Pentecost 24 – Nov. 19, 2017

Rev. Lyle McKenzie         Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Judges 4:1-7 Psalm 123 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Matthew 25:14-30

 

O God, how could you entrust humanity with everything you have created, and how do we find our way to faithfulness over division, disparity, and self-destruction. Only you know the way and continue to have hope in us. Give us this Spirit of hope in action, in the grace of Christ Jesus. Amen.

I’ve responded to this story this week by thinking, I wish Jesus would have told a better story.

– Following immediately after last week’s story of God’s dominion is like ten bridesmaids, a groom who was late, and a wedding banquet for just half of them, this is still a story that fits under the heading, “the dominion of God is like this.”

– Slavery, inequity, expectation and fear, accounting, reward and punishment, joy, outer darkness and despair…

– Did Jesus really want to say the dominion of God is like this?

– As arrogant as it is, I thought to myself, “Jesus, I could have told a better story than this.”

It is like a woman going on a long journey, asking her trusted employees to manage her substantial wealth. She left three principals in charge, giving a different proportion to each,

– to the first 5 million dollars, (1 talent = 15 years wages X 5)

– to the second 2 million dollars,

– and the third 1 million dollars,

according to their experience, talents and abilities.

– The first two approached their task with confidence, managing excellent returns and doubling their owner’s wealth.

– The third feared the risk of losing the owner’s money, and decided to simply hold on to it for safe keeping until the owner’s return.

– Having learned of this, the first two offered to assist the third with secure investments, and helped to earn a reasonable return in interest.

– After a long time, the woman returned and requested an accounting of their management.

– The first showed a spreadsheet indicating the original 5 million dollars had doubled, totalling 10 million. The owner said, “Well done, my good and trustworthy steward, you have been faithful in this small part of my wealth, I will put you in charge of much more, and you will enjoy the benefits of all I have.”

– The second showed a spreadsheet indicating the original 2 million dollars had doubled totalling 4 million. The owner said, “Well done, my good and trustworthy steward, you have been faithful in this small part of my wealth, I will put you in charge of much more, and you will enjoy the benefits of all I have.”

– The third spoke to the owner, explaining, “I know you are a good person, earning what you have through honesty and hard work. I was afraid of losing anything of what you have worked hard to earn. And so I decided to hold on to it. But my friends and colleagues helped me see that I could at least securely invest your money to earn interest. So here it is, what is yours and with interest.”

– The owner replied, “You knew, did you, that I am honest and worked hard to earn what I have. Then you should not have been afraid and felt free to use your talent and ability to risk seeing what you could do, trusting yourself, like I trusted you.

– I will not take what you have and give it to others, but I will give all of you an equal share, to work and serve together with me.

– For to all those who have, more will be asked, and they will share out of their abundance. And to those who have nothing, an abundance will be given to them.

– As for this honest steward, I say, ‘Come enjoy the benefits of all I have.’ And let there be no one thrown into the outer darkness and no more weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

– There, that’s better, isn’t it? I wonder if it isn’t more what Jesus wanted to say, and Matthew tell, and we want to hear…

– if it wasn’t for all the strain on Jesus nearing his arrest, and trial and crucifixion,

– and the destruction of Jerusalem and people fearing for their lives and that the end was near for Matthew’s community…

– That does put a different edge on things…

– maybe making the urgency of being faithful even in little ways,  and the need to be bold and trust rather than fear, more evident, critical, challenging, even separating Jesus’ followers…

– and maybe exposing the realities of slavery, the mastery of occupying Rome and slavery of the people… and that even now human beings are still for sale, and so the importance of our reformation theme and challenges to see it end still…

– and that in our world’s economy, the truth that some have five and two times and 5 billion times what others have, and those who have nothing, even what they have is given to those who have the most… refugees turned away, undocumented workers, mothers and fathers taken from their families, “paradise papers” exposing the extreme wealth of the top 1% and the advantage and avoidance of paying taxes that ensure common services to benefit everyone, especially those who have nothing…

– and God’s desire that it be so different in every time…

– for us to be bold and trusting trying to make it so, by our acting and living faithfully, differently, generously, cooperatively, for the good of all in God’s dominion…

– like the work of Canadian Lutheran World relief, the Shelbourne Community Kitchen, refugee sponsorship, work towards reconciliation, our benevolence offerings… for example

– and last that terrible image in Jesus’ story of the one slave being cast into the outer darkness that looks familiar, like what is about to happen in the Gospel, as it happened in reality, the crucifying of Jesus, outside the walls of Jerusalem, under the dark cloud of burning garbage, where Jesus’ friends and witnesses wept, and gnashed their teeth in grief and disbelief…

– and that throwing people into outer darkness, and people weeping and grinding their teeth in fear and suffering continues for too many of God’s children, at the hands of God’s children, in a history that repeats itself too often for too many…

– Maybe Jesus’ story exposes this broken world as we know it, and both our and humanity’s failings and God’s continuing longing and call to faithfulness…

– I think leaving Jesus’ story just the way it is best, more faithful

– It was arrogant of me to think I could tell a better story…

And how is it, God, knowing all that is exposed about our failed and failing humanity by this story of Jesus, that you continue to entrust humanity with faithful stewardship of all your and the earth’s abundance, for the preservation of humanity and the wellbeing of all creation – how do you trust us?

St. Paul writes… “For you, beloved, are not in darkness… for you are all children of light, and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep… For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”  Amen.