The Gospel isn’t meant to be gulped down on Sunday morning, but gnawed on through the week so it really becomes a part of us. You’ve got to work at it, like a dog with a good bone! Here’s the Gospel for this coming Sunday — the 24th Sunday After Pentecost — with food for thought on trust, joy and how our actions show what God we believe in. Gnaw away!
Jesus said, “Again, it’s like a wealthy landowner who was going on a journey and called in three workers, entrusting some funds to them. The first was given five thousand dollars, the second two thousand, and the third one thousand, according to each one’s ability. Then the landowner went away. Immediately, the worker who received the five thousand went and invested it and made another five. In the same ay, the worker who received the two thousand doubled that figure. But the worker who received the one thousand instead went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried the money.
“After a long absence, the traveler returned home and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five thousand came forward bringing the additional five, saying, ‘You entrusted me with five thousand; here are five thousand more.’
“The landowner said, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful worker. Since you were dependable in a small matter, I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come, share my joy!”
“The one who had received the two thousand then stepped forward with the additional two, saying, ‘You entrusted me with two thousand; here are two thousand more.’
“The landowner said to this one, ‘Cleverly done! You too are a good and faithful worker. Since you were dependable in a small matter, I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come, share my joy!’
“Finally, the one who had received the one thousand stepped forward and said to the landowner. ‘Knowing your ruthlessness – you who reap where you did not sow and gather where you did not scatter – and fearing your wrath, I went off and buried your thousand dollars in the ground. Here is your money back.’
“The landowner exclaimed, ‘You worthless, lazy lout! So you know that I reap where I don’t sow and gather where I don’t scatter, do you? All the more reason to deposit my money with the bankers, so that on my return I could have had it back with interest! You, there! Take the thousand away from this bum and give it to the one who has ten thousand.
“Those who have will get more until they grow rich, while those who have not will lose even the little they have. Throw this worthless one outside into the darkness, where there is wailing and grinding of teeth.’”
The Backstory – What’s Going On Here?
The past couple weeks we have been in an apocalyptic section of Matthew. This part of the Gospel begins at the outset of Chapter 24 when Jesus is leaving the Temple and points to it saying “Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2). The disciples then ask him, “what will the sign of your coming and the close of the age?” Jesus never answers their question (and instead says repeatedly “no one knows the day or the hour”). What he does talk about is how to live in the meantime. That’s what this section about the end times is for the Gospel’s readers … recognition that something has begun in Jesus. An extraordinary inbreaking of the infinite love of God that will bring to an end all that is – all the oppressive structures of the world — and that will begin something new. And that they are to live differently in anticipation of this new realm (“the kin-dom of God” or “the kin-dom of heaven”) coming into being. Last week, we heard that the way we are to be is to be in a state of watchfulness and preparedness … even for an extended time (waiting with extra oil). This week, we hear how we are to live our lives with what we have been given — knowing that we are on a trajectory rooted in the hope of Christ.
A few things to chew on:
In this parable, Jesus compares the kin-dom of heaven to a landowner entrusting his servants with his property. For Jesus in this parable, the governing value in the kin-dom of heaven is Trust. Our experience shows this to be the case in our lives. High trust organizations thrive. Low trust organizations flounder. In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey lists seven costs of low-trust organizations and seven dividends of high-trust organizations. Think about our life together as All Saints Church … which of these do you experience and how can we work toward the Kin-dom value of Trust.
Low-Trust Organizational Costs — Redundancy, Bureaucracy, Politics, Disengagement, Turnover in staff, Churn (turnover in customers), Fraud.
High-Trust Organizational Dividends – Increased value, Accelerated Growth, Enhanced Innovation, Improved Collaboration, Stronger partnering, Better execution, Heightened loyalty.
“Come, share my joy!
What a beautiful phrase that is. The reward of living a life of generous abundance is sharing in the joy of God.
This week, take a few minutes at the beginning of each day and think about where in your life has it felt like you have been invited into the joy of God. Where has it felt like you are walking on sacred ground of love and joy? What caused that feeling? Were you afraid at all? Were you risking at all?
Try to think of a different instance each morning and look for what they might all have in common.
Jesus’ parable of the talents is a story he tells in response to a question about what the Kin-dom of God is like. In this case, it was a story about the nature of God and how a bold, generous, loving God invites us to live.
So what story would you tell to illustrate what you think the Kin-dom of God is like … a place where all relationships are characterized by God’s infinite love? Put another way, if someone asked you “What is the beloved community like?” what parable or story would you tell. Write that story this week!
What God do you believe in?
“Knowing your ruthlessness…”
When someone tells me they don’t believe in God, I ask them:
“Tell me about the God you don’t believe in, because maybe I don’t believe in that God either!”
The parable of the talents is about which God we believe in. And we are given two choices.
The first two servants believe in a God who is generous and trusting — who gives of the divine self extravagantly and desires joy for God’s children.
The first two servants believe in a God who loves them … and thus they believe in a God who is to be loved.
The third servant believes in a God who is a harsh taskmaster, exacting and unforgiving — a God for whom every gift has strings and expectations attached.
The third servant believes in a God who is fearful … and thus believes in a God who is to be feared.
We know the story. We know what happened.
The servants who believed God is generous, lived in the way their God did. We are never told exactly what they did with what they were given but we are led to imagine that it was bold and risky (how else would you have a 100% rate of return?). We are led to imagine that it was fearless and joyful — just as their God had been when God fearlessly entrusted the wealth to them.
The servant who believed God was fearful also lived in the way their God did. He huddled and hoarded. He took no risks because he knew there were enormous strings attached, that what was given him was not a gift but a
And God’s reaction to each was not a lesson in risk/reward investing. It’s a lesson that the God we believe in determines our experience of God.
The first two servants believed God to be generous and desiring of their joy, so they “shared God’s joy.” The third servant believed God to be harsh and cruel, and so he fulfilled that prophecy as well.
Who is the God we believe in? Do we believe in a God who is harsh and cruel, who is ready to give us a lash at the first misstep … who will call us wicked and slothful and cast us into the outer darkness?
That’s not the God I believe in.
I believe in a God who is generous and bold, who risks all in the name of love. I believe in a God who dreams that I share God’s joy.
But it’s not enough just to say which God I believe in … I show which God I believe in by how I act.
Do I act of out fear or do I act out of joy?
Do I give abundantly from what I have been given or do I bury it in the ground?
If someone looks at my life what God do they think I believe in?
If someone looks at our life as All Saints Church? What God will they think we worship?
Check out the rest of Sunday’s readings
The Lectionary Page has all of the readings for this Sunday and every Sunday – just click here.
Collect for Sunday: Pray this throughout the week as you gnaw on this Gospel.
Holy God, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Want to read more?
“The Text This Week” is an excellent online resource for anyone who wants to dive more deeply into the scriptures for the week.