24 Pentecost • November 15, 2020
Judges 4:1-7 • Psalm 123 • Thessalonians 5:1-11 • Matthew 25:14-30
In the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The stories and parables of Jesus in the Gospels only have value if
we can relate to them personally. This means some deep diving
into ourselves, looking for what the message for us might be. As
always, the stories of Jesus are illustrations of the nature of the
kingdom of God. Not Paradise or life-after-death, but God’s
kingdom in the here and now. The stories of Jesus are about how
we can approach living our own lives, in our own circumstances,
with our own gifts and with our own challenges.
Today’s story of the Talents begins with a recognition that we are
not all equal when it comes to what we have been given. We
certainly are all equal under the law in America. We certainly are all
equally loved by our Father in heaven. But that’s about as far as
Each of us has been born into different stations in life, different
qualities of upbringing, different kinds of families, different
interests, different abilities. And each of us has a
lifetime—however long or short that may be—in which to make
use of what have been given.
Remember that Jesus is not a moralist, telling us how to be good.
No, Jesus is a truth-teller. He is one who announces that we can
enter into the joy of the kingdom. Jesus “tells it like it is,” showing
us how life really works, and how we can enter into joy in the
midst of this difficult and fraught world in which God has placed
The first two successful slaves in the story took whatever they
were given and actively worked with it. They took risks with their
gifts, looking to make what they had been given even better. The
third slave, whom the master calls “wicked and lazy,” was afraid.
He was fearful of losing the one gift he had been given, fearful of
the anger of his master if he risked his gift and failed.
Fear of failure is a great lock on the gates to the kingdom of God.
Frequently in the Bible, whenever God shows up, or an angel
appears, the first words are “Fear not!” The wicked and lazy slave
was correct in knowing that he could fail. He was right in knowing
that failure carries punishments in the real world. His natural
reaction was fear; inherent in risk is the possibility of failure. But
his refusal to risk meant that his gifts were wasted. He buried
So the clear message is that we would do well to take whatever we
have been given and take the risk of producing good out of them.
What have we been given at this point in our lives? Well, some of
us have been given great age. Some of us have been given
precarious health. all of us have been given a pandemic in which
out human herd is passing the virus around at a great rate, resulting
in increasing deaths—almost 250,000 at this point—and millions
upon millions of infected people. And we’ve been given a fragile
economy in which many of us are in trouble.
Of course, these are not our only gifts. Most of us here have a
great deal of wisdom, hard-earned over many years but
nonetheless a gift. Most of us have managed to be economically
stable. By the world’s standards, in which two dollars a day means
being out of poverty, most of us are in the one percent. And we
have been given skills, how-to knowledge of immense value.
And we have been given other resources. We have Zoom these
days! We have email and messages and phones and TV. These are
profoundly valuable gifts for making a difference when in-person
contact is denied us.
The bottom line in Jesus story of the Talents is this: “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.” The challenge before us, you and I, is to not bury our
gifts for fear of losing what we have. The challenge before us is to
see what needs to be done for others, and to step out, knowing the
risks, and act on behalf of our Master, our Father in heaven.