Faithlife Corporation
Notes & Transcripts

Come Holy Spirit fill us with your wisdom to hear and see, may we being inspired by your Holy Word, be moved to service in love – in the name of God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - Amen

One of the curious facts about each one of us is not what we believe or don't believe about God, but rather what we believe or don’t believe about ourselves in relation to God

            It can be said that the most pervasive tendency of Christians today is to be reluctant servants.

                        It is the common hope and belief that if God wants something done hopefully God will call                     on someone more able than me to do it.

The patron saint of this attitude is that Old Testament character named Jonah.

            You remember the story of Jonah…

                        Most of us have been so fascinated with the thought of Jonah being swallowed by a whale,                      that we have often totally missed the real point of why someone even wrote the little story                       about Jonah.

The real story about Jonah is that he is a reluctant servant

            One day God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, the Capital of Assyria and warn them to change from their             wicked ways or God would destroy them.

                        Jonah wanted no part of this mission so instead of going east to Nineveh he boarded a ship                       and headed west toward Spain.

                                    Because of this rebellion toward God, there is a storm at sea and Jonah is thrown                                       overboard and then enter to the story the great fish that swallows him, later spitting                                   Jonah out onto shore

                                                Sidebar aspect of the story is to consider all that God uses in connection to His                                          purposes

God then speaks to Jonah a second time telling Jonah to go to Nineveh.

            Reluctantly he goes and he preaches an eight-word sermon. Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be             overthrown.(Jonah 3:4)

                         The people of Nineveh were Gentiles...non-Jews and it infuriated Jonah that God would                          show any favor toward them. Assyria had been an enemy of Israel forever...a constant source                   of Israel's problems.

                                    To the chagrin of Jonah, the people listened to his warning and repented.

                                                God decided not to destroy Nineveh, and Jonah gets very angry at God...

                                                            So angry that he prays to God: "O Lord take my life from me for it is                                                           better for me to die than to live." (Jonah 4:3)

                                                                        Do you know what Jonah did? He went out of the city to its                                                                       edge and sat down and pouted.[1]

Again it is not what we believe or don't believe about God, but rather we believe or don't believe about ourselves in relation to God

            Jesus put a new twist on this in his story which we have titled The Parable of the Talents.

This parable follows immediately after last week’s reading with the ten bridesmaids awaiting the coming of the bridegroom – five waited wisely and five were foolish – five received favour and five were left out

            And although some people find the parable of the talents a difficult parable

                        Difficult because when we think of the wealthy landowner – we generally relate that to God                    and the landowner is described by the third slave as harsh and the judgment given by him to                    the third slave is a casting out – where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth

                                    This makes God out to appear as unmerciful… as a harsh judge

                                                And this flies in the face of our wonderful God of forgiveness

So what are we to do…

One thing is for certain that no one parable alone can tell the full width and breadth and depth of the Gospel

            Maybe we are not to consider the landowner as God… maybe we are simply to only consider the             servants of the master and their responses to God alone…

                        Maybe… I can tell you from my study this week, that is certainly the strategy that many take

But that would be ignoring the context all around this parable

First – the parable right before begins with “The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. (Matthew 25:1)

                It continues right into our parable today with no break in the flow and the responsible understanding       is to see it as a two part explanation of what the kingdom of heaven is like…

                        Secondly – this Parable of the Talents is at a crucial time in Jesus earthly life

                                    He has made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem – He has enrage the jealousy of                                         Jewish religious leaders and He is at the last few days of life, before the brutal cross

                                                Jesus is preparing the disciples for the next step in the journey of faithfulness

                                                            They will be faced with the decision on how to follow while in waiting

                                                                        Waiting for the return of Christ – waiting for the second coming

                                                                                    It is a moment of crucial instruction

Consider, for a moment, how the disciples reacted

            Eleven, albeit tentatively at first, stayed the course and over time grew in the power of the Holy   Spirit – so much so that the church, the body of Christ, which now spans the globe and has    multiplied millions of times over, was founded by their efforts

                        One, Judas Iscariot, betrayed the gifts and teaching of Jesus, and died a traitors death outside                  of town – metaphorically, outside of God’s grace

So this apparently harsh portrayal of God, this difficult parable, might be considered as both prophetic and instructional for the reality that the disciples were soon to face – and then as now our realities of faith

Another contextual detail that we should consider is what the master has entrusted servants with

            The term most often used is the word “Talent”

                        This was measurement of currency, which in all likelihood was rarely, if ever, seen by the             listeners of this parable

                                    You see a “talent” was equivalent to 15-20 years of a household’s salary

                                                Which, in using Stats Canada and the average two income family, would                                                   work out to 1.3 to 1.7 million dollars

            So, by today’s standards, the wealthy landowner leaves to go on a long trip and leaving his          caretakers in charge, each to his own ability, puts them in charge of $7.5 million, $3 million, and        $1.5 million dollars

                        This is not a story of a frugal, harsh, judgmental God

                                    But a God of great generosity - of abundant, evenly seemingly foolishly so –                                             yet overflowing trust

                                                This is a God that, aware that his people have varying degrees of ability, but                                              trusts them with exorbitant resources

Next, I think that it is of no small coincidence that the word “talent” carries with it another understanding

            That is as “talent” - meaning our abilities, capabilities, gifts and personal resources

Consider this - Your gifts are the sum total of all the resources that God has given to you…

            Your gifts or talents are not just your genetic abilities and natural aptitudes, although these are part           of your gifts. 

                        Many of your most precious gifts are qualities and resources that have been developed in you                   over time. 

                                    That is the way it always is. Talents, resources and abilities are developed                                                   over time.

                                                The famous movie producer Samuel Goldwyn is noted for saying “The harder                                           I work, the luckier I get”

Deep down, no matter how reluctant we are – no matter how much we might hope that God will call forward another more capable person than ourselves to do the task at hand

            We know that God wants us to use our gifts. God wants us to use our God-given gifts, however varied and numerous those gifts are

                        As we continue to consider the curious fact about each of us that is not what we believe or                       don't believe about God, but rather what we believe or don’t believe about ourselves in                             relation to God

                                    As we look through this prism – we can become aware that the servants of the master                                responded to the master based on their perception of the master

What do we imagine when we imagine God – active – not active – loving – or not loving – harsh and generating fear – or generous and the giver of abundant gifts

            This will govern our life – and govern our relationship to God and to our fellow people

                        It will affect how we view our time, our talent, and our treasure

                                    And what we will do about it – will we be abundant and generous – passionate                                         and risk taking – or crippled by fear and hide away

Have we turned faith to an intellectual ascent – a hangover from the Enlightenment?

            The first 2 servants in our parable had a practical faith and trust, and thus acted

                        The third had a faith like that of God being the spy in the sky waiting in judgement to fry –                      and out of fear did not act

                                    Our views of God colour what we do in response to God

                                                Not only does the 3rd slave hid his talent/treasure but hides his potential/purpose

The Rev. David Else tells the story of a father who finally found out his son was an alcohol and drug abuser – after the teenager had wrecked the family car for the third time. 

            The outraged father wanted to hunt down the person who’d sold his son drugs. 

                        “His first reaction was ‘I’m going to go out and find that pusher and I’m going to string him up”

                        Rev. Elise recalls the father saying. 

                                    Rev. Elise pauses and before adding: “Then he discovered that his son was the pusher”

                                                For this minister, the story illustrates what he sees as our refusal to be                                                         accountable for problems in society. 

                                                            We lay it on someone else or something else: a schoolmate, a school                                                            system, law enforcement, the government. [2]

This week as I was considering this parable, a song kept entering my mind, it is by the Beatles

            As I repeat the words – I won’t sing it, don’t worry… take on the persona of the writer and consider             whether they are coming from a good and healthy place or not

Here I stand head in hand

Turn my face to the wall

If she's gone I can't go on

Feelin' two-foot small

Everywhere people stare

Each and every day

I can see them laugh at me

And I hear them say

Hey you've got to hide your love away

Hey you've got to hide your love away (The Beatles)

Does that sound like a response that we should carry on – that we should do in light of what God has done for us – are we given gifts/talents in abundance or scarcity

            Is love of God – is the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for us alone – or for sharing

                        I think that it is fair to say that many of us are reluctant servants

                                    Too long has our view of God been limited – imagine if we are to hear the story like this:

“For there is a man, let’s call Him Jesus, he goes away, let say - he ascends to heaven.

            Prior to leaving He tells us that all authority has been given to Him – and he tells us his final words                      “Go make students/followers of me in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father                         and of         the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have                              commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

                                    To some he gave the gifts of teaching, caring for others, prophecy, administrative                                      abilities and charisma

                                                To some he gave the ability with numbers and complex ideas

                                                            To another group, an ability with words

                                                                        Each he gave according to their ability. Each he gave the good                                                                    news of the Gospel…Then he went away.

The group that who had received the five talents went off at once and shared them with others that had not personally heard the Lord Jesus

            And by their witness – by their generous sharing of the abilities and the Gospel – their group        doubled in size

                        In the same way, the group who had the two talents shared by teaching their abilities and                                     preaching the Good News of the Gospel – they too doubled in size

                                    But the one who had received the one single ability went off and stayed away from                                  others, lived not caring for others and not sharing.

                                                They became reclusive and didn’t gather even for church – believing that the                                             Lord and Master hadn’t given the ability but that they had earned their                                                      university degree all by themselves, that they were the master of their own                                                 domain

After a long time it appeared that Jesus returned and came and settled accounts with them

       Then the group who had received the five talents came forward, bringing a group twice their original size

                        Jesus responded by declaring ‘Well done, good and trustworthy disciples; you have been                          trustworthy, I will give more people to reach in my name; enter into the joy of your master.’                                  And likewise for the group with two abilities - ‘Well done, good and trustworthy                                      disciples; you have been trustworthy, I will give more people to reach in my name;                                     enter into the joy of your master.’

                                                Then the group who believed that they were masters of their own domain –                                                came forward and said

                                                            “Wow all this time, I didn’t believe that you existed and told all who                                                         would listen that even if you did exist that you were harsh and                                                                    uncaring, that you most likely a figment of human imagination, merely                                                        a crutch for the foolish and the stupid”

To which Jesus responds as the bridegroom to the foolish bridesmaids - ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ (Matthew 25:12)

Consider this in light of our church of Farringdon – what type of servant are we

            Which one of these servants is our congregation?

                        Do we respond with a trustworthy attitude of abundance of God’s grace and therefore                             proclaim our church and allow it to grow two fold

                                    Or do we hoard away and want it not shared and not watch it grow…

                                                Do we believe that the church belongs to us – or does it belong to the Lord

                                                            Are we stewards – and how will we steward the gifts given

                                                                        We are challenged as believers to emulate our Master by using                                                                     all that God has given us for the sake of the kingdom.

God, our Master, already possesses all the gifts of the talents, and is inviting his servants to share in his joy.

            The master is inviting, continually inviting into superabundance, grace, and joy (which is nothing other than inviting into discipleship)

                        The third servant is not so much condemned, as he condemns himself to a place – a life – that                   knows not joy

A guest preacher in a rural church arrived at the church early and went into the narthex where he noticed a little box affixed to the wall. 

            He thought it was one of those boxes to receive offerings for the poor, so he put twenty dollars in it. 

                        At the close of the service at which he preached, his host took him out to the narthex and                                     explained to him that the church was so small and so poor they didn’t have any money to pay                   the guest preacher,

                                    So they put that box on the wall for people to make contributions. 

                                                And he said “You’ve done better than most – there’s twenty dollars in it today.”                                                  

That preacher went home and told of the incident to his children at the dinner table that night. 

            One of them said “Daddy, if you’d put more in you would have gotten more out.”[3] [4]

Although that illustration is a simple and circular – it is profoundly true of life

            The more you put in – the more you get out…

When you discover your gifts, use your gifts, and surrender your gifts, you are doing the will of God for your life

            Many people ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” 

                        Very simply, you do God’s will in your life when you discover, surrender, and use your gifts                    to bless the world around you. 

                                    It’s not that difficult…

                                                People make “finding and doing the will of God” such a complex issue.

                                                            To do the will of God is to discover and use your God-given resources                                                       to make the world a better place.

                                                                        Begin in small steps – begin at home – here at Farringdon and                                                                     with your friends and people you care about in your places of                                                                      work

                                                                                    Wait for the coming of the Lord – expectantly –                                                                                           actively – sharing your talents to Glory of God

                                                                                                And God will respond “well done good and                                                                                                             faithful servant – enter into my joy”

God, you have created each of us with worthy strengths and gifts to share. Make us bold in caring for each other's talents and confident in your promise to return. Amen.



[2] Illustration Sourcebank - #2986

[3] Illustration Sourcebank - #0291

[4] It is a slow day in a damp little Irish town. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the town, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the pub. The publican, who sometimes drinks on the job and needs to stay at the hotel, then rushes to the hotel and pays off his room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note. The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveler will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how the bailout package works

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