What My Fears Reveal?

From Pastor Todd’s Weekly Email . . . 

Some time ago, Rusty introduced us to a version of the hymn Amazing Grace that contained a chorus line that includes the phrase, “My Chains are gone.” The second stanza of Amazing Grace describes grace in this way, ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed. We may need some time to work through how grace teaches our hear to fear. But, we all, I would think, understand how grace relieves our fears.

This line from one of the most familiar hymns came to mind when thinking through the parable found in this week’s Gospel text from Matthew 25. Matthew’s Gospel weaves metaphors and pictures about the Kingdom of Heaven, its coming, and what our posture should be in the world while we wait. The imagery shifts from an impending wedding feast and ten young girls to three servants and a master. And, of course, gobs of money.

Working through this parable reminds us of the need to get our minds around features of life in Jesus’ day that are not readily familiar to us. People don’t celebrate at the arrival of the bridegroom in our modern weddings. They did in Jesus’ day. People don’t use the word talent to describe an amount of money today. They did in Jesus’ day. If you are reading from a modern translation you may be offered a modern approximation for the value of one talent. If not, know that one writer recently suggested a talent to be equal to $1.8 million. That’s right, $1,800,000. That is 180,000 Franklins, the largest printed bill today.

Yes, I know, “Why could’t that happen to me?!” It is this very thought that draws us into the parable. What would you do if entrusted with $1.8 million? Key word is entrusted. It is not yours to spend indiscriminately. What if we thought of this parable in less than capitalistic terms where the focus is on the ROI – return on investment? Consider the move to entrust three servants with a measure of wealth to say something about those servants and the master. The servants would be trustworthy. The master must be trusting. The servants would want to honor the relationship,. The master we guess would expect generosity would engender trust.

Everything works fine for the first two servants. No hint that their actions were predicated on a vision of a ogreish master like the type described by the third servant. In fact, we wonder where did that come from? Too often we take that description and the master’s response as if the servant rightly described the character of the master and the master agreed. But, look carefully at the words if the master – “you knew.” It is not too hard to see the master turning the description back onto the slave. In other words, “If what you are saying about me is true and you believed that, then why did your actions demonstrate something else.”

What a penetrating question? What is interesting is the first two slaves find their relationship different when they live into the generosity and trust of the master – join the celebration! The third slave is described as wicked and lazy. How could someone turn generosity and trust into a location where fear erupts? Could it be in this parable, the coming Kingdom is one of generosity and trust? Even more would it mean those who get swept into it live fruitful lives without fear when generosity and trust are the nature and norm for the Kingdom?

The fears of the slave did not even provoke him to logical action. He was unchanged by the master’s demonstration of trust and the generous investment. He was unchanged by his own fear. He remained unchanged. Is it possible to remain unchanged in the Kingdom of God? The love Jesus showed Israel and the people of his day should have eliminated fear in the face of his generous life. Is this parable telling of our own fears in the face of God’s love? What kind of servants are we?

 

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Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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