Sermon by the Rev. Lisa Smith Fry
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Several years ago, my sister Laurie and my brother in law Brad were helping me do some heavy work at my house. It had been a long morning and we were all exhausted, so I suggested we take a break and get some lunch.
For some reason the talk turned to Jesus’ parables—not a normal thing in my family– and Laurie announced that she just hated the parable of the talents. Since I was a newly ordained priest at the time, she decided to take it out on me, as sisters do. She talked with some passion about the first two slaves who risked their master’s money on “questionable trading,” and got praised for it, while the poor slave who had done nothing wrong except for not being a risk-taker, had been chastised.
“He didn’t do anything wrong, “she said. “The stupid master got back the stupid money. What if that slave tried to do something with the money and it didn’t work?”
That’s my sister. She’s full of compassion for the little guy.
So let’s more deeply at his parable. No one seems to argue with the fact that it is a metaphor. It’s not about a real story about a guy Jesus knew. Neither does a parable reaffirm common knowledge. If people listen to a parable and say, “Yes, that’s true; we already know these things,” —what would be the point? Parables are stories that open our minds and hearts, so we might look at things differently.
So we have a master giving his servants things of great worth—to see what they will do with them. And the first two take what they have been given, and multiply it.
The third—the non-risk taker—according to my sister, buries what he is given. His justification is that the master is “harsh, reaping where he does not sow and gathering where he did not scatter.” The other two slaves don’t seem to hold this view.
And it may sound as it the master is agreeing with the third servant, but is he? I’m not so sure. He is using the servant’s own reasoning to show that he had another option—which the servant rejected.
“You KNEW, did you, that I reap where I did not sow…if you KNEW these things, why didn’t you just invest the money with the bankers?” And “invest” here doesn’t mean play the money market. It means putting the money in the bank for safekeeping, where it will accrue interest.
So just for today, let’s see this as a metaphor for our lives. The gifts we are given by God are so many and varied it almost is beyond our imaginations. And God has blessed us with vast imagination.
But do we use the gifts we have been given?
Do we look with curiosity and wonder at the creation around us—this biosphere of infinite variety, the plants, the animals—God gave us dogs! And Cats!
And the people—wow—the variety of people—people who can lift great weights, people who have no pigment, people who can do math in their heads, people who aren’t afraid of blood and can sew up people who’ve been injured, people who can make us laugh, people who like to clean!
And some people in this great world– they seem fearless; they’re willing to try almost anything. They jump right in to life.
Haven’t gardened before? Why not? Let’s try it! And they may not be good at it at first—or ever—but they laugh, and try again. Or try it differently. Or discover when they attempt gardening that the part that’s really interesting to them is building something with the rocks they dig out of the ground as they plant—and they build a short rock fence with them, or a fort, or a sculpture.
Using our gifts seems to multiply them. When we use our gifts—more will be given—just like Jesus said in the parable.
But then there are people that don’t notice the wonder of the world around them. Who might have been good at gardening, but dismissed it because they’d never been good at “that stuff.”
There are those out there who are good at drawing, or writing, but stop because they’re afraid, or their gift doesn’t seem to be practical – or they don’t think they can do it well enough.
So they ignore it, bury it, and then blame it on the world: the world doesn’t reward that impractical stuff—it demands we do more useful things, it only rewards people who are good at certain things.
Perhaps in this parable Jesus is trying to tell us that the only thing that holds us back is ourselves. We can blame the taskmaster, blame the world, blame our so called lack of talent— but perhaps the only real crime is to bury what we have been given.
Jesus opens our hearts and minds and souls to his image of us as people full of infinite possibilities. All he asks is that we enter life with wonder, and try.
Succeeding is only one reason to use our gifts. The other is that it’s fun.
So here’s the deal, and here’s why I LOVE this parable: realize that at ANY TIME we can go dig up what we’ve buried, take that talent out of the hidden recesses of our heart, and let it see the light of day. That’s all God wants: to assure us that the secret parts of ourselves, these gifts we sometimes hide in our hearts, don’t have to stay buried. We can just put them aside until the interest is there.
God doesn’t want us to gnash our teeth later at wasted opportunities.
It is an act of faith to use our talents.
And when we stop hiding our potential God will look at us and say, “Well done my child, well done!” Amen.