Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sermon for Sunday Evensong

RSCM Course, Tulsa
Matthew 25:14-30

(thanks to Tom Long's commentary on Matthew for the WJK series for the insight provided to this pericope)

What a perfect Gospel lesson to end this week. Could preaching a sermon be any easier? We have the story of the master who gives talents to his servants—five to one, two to another, one to the last one, and then goes away on a journey. When he gets back he rewards the ones who have made something with their talents, and punishes the one who hides his talent from the world. So there’s not much to say, is there? Our participants have been developing their talents all week, and they should continue to do so! Better sit up straight, hold your book up and sing well, or else!
That’s an ok sermon, but it’s not the one I’m going to preach this evening. Because that’s not what this parable is about. This parable is not about us. Because even though we try, in our selfish human way, to make parables about us, they are really all about God. And since the motto of RSCM is I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also, it is really imperative that we stop to ask, what does this parable tell us about our God? How does this story increase our understanding of the God we have been praising in our lips and in our lives during this week?
So what is the God figure like in this story? How does the final slave, the frightened slave, describe his Master? He describes him as harsh, reaping where he did not sow, and worthy of fearing for his very life. The slave is genuinely frightened of what the Master will do to him upon his return, and hides his money in the ground out of fear and anxiety.
But let’s take a look at who this Master really is. Before he leaves on this extended vacation, he gives his slaves the talents—money—and one talent was equal to the wages one would earn over 15 years. He gives away three lifetimes of earnings to these three slaves—the lowest of the low, the people who didn’t count in the household. They had no status, no power, and according to the laws of the time, he owed them nothing, and yet this Master generously hands out his money to these slaves for them to invest. This is a master who rejoices at the good work of the first two slaves, and receives them into his very family, making a place for them at his table with joy and love.
Is this Master really a harsh and fearful judge? Only through the perceptions of the final slave. And just as the final slave expects punishment and judgment, that is what he receives. It is the slave who has distanced himself from his master. It is he who has judged himself and cast himself into the outer darkness.
We get so hung up over all the little sins that we commit, just as the third slave was worried about failing, that we forget that the greatest sin of all is alienation from God, to make ourselves separate from God and each other. God our Master desires to be with us, to share the abundance of creation with us, and we hide in dark corners, waiting his return with fear and trembling. And when we expect God to treat us in that way, we often find ourselves in darkness.
We get to choose which God we will serve. We get to decide what to do with the abundance of riches God bestows on us every day of our lives. We can choose to believe with our hearts in the love of a God who trusts us with the greatest treasure of all, the Father’s own Son, whenever we gather at the table. We can choose to show that love forth in our lives and look forward to being received with joy by a loving and generous Master, approaching the throne in the final day with hope and confidence.
Which God are you worshipping here tonight?
May all of you gathered here be blessed with a glimpse of that God in the songs of praise offered by these faithful servants, a lifetime of treasure invested in this one week. In the beauty of our music, let us enter together into the joy of our Master.


At 5:24 PM, Blogger the reverend mommy said...

I honestly enjoyed Tom Long better than any other professor I have ever had. Thanks for this.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Total random luck--I was in the Cokesbury bookstore looking for some commentaries to take to Tulsa for preaching help, and picked it up because I didn't have the Matthew volume in that series, and, frankly, it looked packable.

It has turned out to be a very worthwhile purchase. I bet he was a good professor.


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