Corona Sabbath 35 Investment Advice Reflection Text

Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

We listen to a scripture lesson from Matthew. It is sometimes called the parable of the talents. Like a good parable, this story has many layers, interpretations, and meanings. Some see this story as offering financial guidance. Some see this story as pertaining to the use of talents. Some see it as an indictment of the oppressive economic system of the time. To some the landowner is a god figure. To others, the landowner is an anti god figure. And the third servant who buries the money. Some see him as a lazy good-for-nothing. Others see him as a model of subversion. As you listen, what do you hear in this story? And one note about the money mentioned. The actual amounts referred to in the story were much larger than the translation implies. The amount entrusted to the last slave was worth about 20 years wages for a laborer. The thousand dollar figure is symbolic of much more money by today’s standards.

Matthew 25:14-30

“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 way, 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 come 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 are 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 with the 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.’

Reflection from Kim

In the gospel of Matthew, this story is near the end. It is part of Jesus’ last teachings to his disciples. And it is set between two other stories that refer to ultimate things. Coming to the end. What really matters.

When the story is seen as being addressed to the disciples, it can be seen as a challenge having to do with much more than mere money. Are we hearing Jesus confront his beloved friends about the future? When I am gone, what are you going to do with what I have taught you? With what we have experienced together of the commonwealth of God? Are you going to be quiet, play it safe, keep it to yourselves? Or are you going to keep boldly living out what we have shared together, this new reality? This dream of God?

Lots of us tuck our faith away and bring it out on Sunday morning or when we face a crisis or an emergency. We bring our faith out, use it, apply it, and then, we carefully store it away again. It’s for special occasions not every day use. Jesus challenges this kind of thinking.

Among its many messages and meanings, this story urges us to think about our faith as a gift meant to determine our whole lives, meant to inform all of our decisions. Investing ourselves fully in the way of Love. Spending our lives for others and taking risks. Just what are we doing with all that we have been given – breath, voice, time, eyes, mouths, and also talents and treasure?

When we were in seminary, we had chapel services 4 days a week at noon. I’ll never forget the sermon of one of our classmates. An hispanic woman. She challenged people who think they don’t have much power or influence. Who don’t think they have much to offer. You know it can be very easy to hide behind humility as an excuse for playing it safe. Well, this fiery preacher looked around the sanctuary and reminded us that everyone in the room had a mouth, so everyone in the room could be doing something about the injustice and suffering in the world. You have a mouth. You can make a difference. And in today’s world, people also have a mouth on social media which can amplify the message and make the it even more powerful.

We are confronted with asking ourselves what are we doing with the dream of God that we have been given?

The parable invites us to ask not only are we fully living the gospel, the commonwealth of God in our finances and all of the rest of the aspects of our lives, but it also invites us to consider how we are sharing the gospel. So many people today are rootless, disenchanted with society, angry at the economy, and the good news of Jesus Christ offers a word of hope and transformation. Many people lack a sense of purpose or meaning in their lives. They are searching for what the gospel has to give. Are we sharing the good news of the gospel with others? Are we letting people know that there is another world view, another set of values and considerations that are life-giving and meaning-full? Are we encouraging others to find joyful and abundant life following Jesus?

What are we doing with what we have been given? No hiding behind I don’t have this. I can’t do that. I’m too busy with this. I don’t have access to that. This story is about all that we DO have, all that we are given, all that we can do.

Look at Jesus. Poor. From a backwater town. In a land that was under occupation. Lots of disadvantages. And yet he spends his life. He uses it. Gives it away. Enjoys it. He parties, drinks with friends, celebrates. He serves, helps, and heals others. He teaches and preaches and prays. He relishes the living of his days. Jesus loves his life so much, he is so grateful for all that he has been given, that he can’t help but give it away, give it up, give it back.

Like the disciples, we, too, have been given the gospel. What are we going to do with it? In thinking about this story we are reminded that the gospel empowers us to call out unjust economic arrangements and financial systems that leave so many people poor and a few people obscenely rich. If someone is rich, it is usually because other people are being made poor or the environment is being abused. The gospel empowers us to challenge slavery, systemic racism, oppression of every kind, and the degradation and abuse of beloved children of God.

This story is not an endorsement of capitalism which did not exist in Jesus’ day. It is an endorsement of risky living, fully and freely, for the common good. It is about giving back the life you have been given. The gospel tells us to invest in love as our portfolio, our goal, our guide – not personal freedom, or financial wealth, or individual power.

A colleague shares this story:

Recently, a friend of mine wrote me about an experience some years ago that had changed her life. She had gone to an artist’s studio to have her portrait drawn. The artist took his time, asking her a number of questions aimed at drawing her out. Eventually he asked her what she feared most. Her first answer was nuclear war. She mentioned that she had repeatedly had nightmares about nuclear holocaust.

But the artist said, “No, I don’t believe you. That can’t be right. Something more personal.”

Nancy thought and thought. Finally it dawned on her. “What I fear most is getting to the end of my life and realizing that I had been too fearful — too careful — that I never really used my talents.”

“That’s it,” the artist said.

[From Robert Ellsberg, St. Augustine’s Church, Croton-on-Hudson, November 12-13, 2005, cited in http://edgeofenclosure.org/proper28a.html%5D

Amen.

(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)

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