Monday, November 14, 2005

I'm SOOO ready for Mark--reflections on preaching Matthew 25

This time of year, I always find I'm ready for the lectionary to change over. I love all the Gospels, although Luke particularly speaks to me, but this time of year, it doesn't matter. I'm ready to look at the Good News from a different perspective.

The parable of the talents drove me nuts all week. I read a variety of commentaries, a variety of wise and wonderful people's writings on this piece of the Gospel of Matthew. Nothing particularly leaped out at me. As I said in my sermon yesterday, I was reminded of a cartoon I have, with a priest sitting at his desk, and an attendance graph on the wall, showing the usual up and down numbers, followed by a steep plunging drop-off. A lay leader in the office says to him, "Maybe it would help if you didn't end every sermon with, 'but then again, what do I know?'" I felt like it was a 'but then again, what do I know' kind of week.

In the end, it was N.T. Wright's commentary in Matthew for Everybody, Part Two that really helped me. In his opinion, he believed that Matthew is criticizing the powers-that-be in Israel at that time for losing track of its mission to be a light to the nations.

This made sense to me in a way nothing else had, so I ran with it. I even got to include Dr. Kinnamon's line that "a church that is only about caring for its own members has ceased to be the church." It seemed to resonate.

Finally, I assigned some homework, for all of us in the congregation to drive home with eyes open to possibilities of mission in our own neighborhoods, on the streets between the church and home. I asked them not to worry about how to implement something, or how to fund it, but simply to ask God to open our eyes to how we can participate in God's mission, to dream a little bit as God dreams.

We'll see what the Spirit may bring.


At 10:10 AM, Blogger Annie said...

This parable has a tendency to make me wonder--I sure do want to invest what I have been given! And I've never been good at investing. What happens if I have good intentions and I try to invest it, but the bank folds? And I don't even have my principle to give him. Is there some sort of insurance, like FDIC?

More seriously, I link it to, "If you can trust a man in small things, you can trust him in great, also." (from memory, so it might not be exact). And the odd thing is, I think, that we are all looking to do the big things, the great things, and we overlook the small things.

So, once we begin the journey with intensity, his gifts come like a flood--G-d is good.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Oh, that's a whole new twist--it seems like a lot of money (5 talents being 60+ years of working wages) but in God's eyes, it's still a small thing. So you never know what's small or big, or what might lead to something bigger.

File that thought for next time Year A rolls around!

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Don said...

Since last Sunday was Episcopal Schools Day, the chaplain from our day school gave the sermon.

Her take on the talents parable (which she said she based on recent scholarship that tried to determine what original listeners might have heard, in the their setting) was that we have added the phrase ... "the kingdom of God is like.." Instead, she said that in the original, this story begins, "It is like ..."

What is "it"? Perhaps it is reality, the world as it is. Since investment was unknown to Jewish culture of the first century, and in fact was many times prohibited, then the story is about the unfairness of the poor fellow who actually defied the distant landlord by telling him directly that he did not invest the money.

I like this interpretation because I always identify with that fellow.

The lesson? That we live in a world of unfairness. And we have to figure that out. And also, we should know that our God is not an absent landlord, but here and now, working with us as we deal with unfairness.

I don't think I've ever heard the story told like this.


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