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May We Be Good and Trustworthy

November 19, 2017

 photo: New Life leaders at ELCA Newly-Organized Congregations Gathering

 

Matt. 25:14 - 30  “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 

to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 

The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 

 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 

But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 

Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 

And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 

so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 

But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 

Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 

So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 

For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 

As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 

 

 

One talent was not one coin. One talent was 15 years wages. A fortune. It probably weighed about 50 pounds. 

 

We are not one church. We are part of a fortune - God’s treasury. A million worshiping communities across the world and across time. 

 

Sometimes it feels like the church, this wealth of collective talent, is being buried. Like we are digging a hole and preserving the church for some scary future. But by burying it, but trying to preserve it just like it is, we are not multiplying it. We are not sharing the gospel - the good news that God loves us extravagantly, like the wealthy master in the parable. 

 

I always felt a little sorry for this third guy in the story - the one who was afraid. But it took a lot of effort to bury the talent. A big whole for wheelbarrows of money. And how to do that in secret? Easier, really to invest it at a bank, as the master said. Why is he hiding it? Looking at the story now, I think that his mistake was to call the master greedy — “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed,” he says, and the master throws those words back at him: “Oh, you knew that, did you? Then the least you could do is open a secure savings account.” The master asks his servants to multiply his fortunes. 

 

What would we do if we were given a fortune? Each servant was given an amount equal to his ability, the parable said. What are we equal to? How much wealth can we, with our abilities, double, like the first two servants, who were given the fortunes of a lifetime’s wages and more. 

 

In preparing to go to Chicago this week to celebrate the newly organized congregations of the ELCA, including this one, I realized we have been entrusted with a fortune. In an age when many churches are closing, and mainstream denominations are shrinking in numbers, we are, literally, New Life. Around the country the story of this outdoor church is being printed in church bulletins, and shown at national events. Who knew? Our story has brought joy and hope to others.