Sunday 19 November 2023 Second before Advent, Trinity 24, Thirty-third in Ordinary time, Proper 28
Terrible with teaspoons
Context: Sunday morning service at a small contemporary church in the heart of a community
Aim: to learn to be the people we are called to be, so that we can be the church our world needs us to be
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a story about a master who leaves his business in the hands of three servants, and they have no idea when he will return. To the first servant he gives five talents (a sum of money), to the second he gives two and to the third he gives one. The first two servants work hard and when the manager returns, they have doubled his investment, and receive a reward. The third servant returns the one talent he was given, saying, he was worried and wanted to keep the money safe, so he buried it. The master calls the servant wicked and lazy, and casts him out into the darkness. I have always felt a bit sorry for the third servant. I thought he was treated unfairly, but knowing there is nothing unjust or unfair about God, this prompts us to investigate a little further.
My parents received a canteen of silver cutlery in a beautiful wooden box as a wedding present. On special occasions and celebrations, the box would be brought out and I would make sure the utensils were polished and ready for use. Years later, my husband and I also received a similar canteen of cutlery as a wedding gift, but the difference between ours and my parents’ is this: I never use it. In fact it has got to the point where I don’t want to. It was given to be used, but I keep it in pristine condition in the box in the cupboard, where it has been for 27 years. I suppose you could say in regard to this gift I am burying the talent.
Before you judge me, take a moment to digest the reasons why I don’t want to use it. If I were to invite you for dinner and put out the prize cutlery, would you notice? Would you think to yourself, ‘O look at the effort Ruth went to, the sacrifice, the special treatment we are getting?’ No, I think you would use it like any standard knife and fork; my effort just wouldn’t be appreciated.
This reminds me of Kingdom work: we avoid using the gifts God has invested in us, because we have been taken for granted; no one acknowledges the time, the effort or the sacrifice. So, we retreat, disappointed and even a little annoyed. And, instead of using what God has given us, we hide it and bury it.
My husband does the dishes in our house. What if he were washing the beautiful cutlery and just casually put them into the kitchen drawer, and not back in the presentation box? They would run the risk of getting tarnished, overused and all mixed up. I don’t want to take that risk.
This problem is not isolated to spoons and forks, for as we the people of God begin to use the gifts and talents that God has invested in us, we too run the risk of getting mixed up in all sorts of situations. There is no guarantee that life will be straightforward. It may even call for sacrifice. We may feel tarnished and tired. Let’s be honest, there are times when we have all felt like that and it would be easier to bury the talent and just wait for his return. It is important to remind ourselves that not only does God invest but he also equips; we have not been left alone in his work.
The main reason I refuse to use the cutlery is the teaspoons. I am convinced that there is a parallel universe made of teaspoons and odd socks. My family are terrible with teaspoons: spoons go to work and school in the mornings, never to return. On one occasion I bought sixteen new spoons and placed them in the drawer thinking if they can look after these, then, perhaps I could trust them with the good ones. About eight weeks later I went to the drawer and found that there were only four teaspoons left! People are so disappointing, but you probably already knew that didn’t you?
Disappointment has been deep, hurt has been damaging and trust has been broken and I am truly sorry that you have been hurt. I want to say this next statement with as much gentleness as I can because, I too am guilty of this. We must be careful not to nurture disappointment into bitterness and hurt into resentment. There have been times when I have shied away from God’s plans because of hurt. It’s so tempting to withdraw, close the box and bury the talent.
There are many reasons why we bury what God has invested in us. Let’s live the life God intended us to, even if it is hard work, unappreciated, or a little mixed up; because one day Christ like the manager in the story will also return and ask how we used his investment.
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