November 16, 2014
There goes Jesus again, shocking us with some crazy story about 3 slaves who have been entrusted with gifts from their master: Crazy, because… well… look at the numbers:Take your annual salary and multiply that by 100 years:
That’s how much money the first slave is entrusted with…
Take your annual salary and multiply it by 40 years: That’s how much money the second slave is entrusted with…
Take your annual salary and multiply it by 20 years That’s how much money the third slave is entrusted with…
Gifts once given are now being called back in. The master has come back to see how the slaves have done in taking care of those gifts. Here’s where the story takes an uncomfortable twist. The first two slaves can’t wait to show their master how well they did with the gifts. The Dow Jones was clearly at a high (maybe even a record high for these guys) and their investments show it.
100 years’ annual salary has been turned in to 200 years’ annual salary…
40 years’ annual salary has been turned in to 80 years’ annual salary…
The first two slaves have been faithful to do what the master has required of them. The master's response to each is the same. He commends the slaves for being good and faithful, entrusting them with more authority, and inviting them to enter his "joy."
Not so with the third slave whose portfolio has performed well below the Benchmark. To his credit, this slave has not committed a crime. For he has neither embezzled the money nor bet it on the ponies. He’s just afraid. Informed by a worldview of scarcity, he is afraid of losing the gift.
Instead of seeing the master’s gift as one of abundance to be used in spreading abundance, this poor unfortunate slave has fearfully circled the wagons, stashing the gift under his mattress-- saving it for a “rainy” day.
The parable Jesus tells us this morning is very unsettling, because he is compelling us to ask the question; “which slave are we in the story?” Are we the first two who blindly (and maybe even recklessly) trust in God’s abundance?
Or are we the fearful slave, who in response to the worldview of scarcity, becomes paralyzed and tries to safely stash God under the mattress?
Jesus tells us that the master is furious. He had entrusted this servant with a portion of his property in order that the slave would use his abilities; abilities that would help turn a profit for his lord. This slave, however, is too afraid to take a risk -- even though risky behavior has always been a part of the master's business. Instead, the slave attempts to secure his own well-being.
The master expects the servants to continue his business, to take risks to make a profit, and to emulate his behavior. Two servants are found faithful. Their faithfulness has increased the master's wealth and expanded his estate.
Now before I go any further I need to be perfectly clear about something. What Jesus gives us this morning is NOT a story about the virtues of Wall Street. Neither is this a story in which Jesus says the purpose of the church is to get rich and if we can just grow our bank account, God will smile mightily upon us.No, what we have here this morning is a parable revealing two competing world views.
Scarcity versus abundance.
Do we look around our congregation fearful of finances, lamenting at all that we do NOT have? Or do we put on fresh eyes, marveling at all that we are able to accomplish together in abundance? I neither have the resources nor the strength to single-handedly feed 100 people at Mustard Seed Kitchen, or serve and house homeless families 4 weeks a year or come up with ¾ of a million dollars to undertake missional renovations to our building
But together, you and I have done just that: And done so with abundance.
Do we look at the Sunday School classrooms upstairs and become fearful for what appears on the surface to be a declining Sunday School? Do we find ourselves longing for days gone by when every classroom was filled, fearful that we may have to close the doors of the church because we don’t have the same numbers of kids we had years ago?
Or do we give thanks for the young families we have now and for the authentic and faithful leadership our youth have given us now, both in worship and in the mission field, whether it be locally, in Washington, D.C. or El Cercado?
We may not have the sheer numbers of kids we had years ago in Sunday School, but we are abundantly rich in young people who see themselves as the church of today, who will not be relegated to the sidelines, who have seen Jesus here in their midst, and who take their call to follow Jesus in love and service seriously being formed for a lifetime of loving God and loving neighbor.
Scarcity versus abundance:
Allow me for a moment to take off the “pastor” hat and put on my “dad” hat. In all their years of being in church, my kids have never been in a Sunday School or youth group, with dozens of other kids their age. I suppose I could lament that fact and be fearful that I’m not providing all that I can for my kids in their faith formation because somehow their Sunday School classroom is not as full as their public school classroom,
Or I could give thanks that in all those years, my kids along with a whole host of other kids here at Incarnate Word, have been given the chance to take leadership roles in church and they have learned in abundance not only what it is to love their God and to love their neighbor, but also what it is to do justice and love mercy.
Scarcity verses abundance:
The third servant in Jesus’ parable this morning is not only afraid of life, but is unable to see the abundance that his master has entrusted him with. Are we the same way? In our fears, have we somehow forgotten that our God is a God of abundance?
In our fears of scarcity, have we forgotten that a hungry people, having just left everything they knew behind them in Egypt, journeying in the wilderness find themselves recipients of God’s abundance as manna from heaven is showered down upon them, assuring them of life?
In our fears of scarcity, have we forgotten that the God of abundance once came to a fearful, young, pregnant, unwed teenager beckoning her not to be afraid, but to rejoice that she will share in God’s abundance by bearing the savior of the world?
In our fears of scarcity, have we forgotten about that band of smelly old shepherds abiding in the fields with their sheep, who suddenly find themselves surrounded by an abundance of heavenly hosts exhorting them to “fear not”, for this night in the City of David is born a savior out of God’s abundant love?
In our fears of scarcity, have we forgotten about Jesus’ friends, having seen him tortured and crucified, now hiding behind locked doors in fear, encountered by the risen Christ breathing an abundance of new life upon them with the gentle words “fear not… my peace I give to you?”
Are you getting the picture here? That our God is a God of abundance? And that our God is known for going (dare I say) recklessly overboard with his love? I mean, come on, his own son went to a cross for us. I don’t know of anything more recklessly overboard than that. Do you?
This is the God in whose presence we gather today.
A God who calls us out of our fears…
A God who invites us to look below the surface of scarcity to the reality of deeply rooted abundance…
A God who knows no boundaries when it comes to giving us everything…
A God who will not be tucked away in safety beneath our mattresses waiting to be used for a rainy day…
A God who beckons us to join him in trust on the journey of abundance with hands open wide, sharing, healing, and serving.
This is the God, a God of reckless abundance,
in whose presence we gather today...
in whose presence we are fed today...
in whose presence we are sent out to labor together in the abundant vineyards of God's Kingdom.