord, you gave me a blessing worth a hundred years wages, look I shared the blessing and ended up doubling it.”
The master replies, tears of joy in his eyes, “Well done! Good and faithful servant! There is much more work to do, but first enjoy this sabbath and be in my presence.”
Then the second servant brought her blessing to the master and told him that she, too, had shared the blessing and doubled it.
She was welcomed with open arms into the presence of the master. “There is much more word to do, but first enjoy the sabbath and be in my presence.”
Finally the third servant came forward, “Lord, I knew you would judge harshly. I have heard how your wrath and anger burn. You reap where you do not sow, you gather where you did not seed; so knowing that and because I was afraid – I was afraid to try to do something that could upset you – upset the status quo; so instead, I took your blessing and held onto it for myself. But now, I give it back to you.”
“You wicked and lazy servant. IF you thought these things of me, that I am harsh, that I reap where I do not sow, that I gather where I did not seed, Why didn’t you at least do something small with it the blessing? Why didn’t you share even a little bit so there there would be some return? That way you would have at least done something and I would get something back. Instead you just kept it all to yourself. You did not take any risks. So, give your blessing to the others.
For all who use the blessings I give them – they will get more, but the ones who sit there and do not take any risks – from them I will will take away. As for you, you have made your bed, now sleep in it. You are left in the dark by yourself.”
The silence among the disciples continued, the fire continued it crackle. The cedar incense steadily rose to the stars. The crickets chirped their amen to the word of the Lord.
This is one of the most familiar and one of the most commonly told of all of Jesus’ parables. It is another one that I remember from Mrs. White’s kindergarten Sunday School flannel graphs. I can still see the white felt background with the cartoon looking palm trees, the servants in their stripped robes with a bag of money in their hands and their heads slightly askew. I see the master old and white haired – with the green crayon marks left by a previous student who thought the master needed to look more like Frankenstein’s Monster. It is familiar. We hear it most often during Stewardship times or by politicians who love the seemingly pro-capatialism message of the texts. Along with the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan this is probably the most familiar of all of Jesus’ parables. It is as familiar as the warm sweater many of us are looking for as this first cold blast of the winter hits.
It familiar and familiarity is what it is about. It is calling us out of familiarity and into the riskiness of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Jesus is telling this story in the midst of stories about what it is going to be like when he is gone. This is a story of what it is like to live here – now, and what it is to be like when the end of time culminates. This in between time is a time where we are to take Risky Propositions.
As a rule we are risk adverse people. We have been told – like the third servant – that if we try and we fail we somehow going to fail ourselves, our families, our country – and more importantly God. If we try to do something and it ends up not working – our society tells us we are failures. And when that message repeats itself again and again and again it become ingrained.
As I watch kids play I see this. There was a time when a group of kids at the play ground would try anything. They would climb the monkey bars and fall off and get back up and keep trying, but then something would happen. Instead of keeping trying to climb the monkey bars they avoid them. They stay away from the thing that gave them such joy only six months ago.
I hear it in stories from people. That they would go out and try new things. They would have dreams and visions of opening a business, but were talked to by the wrong people who scared them away from taking the risk that would benefit the community.
We hear politicians constantly clamoring that we can afford to feed people because they might become dependent on the food stamps. They might become reliant on medicaid. They fail to do their jobs, and help the least among us survive because they are afraid to take a risk.
We see it in people who have become dependent on external resources because they know they they get that job at minimum wage it will put less on the table than what they are getting now now form their assistance. They ability to step out is clouded by the risk of loosing what it.
In churches we see the fear of what could be covered over by the cloud of what was, because there is either willful or or unintentional blindness to the necessity that things must change – because the world is changing. Fear makes taking risks something terrifying rather than something liberating.
We are a risk adverse society, and yet, that is not what we are called to be. We are called to be a people who step out ant take risks. To be a people who take the enormous blessing given to us by God and use it to move beyond what is. We are called not to hoard our blessings, but to share them and grow them. And this is now what the world is telling us to do.
The world says to us,, hold on to what you have…hold on to what is comfortable because it is familiar. Hold on to the blessings, because you earned. it. Hold on to what you have because if you don’t you may loose it. But God says, take what you have and share it, take the blessings and gifts you have and use them and watch them grow.
This parable is not about money. It is not about being a prudent capitalist, no. It is about using what God gives us. Be that money, or talents, or a church building that is empty more than it is full – it is about using the gifts we have to make the world a better and more gracious place.
It is about taking that risky proposition an making something out of it, and not just sitting there watching the world go by – not sitting there lamenting that things are not like they used to be. It is about taking a risk and seeing where God is leading us.
And, friends, we have nothing to fear! We have been given an abundance of blessings! We have been given a building that can be a place for the community to gather, we have been given people with gifts to share. We have been called by God to be a beacon of light to our community! And yet, we want to hoard these gifts, we want to say that people can’t use them because they are not members of the church or for this reason or that – that they need to show up on Sunday. And we act out of fear, we act our of our insecurity. We act because we like what is familiar…and yet, God calls us out of that.
God calls us to be people who take what has been given to us and to multiply it. To be unafraid of the unfamiliar and to step out and take the Risk Proposition. We have been given gifts to use, and to use them well because we know not when the Master will come again!
So let us take these talents, these gifts and use them – for as Paul says – “We are children of the light and children of the day – we are not of the night or the darkness…so let’s not fall asleep. But keep awake…Since we belong to the day…let us put on the breast plate of faith and love and the the helmet of hope and salvation.” Friends, let us be bold and step out in faith using the gifts God has given us! For when we do, we are given the double blessing of not only being present with the Divine, but given the wonderful tasks of carrying on God’s Work.
Let us not be risk adverse, but rather takers of the risky proposition.
Thanks Be to God.