Pr. Ben Adams
Entrusted and Enough
Today’s texts are another set of head scratchers leaving us asking ourselves, where was the good news?
Zephaniah warns “on the day of the Lord's wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
Paul says in First Thessalonians, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
The Psalmist proclaims, “But one word returns us mortals to the dust from whence we came.”
And in Matthew we are told, “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
It’s weeks like this that if feels like we’d have better luck squeezing blood from a rock than squeezing good news from these texts.
And when we hear apocalyptic texts like these it raises our anxiety, we quickly lose sight of God’s grace and fear whether or not we are in fact the wicked slaves not doing enough with what has been entrusted to us, and when God returns, we’re going to be some trouble.
We start to wonder, am I in the black having turned my talents into more talents, or am I in the red, sitting on my talents and letting them stagnate?
But none of this feels to me like good news because it makes me feel inadequate, and I know there is nothing I can do or not do that would make God to love me more, and I know there is nothing I can do that would make God love me less.
That is truth that sets me free from apocalyptic anxiety, because we serve a God who remembers our iniquity no more, but never forgets her promises. Promises made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever. These words are the words of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the Magnificat, the text that was sung during Holden Evening Prayer just this past Wednesday at HTLakeview. A text that almost seems to directly contradict today’s Matthean parable. Take a listen:
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is her name.
Her mercy is for those who fear her
from generation to generation.
She has shown strength with her arm;
She has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
She has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
She has helped her servant Israel,
in remembrance of her mercy,
according to the promise she made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
How can we reconcile today’s contradictory apocalyptic parable from Matthew when we have such a seemingly opposite text here in the Magnificat?
I’m not sure we really can unless we are ready to say that Jesus wasn’t painting a picture of the Kin-dom of God in this picture, but rather using a picture of our very own human kingdom to elicit a sense of urgency about the second coming of Jesus Christ.
This urgency can usually cause us to fall into one of two ways of thinking, one, that we must work diligently to avoid laziness or fear of Jesus’ coming, or two, the more moral approach, where we simply say that we are to use our talents to the best of our abilities.
But both of these conclusions don’t pass the good news test because they are completely dependent on us! So instead, what if we focused on God for a moment, that should bring us to some semblance of good news, so we must ask, where is God in all of this?
The answer? God is the one who entrusts us with talents, the one who calls us to steward our talents, not out of fear, but because we have been freed by Christ’s action on the cross to share our talents with all for the sake of the world God has so lovingly created.
So instead of just using those talents to the best of your ability, or not squandering them out of fear that you’ll disappoint God, take seriously your talents and the love that God has shown us by entrusting us with these talents in the first place.
Today’s texts rub us, maybe even grind on us, and that is not very comforting, but if we can put aside our fear of punishment, and our feelings of inadequacy, we can feel the tension of today’s texts without losing sight of the eternal promise that we are enough, because God has entrusted us with enough.
There is a line in today’s scripture that we might have missed because of all the scary apocalyptic stuff. It’s where Paul says in First Thessalonians, “For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
Living in fear of the wrath means failing to see God’s love, and living in God’s love means trusting that God has shown each of us such foolish love that God would entrust us with talents that can only be fully realized when shared with the world.
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this coming Thursday, maybe this is an opportunity to take inventory of the talents we have been entrusted with and to Give thanks to God for these talents not just by acknowledging their presence in our lives, but by sharing them with everyone and everything.
That is what the world would have you believe, but because God has entrusted you with more than enough, you are free to take the your God given talents out of the ground, and share them with the world. Amen.