Sermon for 2nd before Advent – The Parable of the Talents
My friend has a magnet on her fridge.
Look busy! It warns – Jesus is coming!
And that is the theme of our readings leading up to Advent – are we ready? Not presents, puddings and decorations ready – but really ready – ready for Emmanuel – God with us.
And God with us in the story of Jesus in Bethlehem – yes – but also God with us in the sense that Jesus promises to come again.
Now 2020 has thrown us a few curve balls – and so it is not beyond our imagination to wonder what happens if Jesus returns this Christmas? What will he catch us doing? Are we ready for that meeting?
Will our lamps be lit like the wise virgins last week ready to greet him? And will we have anything to show for our time as our story this morning challenges us?
The Bible says we will not know the hour – it could literally be 3pm this afternoon.
So perhaps we all need a magnet on the fridge – look busy – Jesus is coming!
Except I don’t think that is busy God wants to see as much as faithfulness – which is always much, much harder.
Any of us can manage busy if we want to – and busy makes us look good and stops us thinking about the really challenging stuff – in busy we can feel both safe and significant. A bit like burying your talent in the sand – significant because the master trusted you – and safe because you picked the place of least risk and least challenge – knowing few would judge that decision – because in so many ways it is good. Frankly it is what any one might do given the interests rates these days.
Burying it wasn’t actually doing anything wrong – it wasn’t cheating or stealing – it might have been a failure to do good but that still means you were good – right? You just didn’t contribute to the good of others. And it left you with so much more time to focus on all the other projects you were busy with. And boy are you busy…
You see, based on the passage people have often said the third servant is afraid – and I think that is right – anxiety drives his behaviour – but they have also said he is very lazy – and I don’t think that is necessarily so – I think he was lazy about his Master’s business because he was so busy with his own.
I think burying the talent is the action of a busy and pressurised man with other things to do – and by burying it he comforts himself that he has not lost it or defrauded his Master – in fact he feels both safe and significant due to his actions – and it frees up his time to put his focus on other things than his Master’s business – perhaps not trusting the Master to provide for all he needs – perhaps then he focuses his time on bringing the increase just for himself and his family. Perhaps the tragedy of the story is that he puts all his energy into using the little he personally had to provide fullness or life instead of the abundance he is given in order to enter the joy of the Lord.
Certainly that is a temptation for us all. To get so busy with life we bury the enormous wealth/talent and gifts God shares with us – and instead of using it boldly and creatively to increase God’s Kingdom and grow – we stagnate by keeping our heads down – to focus on the much smaller world of our own property and the things we can do without ever having to step out of our comfort zones.
But that has never been where God wants us to abide – he calls us to much bigger things – to handle things that many of us think are way beyond our capability – but this has always been the way he works with us.
This is the God that calls us out of boats to walk upon water; or to build boats on dry land with just the rumour of a flood to come; the God who asked Abraham to leave his home without turning back; to sacrifice his son without knowing that a ram would be provided; the God who sent Moses, the man with a stutter and guilty past, to challenge Pharaoh the King of Egypt to free an entire nation and lead them for 40 years through wilderness in order to reach Promised Land; this is the God who chose a shepherd boy David to beat a giant of a man Goliath; who sends out his disciples barefoot and without any provisions for the road; and who picked a young unmarried girl living in poverty to be mother to his own son.
And that is the story we are waiting to hear again at this time of year – the story of angels that took shepherds from their flocks and Kings from the countries – to a stable in Bethlehem – where the mother of God lies in the hay – holding the hope of the world in her hands.
Treasure that refused to be buried.
So this year can I encourage you not to just look busy because Jesus is coming – this Advent and Christmas can I encourage you to pause, to stop to notice the treasure we are given – and to not be afraid to say an enthusiastic yes to whatever God invites you to do with it. As we approach the new church year dare to say yes and go and do – even if you think it is too much – perhaps especially if you think it is too much.
For this is the way we enter the joy of our Master.