15th November 2020, Revd Tim Calow - Matthew 25: 14 -30 & 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-1

RISK IT ALL - AND ACHIEVE 

Revd. Tim Calow – 15th November 2020

Matthew 25: 14 -30 & 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-1

May the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord.

At a first hearing it is a strange parable that I read today. Three servants are given different amounts of money to invest. Two of them take a risk, invest their money – in enterprises which turn out to be successful. They Achieve 100% growth and return the capital and the profit to their master – who promises them yet more responsibility. The third servant tries to play it safe – or lazy? – by burying the money. He is condemned. 

It sounds like a manifesto for a capitalist society – though it doesn’t address what view the master might take of a servant who invested and lost all his money, returning nothing.

This comes from a gospel which (most of the time) seems to be so suspicious of riches. Remember it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19). In our reading today Jesus seems to be praising accumulation of wealth.

I think there are two points to remember there. Firstly, the rich man is in danger because he has accumulated wealth, wealth that makes him feel safe. It is the danger that faces the landowner who builds extra barns to store his material wealth so he can then take life easy. So working hard is not criticised. Jesus criticism is of those who accumulate personal wealth and are unwilling to share it.            

Secondly, in today’s reading, we are perhaps not concerned with a narrow definition of wealth – more about the wider use of the life which we live. With this in view we should remember that the sums of money talked about are enormous – more than an average person’s lifetime earnings. We should perhaps be thinking about all of the life opportunities that we are given. 

We have all been given a great deal, especially those of us in the First World. We have every chance that we might live a long and comfortable life. The question is what do we do with the opportunities which we have? Do we hold onto what we have, bury it in the ground – or do we venture forth boldly? Do we play it safe – or do we risk all?

It is often so more comfortable to play it safe, to keep what we have. That might be with our careers or in our many relationships. We need to take risks if we are to live fulfilled lives.

Maybe the picture we should have is of God like a loving parent. God wants us to achieve – to make the most of our talents – God knows that it is this that will lead us to true happiness. Thus we are given freedom and opportunity – but to make the most of them we need to take risks. It is because we know that we are truly loved for who we are that we can feel able to take those risks.

Maybe this applies to us as church too, as well as individuals. We need to be bold and to take risks if we are truly to be the ‘Body of Christ’. We face difficult times, as the church in Thessalonica did – all those centuries ago. They are called to be alert to their times – so we should be alert – alert and bold. Now could be a time when new opportunities are there for us as we face so much uncertainty.

We see this boldness in Jesus’ life. We see it too in the life of the Father of faith – Abraham. Kierkegaard reflected on his faith in his book ‘Fear and Trembling’. Some of those reflections are relevant to today’s parable. He says

“No! No one shall be forgotten who was great in this world; but everyone was great in his own way, and everyone in proportion to the greatness of what he loved. For he who loved himself became great in himself, and he who loved others became great through his devotion, but he who loved God became greater than all. 

They shall all be remembered, but everyone became great in proportion to his expectancy. One became great through expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal; but he who expected the impossible became greater than all. 

They shall all be remembered, but everyone was great in proportion to the magnitude of what he strove with. For he who strove with the world became great by conquering the world, and he who strove with himself became greater by conquering himself; but he who strove with God became greater than all.”

It is no easy option to be a Christian. We are to love, to love freely, generously, risking all. We are to expect returns greater than we can imagine and we are to strive with ourselves, the world and God.

This is no easy option but the rewards are greater than we can imagine. That is our hope.

Amen