Saturday, November 15, 2008

oiling the wheel

(photo from stock photo on google)

what a day!
I spent it as if I didn't have something important to do, oh,
like finishing a sermon. We slept til 10 am, then I did a little pottery work, we walked doggies, cleaned house (uh, just a little), did errands, went to lunch, and stopped by a friend's house to celebrate a birthday.
The last hour I have spent drooling over new pottery tools, talking to my mom, and blog surfing.

This text is hard, the parable of the talents (MTW 25:14-30). Matthew takes the original parable in Q, first seen in Luke, and fits it to his purposes of talking about the parousia. Don't sit around. Risk what you have been given. The master doesn't tell the servants what to do with the talents they have been given, but in his absence the first two servants do some pretty creative investing to double the talents they have been giving.

My heart is with the third, fearful servant. Burying money in the ancient world was a very reasonable thing to do. In fact, in a society who regarded those who created wealth as suspect (the only way to get rich was at the expense of someone else) this is what they would do.

And yet the master deals harshly with the servant who does what would be regarded as the best thing to do.

If parables are supposed to tip things upside down, shake up the balance of power, this parable doesn't seem to do so. Those in power crush those who aren't. What on earth is Matthew thinking as he tells this parable? Is he ignoring cultural norms to make a point about risking?
Could be.

The master is not God, I do not think. There are some biblical scholars who hold that view. And a talent is money--15 years worth of working!--it has nothing to do with ability, with god-given gifts--it is money. However, if Matthew is trying to create some symbolism in this story, maybe the talent is God. God in us, as one commentary writes.

God--is as valuable as money was for the ancient Jesus followers. What was important--was the God-life. And in the waiting for the Parousia, the Jesus followers just can't bury that treasure--the presence of God as they experience, but go out, and try to double that presence in the world. If we hoard God, hoard community grounded in Christ, then we will be cast into the edges of darkness..because it community can't be hoarded. It dies. It withers. It gets dry and crumbly and boring.
Indeed, what keeps community vital is the continual open door, and continual practise of invitation.
Which is risky, in a world economy that values riches, financial stability above all else rather than living in a Jesus-centered economy that throws riches to the wind, and challenges us to risk...even at the risk of losing ourselves to find ourselves.

I am not sure we know how radical that is...
on Sunday mornings of glorious music and fervent prayers and laughter over coffee hour.
If that is our God-life...then what are we risking to...double it? triple it?

Just thinking here.


Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hi preacher woman!
Richard, our minister, tackled it this way. He subverted the usual tack on admiring the hard-working, clever ones. He said God would be on the side of the guy her hid the money, who was afraid of a hard master. Well, I hadn't thought of that before! Have a prayerful meaningful day. Of course you could talk about the moneychangers in Wall Street and see how that fits! Their use of other people's money has been mind-boggling.

karlajean said...

I agree with Richard. And yet there is something about a system that only offers two ways--fear or extortion.
I thought about Wall Street, too.
Oh my!

Purple said...

I like the way you think.