Sermon for 25 Pentecost, Year A
Based on Matt. 25:14-30
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
"Risking Our Talents"
Our gospel for today is a loaded one! Jesus' parable of the talents covers a lot of territory. It speaks to us and our situation just as much as it did to the people of Jesus' day. It's a parable of judgment and grace; fear and love; losing and gaining life. It tells us the truth about ourselves and God.
It begins with the owner of considerable property giving 3 of his slaves a pile of money to manage on his behalf, while he journeyed into another country. The owner in this parable really represent God; the talents represents God's generous grace ~ one talent was worth 15 years wages for a day labourer! We're talking big bucks here!
God's love and grace are like this owner in that God gives us our lives, along with all of our personal gifts and talents. Each one of us has been given not only our lives from God, but also everything that we are and have come from God's love and generous grace. Our talents may not be in dollars and cents, but they may be in a host of other abilities and gifts like: being joyful, faithful, loving, kind, understanding, caring wise. Or our talent may be in teaching or parenting or serving others in very practical ways ~ to name only a few. The important point and purpose of the parable is that these talents, these gifts and abilities come, not from ourselves, but from our all-loving, gracious God.
The parable then moves on to tell us what the 3 slaves did with all of that money that their master gave them. Two of them, trusting that their master really did love them felt confident and good about themselves. So, they went out and willingly took the risk of investing the money. But the third fellow didn't trust that his master really loved him. So, what does he do? He goes out and hoards the money in a safe place, without investing it.
Eventually, the master returns and calls his slaves to give an account of what they've done with his money. The first two are rewarded by their master for their risky investments, which turned 100% profits. They share in the master's joy and are given even greater responsibilities.
Slave number 3 however, gives the master back the same talent he had been given long ago. All those years slave number 3 had lived in fear of his master. This fear had really taken its toll on the slave. Not only had his fear paralyzed him, preventing him from taking any risks; his fear had also given him the illusion that he could stand in judgment over his master. Consequently, by failing to accept the master's love and grace, he leaves the master with no option but to judge and punish the slave for his fear and hatred of the master.
Like the slaves in this parable, God has given each one of us his love and many different gifts of grace. He wants us to invest them wisely; he wants us to take risks; he wants us to use the gifts, the talents he has given us ~ whatever they may be. As we see from the parable, if we fail to live in a loving relationship with God; if we fail to take risks for God and his realm; if we don't use the gifts he gives us, we shall certainly lose them.
Harold H. Lentz tells the following story: "There was a man named Luigi Tarisio who, when he died, was found to possess 246 violins. They represented a lifetime of collecting. They were found stored everywhere throughout his house ~ in the attic, in closets, even in dresser drawers. But none were ever played; they were simply collected. His passionate devotion to the violin had robbed the world of all the music those instruments could have produced."
"God does not want his gift of talents to be idle and useless, producing no return. Each of us has some God-given purpose in life with its accompanying ability. Be sure your talent is making music in the great orchestra of daily life."
What fears in our lives cause us to horde and hide that which God has given us? Would we rather play it safe and not use our talents than take risks and use them in the service of our Lord and one another? Often we discover, when we're willing to take risks, that our fears prevent us from doing things that we really enjoy doing, once we actually do them. This is true in many areas of our lives.
For example: learning how to walk, run, talk; learning how to ride a bike; learning how to sing or dance or drive a car or run a computer. In all of these and more, we wonder why we were so afraid, after we take the risks of doing something. Once we've tried it, we might say to ourselves: "Why didn't I try that before? What was I afraid of for so long?"
According to William Barclay, in his book, And Jesus Said: "It has been said with great wisdom, "God does not want extraordinary people who do extraordinary things nearly so much as He wants ordinary people who do ordinary things extraordinarily well." Abraham Lincoln once said, "God must love the common people because he made so many of them."
As Ronald Vallet has observed in his book, Stepping Stones Of The Steward: "The challenge is to ask yourself how you can use your resources of time and talent and treasure for God. What is that special thing which you can do that nobody else in the world can do in quite the same way? Is it to laugh, to smile and share your sense of humour? Is it an ability to encourage and inspire? Is it an ability to pray? Is it a loving tone people hear in your voice? Is it skill in music or art or teaching or managing or any number of other talents? The possibilities are almost limitless. What are those things the Owner of all things has entrusted to you? How have you responded to that trust? How are you doing as a steward of Jesus Christ?"
How many opportunities do you see in every day that God gives you to risk your talents? Do you live your life in fear that paralyzes you? that causes you to hide and hoard your talents? Or do you trust in the grace of God to take the risky adventures with your talent that God desires you to take in order to keep growing in your faith? It is such questions as these that our gospel parable leave us with to ponder and act upon today.
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