Here is our worship service for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, November 15, 2020! You can find the bulletin here.
If you hope to have the fullest worship experience, please have in your space a bowl of water for the Thanksgiving for Baptism, some food and drink for communion, and a lit candle for the whole service which can be extinguished when the candles on the altar are near the end of the service. These are optional, of course, but encouraged!
I hope your time is worshipful and meditative, and helps you to see God more clearly this day and always!
Holy God, may your Spirit open our hearts and minds this day, that we might be illumined by your living Word and walk together as your beloved children, by the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Has anyone ever lent something to you that you were just too scared to even enjoy? When I was a kid, I hated lending out my toys to my friends. Not because I was selfish or didn’t know how to share… it’s just that my friends enjoyed playing with my toys a little too much. In that they would fight battles by smashing them together, they would force the wrong weapon into the wrong hands, they were just a lot more rough on those delicate GI Joe figurines than this toy enthusiast would ever be. So it wasn’t unusual for me to get my toys back in much worse shape than they were when they left my possession.
And this carried over in me into my adulthood. I remember a time when I was in seminary and between cars, and a friend of mine who… let’s just say had more zeros on his paycheque than I did (which wasn’t hard, I only had one zero with nothing in front of it) lent me his BMW to drive while he was out of town. It was his idea, and I wasn’t going to say no. But man did I ever take care of that thing. I washed it as often as I could, I did some needed maintenance on it, and I even attempted to fix his aftermarket headlight that shorted out. I failed, but at least I tried. I everywhere I went, against every fibre of my being, I kept it under the speed limit. I mean I got to that speed limit pretty darn fast off the line, but I wouldn’t go over it in fears that something would happen that I quite literally wouldn’t be able to afford to fix.
I mean this guy trusted me with his car. Maybe that was his own fault as he knew full well my… how should we say… spotty driving history. He knew I liked myself a good spirited drive and he handed me his keys anyway. I wasn’t going to let him down. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I were to betray that trust that he so willingly gave me.
And so this is why I scratch my head at this parable that Jesus gives us today. This is why I get confused like pretty much every time I read it. This is why I just plain don’t like this parable and every year it comes up I just cringe at the thought of trying to find some good news from this story that just makes no sense at all.
Like, why on earth would this master treat his slaves that squandered his money so well? Sure, they got lucky playing the market and doubled the amount, but they were lucky. Do you think my friend would have been happy if I took his car to the track and made some bets and won him some money? Do you think I’d be happy if my friends took my toys and sold them at a collector’s auction for a hefty profit? Do you think anyone would want someone they trusted to betray that trust and play with something that really wasn’t theirs to begin with?
But this master was all like, “hey good job guys. Here, have some more money.” And let’s be clear here, they got a LOT of money. A talent is roughly the equivalent to 16 and a half years of straight labour, no weekends, no statutory holidays, no sick days. 16 and a half years. And the first slave got 5 of those, 80 years straight of wages, before tax. The second got 2, so just 32 years. BUT STILL.
I can’t even imagine. I mean I was scared enough to drive my buddy’s car for two weeks, and that is what, like a year and a half of straight wages? Or maybe 5 years financing if you don’t carry that kind of cash around?
So no wonder that third slave was scared. That guy was given just the one talent, so 16 years only. Still a lot more than a BMW though, and a heck of a lot more than a handful of GI Joes. And seeing at how this slave views the master, I mean that makes it all worse. He does what any of us would do in that situation, act out of his fear and bury that talent where no one could find it and steal it from him. He kept that talent safe and secure. He kept that talent away from anything that could harm it, dwindle it, or straight up just take it away.
And for his prudence, he was punished. For his protecting of what wasn’t his, he was chastised. For his playing it safe out of his fears, he was thrown into the outer darkness where much weeping and teeth gnashing happens.
Doesn’t seem all that fair, does it?
Or does it?
My friend who lent me his car was kind enough to lend me his car. He was gracious enough to care for my wellbeing and ability to get around conveniently and not have to worry about public transit. He wanted me to use his car. And when I gave it back to him with a flat tire that totally wasn’t my fault, he refused when I insisted I pay for it. He said, “you ran over a staple (which I did), it could have happened to anyone.” My friends that borrowed my toys, I admit that I was a bit annoyed when I saw the condition they came back in, but I also saw the joy that they had from those toys. They enjoyed them as much as I would.
See, the master didn’t lend all this money to the slaves to prove a point, to test them, or to scare them out of their wits. He gave it to them because he is gracious, he is generous, and he is loving. He gave it to them because he wanted them to experience it, to enjoy it, to live it. I know he wasn’t clear with it in the beginning, which for the sake of the third guy, that would have been really helpful… like life-changingly helpful. But you can see it in his reaction to the other slaves. You can see it in how pleased he was not at the profit he made, although that probably helped, but at how they knew him and knew his unspoken intentions.
The third slave? Well, he pegged that master all wrong. He assumed all these things that he clearly was not and he acted out of fear. Fear of the master, fear of punishment, fear of living life. He couldn’t accept this gift of 16 years wages, so he just buried it where he or anyone else could ever enjoy it.
We too, have been given a gift. We have been given the gift of community, relationship, and time. The question then becomes what are we going to do with this time?
Some use this time to heed to their fears, play it safe and don’t live life at all. Others use this time for themselves, amassing as much wealth and power as possible while sacrificing the other two important gifts of community and relationship. Yet others, seeing this time as a gift, knowing that the giver is gracious and loving, spend their time loving others, reminding them of their value and worth, and welcoming them into community and relationship.
See this gift that we’ve been given isn’t a test. It isn’t to prove a point with how we’re all just screw ups. It isn’t to scare us in any way. Rather, it’s by God’s grace that we are given each new day. It is by God’s love that we are placed in a community of support and strength. It is by God’s joy that we live life that truly is life, embracing all that it has to offer for the sake of God’s kingdom.
And when we believe that God truly is gracious, we can live in faith knowing that we are forgiven and accepted. When we believe that God truly is love, we can live confidently serving our communities and those around us, proclaiming this love to all whom we meet. When we believe that God truly finds joy in us, we can be empowered to live the life that truly is life, full of faith, love, and hope, encouraging and building up one another as the one body of Christ.
As Paul says, we aren’t destined for God’s wrath no matter what many would have us believe. Rather, we are destined to obtain the redeeming salvation through Jesus Christ, who continually reminds us of our position in God’s family, place in God’s love, and identity as God’s children. We truly have nothing to fear, but we can be confident in God’s grace, empowering us to live in this gift that has been given to us.
So as we approach the end of this church year, may we look at all the lessons we’ve learned about God, about ourselves, and about our community, and move forward into the next year and beyond, and confidently proclaim God’s name and live in God’s love. Thanks be to God. Amen.