Parable of the Talents
Scugog Island United Church
November 15th, 2020
Welcome and Opening Prayer:
First Hymn: "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"
Scripture: Matthew 25: 14-30
Pastoral Prayer and the Lord's Prayer
Second Hymn: "Take My Life and Let it Be"
Offering and Closing Blessing
Closing: Go Now in Peace
Scugog Island United Church
November 15th, 2020
Good morning. Thank you for worshiping with Scugog Island United Church today.
We are holding Robert Bennett in our prayers. His father, Don passed away yesterday morning.
Doris Lynn and Bob Homji, John and Diane Findlay, Todd Green, Susie Baird and family, Gilford Pfrimmer, Brenda Stowell-Smith, Nancy and Don Scarrow, Debbie McIntyre, Anne Chillingworth, Linda Brunton, John Black, the family of Robert Bennett
Fit us, O God, for this new day. Through your Spirit, grant us courage, so that today’s uncertainties may not overwhelm us. Through your Christ, fill us with love, so that differences may not divide us. Through your creative energy, make us new, so that the past may not enslave us. Spirit, Christ, Creator, lead us into newness of life. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 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.’
There are several troubling things about this parable that make this a challenging passage. You have a wealthy man giving three slaves money with the expectation that they will make more for him; there is a clear power imbalance and a clear example of exploitation. In Jesus’ day it was common for wealthy people to lease out large tracts of land to others to work it year round. The landowner would collect the profit from the tenants labour. This parable seems to reflect that reality. What makes it uncomfortable is that in this story the master represents Jesus, but this is so different from how I understand Jesus. Especially when it comes to the punishment of the third slave. He returned what he had been given. He didn’t spend it on himself. He didn’t lose it. He kept it safe and then returned it. For that he is cast out into darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is heavy. It is full of judgement.
Yet there is hope and good news to be found here. To appreciate this parable we have to look at it in the context. Jesus is in Jerusalem, he has confronted the chief priests and the scribes in the temple, he then left the city and in this passage he is talking to his followers on the Mount of Olives. Jesus gives several warnings about what is to come; he warns them about persecution, false messiahs, the final judgement, and he ends by telling them that he will be put to death. At the same time the scripture tells us the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plot to arrest and kill Jesus. The next chapters of Matthew’s gospel tell the passion story of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus is aware that this is one of his last chances to prepare his followers. He knows that he will soon be separated from them. Yes this story he tells them is challenging, but so is the situation they will soon find themselves in. The stakes are high. Like the master in the story Jesus is about to leave for an unknown amount of time. He is entrusting his disciples with the gospel. What will they do with what they receive? Will they continue his ministry? Will they take what they have learned from Jesus and go out to share it with others? Or will they hide it away like the one who buried his talent in the ground?
There are a few details in the parable that would have caught his disciples attention. Details that would have tipped them off that this wasn’t just a teaching about financial investments. For one thing the master in this story is handing out talents. A single talent was worth 6000 denarii. A denarii was a standard days pay for a labourer. So, a single talent is the equivalent to 16 years of wages! He gives the first slave 5 talents, which would be 80 years of wages. The slave is then able to double it so that he has 160 years’ worth of wages. Even the one who only received a single talent is still holding an incredible amount of wealth. What makes it even more unbelievable is that the master doesn’t give any instructions on how they are to use the money or invest it. Who would do that? Who would give millions of dollars in todays money to others without any guarantee that they wouldn’t just spend it on themselves? No one! And apparently, this was done as a way of testing them. When the first slave displays the 10 talents the master says, “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.” A few things? 160 years worth of salary is a few things? What more could he be entrusted with? Just how wealthy is this guy? The amount of money Jesus is talking about is so over the top that it must have been clear that this parable isn’t really about money. This is a story to help the disciples think about the work they have been called to do.
This is a story about God’s abundance and it is actually optimistic. Jesus is telling his disciples that what they are being entrusted with is worth more than money. He is also telling them that if they take what they have been entrusted with and use it, they will be successful. He isn’t talking about getting materially rich. He is telling them that they are equipped and capable to continue his ministry. Yes, there will be setbacks and challenges, but in the end, if they try, they will be successful.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he gathered with his disciples on a mountain to tell them that they were blessed. In Jesus’ sermon on the mount he told them, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and even when you are persecuted you are blessed. Jesus called his followers to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They bring out the flavour and the colours in the world. They are a city built on a hill, visible to all. Jesus told his followers that no one lights a lamp and then hides it under the bushel basket. It is placed on the lampstand and gives light to all in the house. It’s fitting that just as Jesus began his ministry with the sermon on the mount, he now has gathered with his followers again on a different mountain, to remind them not to hide their light, or burry their talent in the ground.
There is still the challenge of the harsh treatment the third slave receives. I understand that it is a rhetorical device that emphasizes the urgency of the message, but it is still a severe punishment. It also makes for a cruel irony. He explains to the master that the reason he buried the talent was because he was afraid. He let fear dictate his actions and chose to play it safe, rather than risk using what he was given. The point of the parable is to tell the disciples not to be afraid and to share the gospel. But with the punishment at the end it is like saying, “Don’t be afraid, or else!” “Don’t be afraid, because if you are the punishment will be so much worse.”
This doesn’t seem right. Is this really what happens if we fail? Because this passage is for us just as much as it was for the disciples. We have been entrusted with the good news of the gospel and we are living in a time when people desperately need good news. We can appreciate the fears the 3rd slave had when we wonder how can we bring hope to others with everything that is going on. We might feel that temptation to hide our light, or burry our talents in the ground until someone else comes to make everything right. Does that mean we will be cast out? This parable might have a harsh ending, but what happened when the disciples failed? When Jesus was arrested, they abandoned him. Peter denied him. They hid themselves away. But then on Easter morning Jesus rose with new life. He gathered his disciples together again and he restored them. He didn’t punish them for their shortcomings, but instead encouraged them once again to go out into the world to love and serve others and thus bring out God’s blessings in the world. They found they had another chance to share what had been entrusted to them. As we discern how we might share good news and hope in the world today the scripture gives hope that our efforts will not be in vain. In following Jesus, we find that God’s abundant blessings are all around us ready to be shared. We are not alone. We live in God’s world. Thanks be to God.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10 Dear God, We know we are blessed. We know you have given us more than we could ever have imagined. You have given us people in our lives who we care about, more than we could ever say. You have given us love, nourishment, and our very lives. We have been blessed with neighbors around the world who are our siblings in you. As we sit blessed with so much, we also sit with so many people in our world who are suffering. So many who need your help. So many who need your blessing. God, we ask for your blessing and your healing to those who are sick because of Covid-19. Our prayers for your dear people cannot cease until all are healed and your children stop dying even as we hear of surges world-wide. We are in need of your blessing as we care for those who are sick. Shield and sustain the nurses and midwives who tend the world night and day in this the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. We ask healing for our hearts especially as we grieve those lost to this horrible disease. Help us to hold up a candle signifying the light of abiding care as we celebrate this year the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. God, we are grateful for a completed election in the US and as returns and counts and recounts continue. Sustain us. During this transition of political power, we ask that the burdens and sense of exhaustion be lifted for all of your children. We ask for your hope for a future that serves all people no matter who they are or from where they come. We pray that divisions are softened, knowing that love eternally prevails over hate. We pray for the transition in Bolivia as a new president is inaugurated. We pray that there might also be peace as new political leaders come into power. We pray that your people might have a blessed future of less division and more love.
We pray for your children in the UK as another recession is likely to occur due to Covid-19. We ask for all of those whose lives will likely change dramatically with the loss of income and jobs. We ask for your presence that you might bring a blessing to those who feel they have so little. We pray for peace in Ethiopia as civil war unfolds again and a nation’s people are already spilling over borders for safety. As tensions continue to rise, we pray that somehow you may bring a blessing of peace to your dear people. May anxieties soften. May hope replace division and restore a community of love in your people. We pray for those lives taken in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. Bring the world to action as we hear of the mounting heinous human rights violations in the name of combatting militants and opposition forces. We are sickened by the news of ISIS insurgents crimes. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Awaken us to the crime of inaction or too-late action as occurred during the Rwandan genocide over twenty-five years ago. We pray that this not be repeated. We are so grateful, Lord, for peace in Armenia as the Prime Minister announced a peace agreement was signed with Russia and Azerbaijan to end war. We are so grateful, God, for peacemakers and we ask for your continued blessing as we seek peace to break division in a world filled with so much chaos. We pray for our dear people in Hong Kong as the remaining pro-democracy lawmakers resigned in protest. We pray God that somehow your people might receive the rights they deserve and might be blessed with hope for a better future. God, we know we are blessed, and yet we know there are so many who are in need of your blessing and your infinite peace. Guide us Lord that we might have hope for the future while we dwell in you. You alone are our greatest blessing, and in you we find our ultimate peace. In your blessed name we pray. Amen.
Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory. For ever and ever. Amen.
Donations made out to “Scugog Island United Church” can be mailed to 19100 Island Road Port Perry. L9L 1B6.
Whether you make a donation to the church today, or you use the talents you have to serve God in another way we offer our blessings upon the offering.
We bring our gifts to you, God. Here is the work of our hands, and here is the work of our hearts. Accept them and use them, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Now and forever. Go now in peace.
Opening Prayer and Offering Prayer from Celebrate God's Presence: A Book of Services for The United Church of Canada. (c) 2000 The United Church Publishing House. All Rights Reserved. All materials, except those otherwise marked, may be freely copied for use in public worship in The United Church of Canada.
Pastoral Prayer from World in Prayer: A ministry of Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist. Copyright (c) 2020 World in Prayer, all rights reserved.