As usual our most recent Sunday 10 AM service was filled good spirit and amazing members of the Calvary community — as well as guests.
‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SAVED?
Through the years, I have received many newsletters from Christian organizations touting some statistics that continue to make me wonder. They will report things like:
At our youth camp at Lake Kumbaya, 14 souls were saved
Through the course of the mission trip, 31 received the Lord and His Salvation
Some organizations even include a number of people saved in their annual report. One church database company includes a field for “Date Saved.” While this may sound foreign to many, my intent is not to knock evangelism, sharing the good news of the impact of Jesus Christ in our lives. There are people in this congregation who do have a specific date you know your life changed. It may be the date you last had a drink or used drugs. It could be the time in life you left a difficult job or relationship or found out that you or a loved one had cancer. And for many it is the day you make a commitment to Jesus. Feeling saved by God is a good thing! For many here today, there is a long journey called faith and we are all trying to understand what it means to follow this Jesus.
There is biblical guidance for what these organizations are doing and saying. Many would site what is often referred to as The Great Commission, attributed to Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
The problem, however, is that too many Christian organizations through the years have failed to get to that second part, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded. The Great Commandment says, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38)
Church people too often choose either the Great Commission or the Great Commandment. Our fellow children of God are either Bible thumping or timidly trying to avoid saying the J word—that’s Jesus—for fear of alienating everyone around. There are times in the Bible when Jesus performed miracles and instructed followers to go and tell no one. Presbyterian Churches seem to be much better at following that instruction. After reluctantly answering the “Where do you work?” question from a cab driver the other day, he started preaching at me and trying to “save” me when he found it I was a Presbyterian minister.
This Christian faith business is a delicate dance, especially in the Bay Area.
Isn’t it enough just to go to church?
My hope for today is that we will consider what it means to be saved and live as people claiming to follow Jesus.
Today’s Scripture, The Parable of the Talents, is part of an especially challenging sequence in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is not mincing words as he tells the story of a property owner who gave his servants a great opportunity while he was away. He gave one servant 5 talents, another 2, and another 1. This was a really big deal. In Greek monetary terms, one denarius was a fair wage for a day. A talent was approximately 10,000 denarii, or an entire life’s wages for most people.
When the landowner went away, the first two servants doubled his investment. He commended them, and invited them to enter the joy of their master. The third servant, sadly, didn’t fare so well. I really feel for the guy. Here he had been entrusted with an entire life’s wages. It had to be completely overwhelming, so he literally buried his talent to keep it safe. The landowner did not invite him to enter any joy. He called him wicked and lazy, took away the one talent, threw him to the outer darkness, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. I know that some of you here today manage investments for a living, and I sincerely hope you have not been thrown to the outer darkness!
Though we would like to identify with those who doubled the investments, from a faith perspective we often function as the one who buried his talent.
God takes a great risk on us.
We are given this life and through grace, we are loved.
And we are challenged to respond.
All too often we bury the talent God has given us for a multitude of reasons.
Fear of embarrassment. Needs. Wants. Gossip. Pleasing others. Worrying about things we cannot control. Time. Mismanagement. Distractions. Wants. Worrying about things we cannot control.
Churches can bury ourselves with anxiety about institutional preservation.
Before we know it, we have buried the potential God gave us to change the world.
Sometimes we feel like we are in some form of outer darkness, and we actually do weep and gnash our teeth. We feel numb at work or school and just go through the motions. I know some Christians who are really just waiting for their time on earth to end so they can punch their ticket to heaven. Many churches would rather die in comfort than take a risk in God’s name.
Is that salvation?
If we are following Christ’s call, our lives and the institution of the church will be just fine. They might not look exactly like what we knew in the past or ever envisioned, but they will be alive!
Salvation comes as we take bold risks in Christ’s name.
One of the great challenges and honors of ministry is being present with people in their last days.
I have yet to have anyone tell me they wish they had spent more time on conference calls or finished another remodel on their kitchen.
Last year, I had the blessing of spending time with Calvary Members Kay and John Wilson in John’s final hours after a long battle with cancer.
I can still vividly remember John mustering all of the strength he had to say,
“We have to fix the world.”
As we live for others, we live into both the salvation that this world needs now and that which God promises for eternity.
We are people of the Great Commission, making disciples in Christ’s name, and the Great Commandment, loving God with all of our heart, and mind and soul, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
God has invested at least one talent in every single one of us.
What are we waiting for?
 Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: a Commentary – Volume 2: the Churchbook, Matthew 13-28, Rev ed. (Grand Rapids Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 553.
 Bruner, 552.