Recording Note: We had a snafu on recording live, so this recording is an after the fact re-recording. Lessons and sermon only.
The text is the parable of the talents. And we often get lost in pondering the talents themselves. So much so that the word, which originally was just a measure of weight of precious metal, now means abilities. That gives us an insight into how this parable has shaped in influenced our very language.
But the parable really is not primarily about our actions, but about our beliefs that drive those actions. It wants us to ask what do we believe about our master, Jesus. Do we live in the grace and love of God such that we immediately try to do his will, working the talents? Or do we think he is “hard” and merciless? It is a parable that tells us about God and holds a mirror up to our heart’s understanding of God. Will we have such a Lord as Christ?
The text is the parable of the talents. We have trouble reading this today I think because the word talent itself has become on English word with a meaning. A specific gloss of this parable is part of our language just in the use of that word, talent. What this sermon attempts to do is hear the parable in parallel with last weeks, and not just accepting the embedded gloss. I did that because that embedded gloss skips the gospel. It delivers the moral punch without pondering the reason why. To me the talents is all about our big choice in this life. Who is God? Is God hard and capricious and untrustworthy, or his He full of steadfast love? Is the economics of the kingdom about scarcity or about love? The amount of talents, the returns, the numbers that catch our attention are so much yawn. What the Lord is interested in is the attitude of our hearts towards him. Do we trust him to do what he’s promised, or not? Are we fearful, or faithful?
The title of the post is a hymn we sang (tune, lyrics). I meant to get that up as the “Hymns We Sing” selection, but it just didn’t work that way. That is the central theme of the sermon and I believe the sermon text. The parable of that talents (and the preceding parable of the 10 virgins) has a bunch of beguiling allegories. I look at some of those in the sermon. But at their core, there are parables of what the successful Christian life – the life that leads to eternal life – look like. And what they look like are lives committed to walking with Jesus. They are lives full of prayer and praise and the word lived in front of those who would scoff.
That sanctification walk is hard to fake – if anyone would even desire to do so. The only reason that anyone would really try is because they were convinced that this guy Jesus was the real thing. That walking with Jesus, regardless of the circumstances, actually meant everything. It is easy to imagine Pascal’s Wager, but that isn’t enough. That bet gets you to the position of the man with one talent. You are a little afraid of that god, so you take his talent and bury in case he returns. But you don’t really change your life. You don’t live you life walking with Jesus. And as in the parable, that isn’t enough. The Christian life is one that must be lived. And you only do that if you think that man on the cross bidding you to pick up yours is actually the Lord of everything.