We’re in what is now called the kingdom season in the church calendar – I don’t think it’s a season that is particularly useful as I think our focus must every day of every week be on Christ as the king – the king of our lives, the king of our hopes and aspirations, the king of possibilities for the world and indeed the king of the whole world, so that’s a little hobby horse of mine out of the way.
Having said that, the readings do offer us a focus upon which to reflect on these things in a bit more depth so that’s what I’ll try and do this morning.
Our gospel reading (Matt 25:14-30) is the pretty well known parable of the talents – it’s often been portrayed as a parable about how well we use our gifts, in other words it’s about us, but whilst that may be part of it, I don’t think that’s the biggest part.
The biggest part comes in the first paragraph of what we heard. The master is going on a journey and he distributes his property to his servants to look after. To one he gives 5 talents, to another 2 talents and to a third he gives 1 talent.
Part of the problem with the understanding of this is that we immediately assume a talent is something we can do, but actually a talent in these terms was something precious in monetary terms – some translations of the bible have replaced the word talent with ‘bags of gold.’
In these terms we see more of what this parable is about – it isn’t about us primarily, but it is about the incredible generosity of God. It’s about his willingness to give us all we need to live and to live our lives fully, to live our lives with joy, with hope and love.
The first two servants weren’t being commended on their entrepreneurial skills but rather on the fact that they had recognised the incredible gifts they had been given and used them. What the third servant did was make an unfounded and unfair judgement against his master which had prevented him from using what he had been given.
God doesn’t want us to hide our gifts in the ground but to take the risks of living fully, of living with love for others, of living knowing that we are loved by and precious to God – this is a story of God’s incredible generosity to us and our willingness to respond to that.
Of course, it recognises that we are given different gifts but that doesn’t change how we can use them. In his parables Jesus was often not delivering a detailed analysis of life but was often telling stories that would intrigue and challenge people, stories that were sometimes far-fetched and yet absolutely relevant to the people to whom he spoke, and to us….
Yes, the servant given only one talent may not have been able to do all of the things that the others could do, but the gospel is about our relationship with God and our relationship with other people – it’s about how we love and about how we serve other people, and the person with one talent may be able to do less, but may still be able to do life changing things…
An example is a lady who was stuck at home unable to go anywhere – it’s a story which perhaps resonates a lot for people at the moment as we’ve lived through lockdowns and wonder what the future will look like. Anyway, this lady wondered what she could do and decided that each day she would phone one person to encourage them, to check how they were, to bring them a little bit of joy.
It doesn’t seem much but it was potentially life changing for the person that was phoned.
The one who buried the talent in the ground had not recognised the generosity of the master and had done nothing with the gift he was given. In Jesus coming into the world to live amongst us, God took a huge risk on us. He shared with us the most precious thing in the world and he asks us to respond, and that response becomes apparent when we recognise the gifts we’re given and respond to receiving those gifts…
And to think about this a little more I’ll go back to the reading from Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians (5:1-11). Many of us will know the reading from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians chapter 13, the one that ends with ‘faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love…’
Well, lesser known are the words from our reading this morning – verse 8 says, ‘put on the breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation’… It may not be quite as catchy but the words are there, faith, hope and love. And these three things help us to live as God wants us to live.
Just beyond those words it says, ‘God has destined us not for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through Jesus’ and then Paul asks the people to ‘encourage one another and build up each other…’
Again, we’re reminded not of the picture that the third servant gave in the gospel reading of the master or God being judgemental and cruel, but of God as a generous gift giver who wants the best for all his people, who wants the best for us…
And so we’re called to live with faith. We can live confidently knowing that God is with us every moment of every day. We can live secure in the fact that the future God wants for us is amazing beyond words… We can live with love, a love that we receive from God and a love which we are called to share with others. And we can live with hope, knowing that salvation for us is the eternal gift we’re offered, the gift of spending eternity with the creator of the world who loves us and who provides abundantly for us…
So, what might this mean today. Well, we live (and it’s been said so many times !) in strange times and these are difficult times for many people – people who are struggling with illness, with isolation, with missing other people and contact with them, with missing just regular life, but these things, faith, love and hope, remind us that we live in the present very much, but we don’t live without a hope for the future, because whatever the present might look like, God is with us, God is guiding us, offering us strength and loving us.
And so these three things, faith, love and hope, are to be used as a blessing for us, but as a blessing for others. As we recognise they are gifts from God, who is generous and loving, we respond with offering those things to others in whatever ways we can.
In coming into the world Jesus took risks for us and so we are called to be risk takers, living our lives fully and living our lives well, rejoicing in faith, in love and in hope….
So may we, as Paul urged people in his letter to the Thessalonians, encourage one another, in good times and in difficult times, let’s build each other up, and may we reach out, responding to God’s love and using the gifts he gives us, to be a blessing to others. AMEN