A couple of things to note about this parable. First of all, the master gives talents to his servants. In modern English, a talent is an ability. So for example, I may have talent as a piano player or a soccer player. In Bible times, a talent was not an ability. It was a unit of weight. A talent weighed about seventy-five pounds. In the passage here, it was used to weigh gold or silver. Seventy-five pounds of silver. As such it was also an amount of money. The equivalent of twenty years’ wages. How much would twenty years of wages be for you? It’s a lot of money.
So the things God gives to us are of great value. Every second that we have is a miracle. Every breath, every conversation we have with another person is an opportunity to be the presence of God. Time is precious.
Our bodies are of incredible value. Wonders of intricacy and complexity, we are all walking masterpieces. The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe. Our bodies are created good.
Our money is not just money. It is a powerful, powerful tool. Our first communion kids brought quarters to first communion class, we got sixteen dollars in quarters to send to Lutheran Disaster Response, for hurricane relief. And soon we will have animals for Christmas again. You can buy someone a goat for fifty bucks. A nest of chicks for ten. People in the developing world can raise the chicks into chickens which will lay eggs, which the folks can eat or sell. Money is a tool for blessing.
Our attitude is not just something we can fall into depending on how we feel that day or how we think we have been treated. Attitude is contagious. If we have an attitude of resentment and despair, that will pull other people into and attitude of resentment and despair. Sometimes we want it to. But our attitude matters. In situations of survival, it can mean the difference between life and death. If we are lost in the wilderness or stuck on a boat in need of rescue, an attitude of despair is not what you want, is it. You won’t make it.
God’s gifts—our time, our bodies our money, our attitude are all of incredible value.
Another point from the parable: God gives us authority to decide what to do with our time, our bodies, our money and our attitude. God has made us queens and kings of our lives. Just please remember the difference between a queen or king and a tyrant. A good king or queen, a good ruler or leader not only accepts authority over the things entrusted to him or her by God, but also accepts accountability for them. A good leader not only claims the right to make decisions, but also accepts responsibility to make decisions that glorify God.
And what kinds of decisions does God want? What are God’s priorities? Well, Matthew makes those priorities reasonably clear: “You will love the Lord your God— You will love this light, this beauty, this mystery, this wonder that confronts you every day, with all your heart and strength and mind. And you will love your neighbor as yourself.
In Matthew, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Matthew says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus says that you don’t have to swear, just let your yes be yeas and your no be no. Just tell the truth. In Matthew, Jesus expresses particular concern for people who have a hard time making ends meet, keeping a roof over their heads, putting enough food on the table. We’ll hear more about hat next week.
These are God’s priorities: trust in God, integrity, compassion.
So God has given us authority to use our time. Therefore we use it well, as a way of blessing others. We care for our bodies and use them in ways that bless others and celebrate life. Those are the parameters. We use our money in such a way that it upholds everyone’s ability to earn a living. We use our attitudes in such a way that our thankfulness and our hope spreads. You want to do something about the divisive rhetoric and hateful stances that divide our country now. Take and attitude of thankfulness. It is contagious.
We are given accountability as well as authority, we claim responsibility as well as rights. That’s what makes us good queens and kings, rulers of our own lives. Because if we are not accountable to integrity and compassion and celebration. If we accept no responsibility for blessing others, we are not true rulers, but rather tyrants. Nothing but tin pan dictators.
Now, here is some good news. Because of Jesus, god forgives us when we fall down, and helps us to get back up again. One of the ways that God forgives and helps us is Holy Communion. Today is first communion for five of our great young people. We say four things about first communion: Communion is remembering, forgiving, Jesus is here and we are here.
At Communion we remember Jesus’ last supper, his death on the cross and his resurrection, just like we remember Jesus’ birth at Christmas or your birth on your birthday.
At communion, God forgives us. God comes close to us when we have pushed God way. God draws us near when we have run away from God.
At communion, Jesus is here. Jesus is present in the bread and wine, honors our physical bodies and strengthens our physical bodies by being present amidst our cells and neurons and DNA.
At communion, we are here. All God’s people. Whether we see them or not, whether they are near or far away. Even if they have died, they are with God and God is with us, so when Jesus is close to us at communion, they are close to us too.
God forgives us and strengthens us.
So, yes, with terrifying urgency we are required to use what we have and who we are to honor God, care for others and creation. But God also forgives us and helps us with bread and wine, power and hope, courage and love to come to that moment when Jesus says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”