“Choosing to Do Otherwise”
19 November 2017
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 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. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
People get hurt when we don’t step in and do the right thing.
Take a look at this video:
95% of customers complain when their burger is bullied.
Only 12% confront bullies and defend a kid being bullied in the same restaurant.
88% of customers witnessing a kid getting bullied
Stand back and do nothing.
People get hurt when we don’t step in and do the right thing.
Do you feel bad for the 88% of the people in the restaurant
Who stood back, kept their distance, and did nothing?
What’s up with that?
Are they frightened? Vulnerable? Afraid of sticking their neck out?
Are the afraid they might get beat up by a gang of bullies picking on that kid?
For the love of God,
At least pull out your phone and call 911,
Go get the manager, or
Put on your big-boy pants, say a prayer for protection, and intervene.
It’s no wonder so many non-Church and former-Church people
Believe the Church has become irrelevant and inauthentic in their life.
It’s far easier for us to feel bad for that poor third slave in Jesus’ parable.
At least he is honest.
He admits to his fear.
“Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’”
We feel bad for the poor slave that buries his talent and does nothing.
We feel bad for him
Because of the harsh judgment delivered by the master.
He insults him, calls him wicked and lazy.
He chastises him for making assumptions not based on facts:
You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?
And the master convicts and sentences the third slave:
“Take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.”
“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
(Matthew 25:28, 30)
There is much to learn here.
Allow me to set the stage.
First, this is the final segment of a long and dangerous confrontation
Initiated by Jesus with the Chief Priest and other Temple authorities
In the hours immediately before his arrest, trial, persecution, and death.
The confrontation brings judgment
Against the oppressors (Organized religion),
At the same time,
This is a final teaching opportunity
To teach his disciples and those of us in the crowd
About the end times,
The coming of the Lord,
Christ’s own promised return.
Last Sunday, we heard a parable about Ten Bridesmaids and the Unexpected Return of the Bridegroom.
It formed the foundation for Christ’s promise and prophecy.
Today, Jesus molds and shapes a vision of the eschaton,
His promised return,
Which provides for us helpful resources to answer the question,
“What are we to do as we wait for Christ to return?”
Let me fill in the stage.
Secondly, Jesus is talking about judgment.
It’s helpful to be self-aware that
We only like talking about judgment when it involves others,
Usually people we don’t like,
Who we deem unrighteous, or
People who are just plain evil.
We’ll talk about them all day long.
But when it comes to judgment in regard to me personally,
That’s when you, me, and everyone else in this room
Starts to squirm in our chair.
It is hard to imagine what our personal judgment will be like.
Judgment vis-a-vis justice is problematic
Because it usually involves destruction, violence, and
The possibility of being thrown into the outer darkness,
Where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It’s hard to imagine personal judgment
When we’re bathing in a perpetual environment
Of Wesleyan grace,
Complete with an abundance of faith, hope, and love.
Thus, judgment remains
One of the most un-talked about topics of Jesus,
The virtual elephant in the room,
In the Church at large
And in our personal lives and journeys of faith.
Yet, this is delusional.
If we don’t talk about judgment,
Maybe Jesus will make it go away!
Let me complete the stage.
You’ve heard me say it before,
And I’ll say it again,
“Don’t push a parable of Jesus too hard or too far beyond it’s intended purpose.”
Parables are fictional stories Jesus created.
Parables are meant to teach by example.
Examples were drawn from ancient life and culture,
Realities that are very difficult, sometimes nearly impossible,
For us to translate into our reality today.
Parables aren't perfect.
An important clue to me with our parable at hand
Is that Jesus is talking about slavery.
I can’t even …
We can’t even begin to get our heads wrapped around this,
And it would take me a few hours to complete that conversation.
Don’t push this parable too hard or too far.
I believe Jesus wants us to push it only so far
As we can reasonably discern his will,
And no further.
This is like
Return home after a formal affair and
Being able to unbutton an overly tight corset
Or slipping out of an undersized pair of jeans.
This approach gives us room to breathe,
And, I’d suggest, room to look at this parable completely differently
Than we have ever looked at it before.
Jesus uses the word “talents.”
He doesn’t use the word “denarii”, “pieces of silver”, or “shekels”.
He intentionally says talents:
The master leave to one five talents,
To the second slave two talents,
To the third one.
Is a talent a coin? As is often interpreted.
Or is a talent something you are good at? As is also commonly proclaimed.
Perhaps a talent is something completely different.
Consider this as a possibility:
Jesus wants his disciples to know that
A talent is
A position God places us in,
Where you and I may use our position, our call, our resources
To make a difference.
A talent is an opportunity for you and me to step up
And become a part of the 12 percenters
Who will stop a kid from being bullied in a restaurant.
What do we do while we are waiting? Begs to be asked.
Are we frozen in fear like that third slave?
What are we afraid of?
Are we ignoring or denying a call to be God’s righteousness in the world?
Or, can we use this time of waiting
As an opportunity to invest our resources,
To roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty,
To take risks,
To engage in mission and ministry,
To make a stand for God and His kingdom?
Yes, we can.
The way of judgment is set before us.
Will we be wicked and lazy,
Allow ourselves to submit to temptation
And become a conduit for sin and evil to fester in the world?
Will we be quick to make inaccurate and uninformed assumptions about God’s will?
That approach, Jesus teaches us,
Results in harsh judgment and sentencing.
So, don’t sin or violate God’s laws.
Don’t grow lazy in faith or good works.
Don’t assume to know God.
The wicked and lazy face a painful and violent end.
Choose to do otherwise.
In this time of waiting for the Lord to come,
Step up, and step in.
Do the right thing.
In this time of waiting for the Lord to return
Live righteously, according to God’s law.
Live actively, passionately for the completion of God’s kingdom.
Learn God’s Word.
Through prayer and Christian support
Discern and apply God’s ways to our daily living.
Make use of the talents God gives you.
Seize every opportunity,
Take advantage of what privilege you have,
Make use of every resource,
… time, talent, and treasure …
To optimize God’s call for your life,
To become fully God’s hands,
To re-create the world
Into the kingdom that only God can imagine,
Into the kingdom God desires
For all His children.
In this time of waiting,
We can choose to do otherwise,
To invest and improve God’s kingdom.