It is a sad fact that far too many Christians consistently demonstrate their reluctance to engage with Christ’s call to serve others.
Pre-coronavirus the primary excuse was our busyness; now it is busyness and our need to ‘self-isolate’.
We invest so much time, effort and imagination in our quest to find ways to avoid serving in a selfless and generous way!
Today’s gospel reading … the parable of the talents … reminds us that everyone is given something by God, according to our respective capabilities.
Some are given much, but … from them, God expects much in return!
Some are given comparatively little, but … from them, God also expects much in return.
But … and this is a big but … God does not expect much in return as a quid pro quo, rather he wants us to give much as a gesture of thanksgiving and praise.
God does not expect us to focus only on the ‘big’ things. Throughout the gospel narrative our attention is constantly being drawn to the importance of the little, apparently insignificant things –
- just five loaves and two small fish are turned into a meal for over 5000 people;
- faith as small as a mustard seed (which is very small indeed) can move mountains, if it is true faith;
- a widow’s mite is the most significant of offerings, because of the proportion of giving it represents.
The parable of the talents … or, rather, the harsh treatment meted out to the one who squandered the opportunity he had been given … reminds us that the small and the seemingly insignificant are loaded with potential.
It is in the small and the seemingly insignificant that God calls us to be his loyal and faithful servants … to be his faithful disciples … to carry his mission into the whole world … even to carry the cross if that is the path that is laid before us.
The parable of the talents is about the kingdom of heaven itself, and nothing less.
The parable of the talents makes it clear that God is laying heaven before us … and leaving the decision of whether or not to enter up to us.
We are all called to make the most of the talents God has given us.
Some people have a talent that shines out in the world because of the nature of its creativity … while for some, their particular talent may seem more mundane.
Some are wonderful musicians, artists, writers, cooks … Others are good at seeing repetitive tasks to a satisfactory conclusion, or they are good at making even the most resolutely miserable and grumpy person smile.
All of these … and the rest … are marvellous, God-given talents.
True faith in Christ carries with it an intrinsic call to growth.
The growth that is outlined in the parable of the talents is rooted in giving … giving from the heart, rather than giving from the residue … from the scraps that are left at the end of the banquet.
This call to growth through giving is a massive issue for all Christian churches … it is the call of God to all communities of faith … and to all individuals within those communities of faith.
The message of the gospel narrative is God’s call to us all to empty ourselves completely in order that we might be ready to serve him, as he serves us in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
Such self-emptying is not easy, of course. But then, whoever said that true discipleship was easy … certainly not Jesus.
Possibly the hardest part of responding to the call in the parable of the talents, is the call for us to put aside our preconceived and cherished notions and prejudices.
Anyone who reads scripture will know that there is no room for arrogance in the life of true faith.
God is always challenging those certainties from which we derive so much comfort and pleasure.
In the service of Holy Communion, after the gospel reading, we declare our faith in God in the words of the Creed.
In the Creed we declare our belief in one holy catholic and apostolic church … but, how do we actually connect with that aspect of our calling?
Do we offer the totality of ourselves back to God as we live out that declaration of faith, or do we hold much back?
Having said those words, do we immediately seek ways to put off honouring the commitment we have made?
Is it just an ancient form of words that we have to recite, but that holds very little true meaning for us?
We need to make no mistake about this … God is calling us all to commit ourselves to true and faithful discipleship … to pick up our crosses … to journey in the Christian community founded on the teachings and practices of Jesus himself … to use our God-given talents to the full.
So … what will it be like when God asks us what we have done with the talents he entrusted to our keeping?
Will we be able to tell him how they have been used in a life of faithful discipleship?
Will we have to apologize that they are a bit knocked about because they have been used so much?
Or … will we be handing those talents back to God in pristine condition …
ready to be handed on to someone else …
one cautious, fearful and selfish owner …