Today is Giving Sunday, a day we have chosen to highlight in order to fund raise a bit to help our COVID-bruised budget.
At first glance it may appear that the Lectionary has given me a bit of a gift with this parable this morning. But today I am not going to preach about giving. I did that a couple of weeks ago and I re-iterate my request that you support the mission and ministry of St Paul’s financially and thank those who have already done so.
What we have heard this morning in the well-known Parable of the Talents, in which three slaves are entrusted with a large amount of money. Two leverage the money and are able to double the funds for their master. One, though, simply chooses to keep it safe by burying it. This displeases his master.
This parable can give us insight to stewardship. It can give us insight into Christian responsibility and our use of the gifts that God has entrusted to us. But at the heart of this parable the issue seems to be about our very relationship with God.
In 2002, Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian minister, published The Message, describing the book as “a contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages, crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language.”
I find The Message to be quite enlightening and inspiring at times. I think it is well worth our attention that I read The Rev. Peterson’s rendering of the exchange between the wicked slave and his master:
The servant given one thousand said, “Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no alliances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is safe and sound down to the last cent.
Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb.
What struck me about this rendering is it highlights so very clearly that the slave was paralyzed by his fear of his master. By comparison the other two slaves had a bright, lively and even expectant relationship with their master.
How we view God has direct implications of how we serve God. The fearful slave was thwarted by his terror of his master. Fearing he would be severely punished if he lost even one cent he buried the money. He was too fearful to recognize the trust and honor his master gave him.
But the other slaves engaged the opportunity handed them. They took great initiative and responsibility and doubled the gifts they had been given. The master responded lavishly. “Enter into the joy of you master,” the master responds.
I believe that it is part of the human condition to have an innate fear of God. We step outside and we intuitively know that there is something larger than us in the universe. Such a realization logically leads to reticence regarding whether that something is benevolent or not.
But the life of faith is one that engages with that something as the God of love and compassion, the God who seeks and redeems us. The life of faith is a life that engages with God in a life of freedom from fear. We do this because of the love of God and our love for God.
Love and fear are antithetical. You cannot love what terrifies you. The poor slave was crippled by his fear, he could only fail. But we have no reason for fear. In fact we have every reason not to fear.
Don’t take my word for it, take St Paul’s, our very patron, who writes so beautifully from the 8th chapter of Romans:
Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.