NOVEMBER 13, 2011 - 22 AFTER PENTECOST
REV. MALCOLM SPENCER
THE LOST SELF
The talent as money at the time of Jesus was about $1000 or 15 years of wages for a labourer. Like large bills today people rarely saw them. This was the treasure entrusted to slaves that the master made and in typical exaggerated parable fashion it seems like he is giving over his fortune to his staff. Do you think anyone would really do it except for some banks recently that trusted other peoples money with a lonely trader making wildly speculative trades. We are unlikely to see that again soon. The point Matthew is stressing here is of generous, sharing boss who trusts others to look after his fortune. But the parable of the talents is really not about money just as the parable of the bridesmaids last week was about weddings. This story is a parable about the realm, the kingdom of God.
God created us with gifts of Gods self and trusted that we in our freedom would be aware of those gifts and use them. Tom Harper said of this parable in his book Water into Wine “…as we awaken to the truly amazing God given treasure we have been granted stewardship over, there is a debt of gratitude that swells up in our innermost being and we want to do our utmost to make the gift count”. P.157 This is what the parable of the talents is all about. The tragedy of the 3rd slave was not that he had little to invest compared with the others. He was frightened and hesitant and that caused him to go and bury the money. That is often what happened in life we bury our hopes and aspirations and settle for far less. We often deny any divinity inside ourselves yet this is the constant theme of Jesus’s parables. If you have yes to see you can see the kingdom of God around you. You are mystery, we are given the gift of God’s sight and as Helen Keller found you don’t have to see or hear but you can discover that inner gift. Part of prayer of Richard of Chichester read:
Dear Lord Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
To love thee more dearly
And follow you more nearly day by day
Unfortunately lots of people today claim they have a direct line to God and spread hate and violence but then there were plenty of religious extremists in Matthews day also but this is a parable about the abundance of God. There is a way of burying your true self in the false extremism as well as in apathy, fear and lack of trust.
When we bury our true selves deep down and cast ourselves out into the cruelty and suffering of the world we are like the slave who buried his one talent. His is the faith of living unawares of the abundant grace of God.
2. The other slaves seemed to know that reason the master gave them the stewardship of his resources was to invest them and trade them and have them double in value. Again Tom Harper commented on this parable saying that “ rather than a me in my small corner spiritualty we must seek one who is engaged with others for others…we have been given the task, and the responsibility for building the kingdom of God on earth … that is fully in our hands.”p157 When we dig deep and find our true selves the one created by God we find the joy of our master.
American surveys say that 2/3 of the occupy movement are under 34. Andrew Rawsnley in a column in the Observer a British Paper commented that the “protesters strike a resounding chord when they complain that financial elites are getting rewarded with special treatment while punishment for their mistakes is meted out to the rest of society.” He ended his column with this comment “Protesters or leaders? I know who looks more grown up.” Some say the young people are wasting their time- well our conscience is often wasting its time on us or is it- in our digging for the spirit of God within we will locate compassion, solidarity, energy for caring for the earth. These stores of the bible are meant to empower us to go out into our world with confidence and a loving heart able to use are ego not to rule our lives but to protect them and keep us knowing how precious we are in God’s sight.
That is how Deborah was able to call her general and go to war against a greater enemy. She knew the promise of God and that is yet another gift of the spirit of God inside us and that is courage. When we say the vignettes of Church history last week so well presented we remembered the courage of many who needed and received courage for the task that was at hand, That is how our faith came to us by courageous women and man who kept the tradition and began the works of compassion and care and prayer in troubled times.
The thing is that if we can dig out this gift of love God has planted in us we will become the most joyous, generous, daring, peaceful and justice filled people we can be, and unafraid to invest ourselves and extend the realm of God in our place and time. Next week is the reign of Christ Sunday when we celebrate the gift of Jesus lamb and shepherd to the world and after that we move into the advent season.
A good time to discover our true selves made in the image of our creator, made for love, made for others, made for finding our way back to God.
Help us find compassion and caring within both for ourselves and others. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Saviour Amen