Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Matthew 25: 14-21
Preached on Jan. 9, 2011

Our story for today is one of the parables Jesus tell his disciples and others immediately before his arrest in Jerusalem-in a sense, this is one of the straws that break the camels’ back. He is teaching his disciples in this passage that if you have talents gifts and graces, you are best served as a servant (or a slave) of God if you bring those talents to good use. If you put your “talents” in the service of the Lord, you will “enter into the joy of your master”.

Interestingly, the word talent, which I took to mean that the slaves had been given an allegorical sum of money called a talent, was not so. It was the other way around. The word “talent” once meant a large sum of money; the New Interpreter's Bible commentary said it was 15 years’ worth of a days’ wage. And because this story was told so widely during the Middle Ages, "talent" only then, and because of this parable, became known as the gifts and graces you have been given by God. So what we think of as talents did once actually mean spending capital!

I think that it is probably wise to continue to think of them that way, and perhaps we should also think of them as the spending money that an eleven year old has in his pocket, “burning a hole”, as they say-we have to get it out of our pockets and spent, and circulating, as quickly and as often as possible!

This community, this church, this congregation, has been through some tough times in the last eighteen months. In standing with me and my family, you have stood to be hurt yourselves, and it has not stopped you from doing so. Many of you have certainly put those talents into circulation when needed; from cooking to cleaning, from taking on some of the administrative duties that I could not perform, to standing up here and providing a message to this congregation in my absence. Some of you even took a little bit of the inevitable heat that comes with serving in the role of preacher.

These folks are certainly not the whole list of people who have helped me, my family and this charge through this time. Mostly everyone has done something, even if it was to take on the first duty of a Christian, the duty of prayer. You have certainly spread your talents around like my son at Game Stop!

I do hope you are not expecting some great and deep theological insight today. My hope for this sermon is rather simpler. I want to be able to say to each of you that I am thankful for the grace and the help that I and my family have received over the past 18 months. I do not know what kind of pastor I will be after this experience, what kind of preacher I will grow into after this experience. I have been changed, and those changes are not over. I am still healing, and adjusting to what my new life means for me. I know I have been through a hard time, but I also know that I am not the only one-we all have had our tough days, our hard times. God has been with us through them all, and one of the best roles of a congregation is to provide the face, the hands, and the voice of God to those who are in need of it. And you all have been that for me, just as you have been for each other.

The talents that we have all been given, that burn holes in our pockets, are meant to be shared. They are meant to be put into the service of those who are around us. At the beginning of this year, I’d like us to take communion together in the spirit of offering our talents to each other as a congregation, and to re-offer them to God, the source of all that we have and are.

Instead of the Lord’s prayer being prayed at the appropriate moment in the Great Thanksgiving, I would like for us to pray it together at its' place the other three weeks of the month, at the end of the pastoral prayer. At its' place in the Great Thanksgiving, I’d like for us to pray the covenant prayer written by John Wesley. I’d like for us to pray this slowly and meditatively, thinking about how each part may apply to us.

May we all feel the heat of the talents that are burning holes in our pockets, this year, and may we spend those talents freely.

May these words have been God’s intention this day. Amen.

The Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

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