Have you ever considered entering a talent show? Not me… Oh no, I am far too afraid, and I am pretty sure that if I sang in front of anyone, they would all run, fleeing from the sound. Public speaking? That I can do with ease, thanks be to God, but acting or singing or dancing on a stage? Which part of no do you not understand?
I bring this up because there has been an itch that I could not quite scratch, since last Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew, the Parable of the Talents. You know, like the kind of itch in the middle part of you back, you can’t quite reach it.
What do you think about that Gospel? If reading blogs and Facebook offers any insight, it is tough for many of us, challenging to understand, perhaps even uncomfortable.
Just as it was fading, with me feeling the sweet relief of the diminishing itch, God shows up, thrusting today’s similar Gospel from Luke in my face. It is another version of that dang talent show! The itch returns, I feel very uncomfortable, grumpy even. Do I have to hear this again? That itch!
As I’ve been puzzling over this matter of what I’ll call God’s investment strategy, a few things come to mind as I realize that there is no easy way to get rid of this itch other than to dive deeply into the Scriptures, with more heart and gut, less head.
In Jesus, we have been entrusted with an weighty responsibility. The talents, or coins that we hear about in these Gospels are the riches of the Spirit gifted to us to invest wisely. Let’s not go all scripture-literalistic here, I never believe that God is talking about money. The “prosperity Gospel” notion does not add up.
These talents – or coins – are the real and eternal riches, a fortune of grace, abundant and overflowing in Christ. Jesus is not a font of money that God will reward the faithful servants with. Jesus is a font of endless salvation – and it seems like God might like all of us to share in this inheritance. God is forever trying to shape us. God keeps saying that we should invest the riches given to us – and these parables reveal the importance of investing wisely – and boldly.
As I keep trying to scratch that itch, I keep returning to the same place, as if I am walking in circles in a dense forest, always finding myself at the same tree. It is less about the mean God who is punishing the play-it-safe servant, although that part seems to jump out at many of us. No – it is the single admonition that we must not be afraid.
Perhaps this comes down to this (scratch-scratch-itch-scratch), the big “talent show” called life is the time when we are infused with the power of our baptismal covenant to live boldly in Christ. How many times in Scripture are we told to not be afraid? MANY times!
But how do we do this? For starters, and I’m no better at this than I am at singing, we must commit to entering the talent show. If fear of our master causes us to silence our voices we have a problem. At the heart of these two Gospels, at the heart of every Gospel is this… Do not be afraid. Live boldly in Christ. Like most things, it is easy to say and hard to do.
In the end, I think that all we can do is to try to make some leaps, even if they are small ones at first. If fear leads us to follow all the rules without taking any risk, then we cannot triumph.
Risks like this can be overwhelming. Read the last line of today’s Gospel… “After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.” That is where the real “talent show” takes place. No matter how much stage fright we have, we can’t avoid that one! And Jesus is our model and master for this, leading the way, going first, doing it for us – but that does not get us a “get out of Jerusalem” card. He did what he did which saves us from the worst, but we still must do what we must do in Jesus’ name.
Today, maybe we can all encourage one another to live boldly. That may mean going “outside the lines,” perhaps upsetting someone, taking chances, and asking questions. It is all risk, there is no safety other than in Christ, but to get there, the risks must be taken.
Will you join me in trying out for the talent show today? I don’t know about you, but I am terrified, I’d rather bury it underground, and not risk losing it all. However, we all know that won’t work. Let’s live boldly today, pressing up against – and maybe through – the boundaries. Today let us speak up against injustice, go out of our way for another, do the things that we would rather not do, whatever they are. Let’s go live boldly, take risks, invest our talents today. We might be surprised by the results!
Time to step up to the talent show – let’s go!