Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/31/11 Sermon

Matthew 25:14-30

Our scripture today is one of the more well-known parables that Jesus told. We heard the story------a master leaves bags of gold to 3 servants.  One gets 5, another 2 and the 3rd servant one.  In the KJV the bags of gold are called talents. A talent was not some kind of ability but rather a large amount of money.  1 talent equaled 15 years worth of wages.

Still this parable isn’t really focused on the amount of money.  Instead we see that Jesus is speaking more about the actions taken by the servants or stewards who were given the money.  We see that 2 of them made good use with what they were given. They increased the amount of money and the Master made a nice return on his investment.  But the 3rd servant did nothing.  And it was this doing nothing that was the problem.

On July 2nd, 1982 a 33 year old California man by the name of Larry Walters, decided he wanted to see his neighborhood from a new perspective.   So he went down to the local army surplus store and bought 45 used weather balloons.  Later that afternoon, he strapped himself into a lawn chair, to which several of his friends tied the now helium-filled balloons.  Larry took along a six-pack of beer, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and a BB gun---his plan was to shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.  Walters, who assumed the balloons would lift him about 100 feet in the air, was caught off guard when the chair soared more than 15,000 feet into the sky –  Larry ended up right smack into the middle of the air traffic pattern at Los Angeles International Airport.

Larry was too frightened to shoot any of the balloons, so he stayed airborne for more than two hours forcing the airport to shut down its runways for much of the afternoon.  Soon after he was safely grounded and cited by the police, reporters asked Lawnchair Larry three questions:

 

"Were you scared?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Would you do it again?"

 

"No."

 

"Why did you do it?"

 

"Well, because you can't just sit there and do nothing."

--Gary Gonzales, "Raising Your Creativity Quotient," Leadership 14 (Summer 1993), 35.

It was the “just sitting there doing nothing” that got the 3rd servant into trouble with his master.

Of course, I do want to make it clear that before you go float yourself up in your lawn chair this afternoon, there is more to this parable than simply a lesson about us keeping busy being active. It isn’t a call to be stupid!

And in a way a lot of us can be really busy doing a lot of stuff but in reality it’s not much better than floating in a lawnchair.  A lot of us are busy doing things but we’re not really using the talents we’ve been given. We’re not doing what we know we ought to do.

Eric Hoffer, who was longshoreman and a philosopher said:  “When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else - we are the busiest people in the world."

And isn’t that the way it is. When we’re not really living the life we ought to be living we’re really busy doing a bunch of nothing.

But the message of this parable is about doing what we’re supposed to be doing. And that’s using the God given gifts we’ve been given in order to give a return on the investment to our Master.  And that return on investment is about furthering the kingdom of God that Jesus began.

But unfortunately like the one talent steward we can bury the abundant gift we’ve been given and go about life doing a bunch of nothing.  And the reasons we do this aren’t any different than those the servant in this parable.  The servant didn’t just forget to use the talent he was given; he buried it on purpose.

But why???

Well one possible reason he did (and a reason we can do it too) is because he felt inadequate to achieve a return on the investment.   He didn’t trust himself to do the work of multiplying what his master had given him.

We don’t know why, but perhaps he thought he was not smart enough or not capable enough. Maybe he thought he was too young or perhaps too old.

Whatever it was, it was clearly not an excuse. The one talent man was given what was needed. He just needed to trust that and step out in faith…………………….

A young man was confused about his future. He was suffering from what is sometimes called paralysis by analysis. He didn’t know which direction to take with his life.   One day he was sitting next to an old man on a park bench watching squirrels scamper among the trees.   Suddenly, a squirrel attempted to jump from one high tree to another. It appeared to be aiming for a limb so far out of reach that the leap looked like suicide.   And the squirrel did miss its mark, but it landed, safe and unconcerned, on a branch several feet lower.   Then it climbed to its goal, and all was well.  The old man sitting on the bench next to the young man remarked, “Funny. I’ve seen hundreds of ’em jump like that especially when there are dogs all around and they can’t come down to the ground.   A lot of them miss, but I’ve never seen any get hurt in trying.”  Then he chuckled and added, “I guess they’ve got to risk it if they don’t want to spend their whole life in one tree.”

A lot of us can be spending life in one tree. We feel inadequate in ourselves and so we don’t step out and use the gifts we’ve been given.

It’s been said that our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond our measure. (Marriane Williamson)

Our feeling small and inadequate doesn’t serve the world. God has given us the talent to do great things in his kingdom. We need to trust that.   No matter how smart or how beautiful, how young or how old, God has equipped us to be his servants.

The famed cellist Pablo Casals at the age of 95 practiced 6 hours a day on his cello.   A friend asked him why he practiced so long and he replied :Because I still think I’m making a little bit of progress every day”. 

God wants us to use our gifts so that we can make progress in our own lives as well as make progress in his kingdom……

Now besides feeling inadequate, the one talent man was also dealing with some issues of fear.   In fact, when we read the response of the 3rd steward we see that he says that he knew the master was a hard man. There was a sense of fear for the master.   He was afraid to do anything that might displease his master and so he did nothing, living cautiously by burying the talent.

Many people can live with this kind of fear. They fear God and don’t want to mess up so they do nothing with the gifts they have been given………………………………………..

A dad played an unusual game of hide-and-seek with his two young sons. He would hide while his sons looked for him.  But just moments before the boys found him, he would jump out of his hiding place with a loud shout.  When he did, his two boys would run off screaming in the other direction.  But one time, the boys turned the table on their father.  Just as he popped out of his hiding place, the older boy announced, "Hey! He isn't a monster. It's our dad! Attack!" And the two boys pounced on their father with giggles and hugs.

God isn’t someone to be feared. He wants us to live lives that are free and playful and trying things.

Theologian Walter Brueggeman says, "What God does first and best and most is to trust people with their moment in history."

God loves us and trusts us to do something with our moment in history, because when we do we will live in the fulfilling joy that he wants us to experience.

 And even if and as we fail, God is there to lift us up.

 It’s only when we’re living the wicked lazy life of the servant who did nothing that the master was displeased. Displeased in that we will live forever with regret. ……………………….

Now the last reason I want us to look at of why this servant buried his talent has to do with his religious belief system.

When Jesus told these parables he was always engaging the people where they were culturally and spiritually.

When Jesus told this parable he would knew the audience sympathize and relate with the 3rd servant because in this culture, it was not an uncommon for them to bury gold that was entrusted to them.   In fact it would have been the safe, and smart and wise thing to do.

Now as we put this in the context of the faith of the Israelites, they were seen as the chosen people of God who were recipients of the kingdom of God.  They felt that God had entrusted them with the great treasure of living in God’s favor for all of eternity; especially the Pharisees who believed in an afterlife.  But the problem here was that because they believed they had been given this wonderful priceless treasure (of being God’s chosen people going to heaven) they didn’t need to do anything else except try and maintain a good and moral life.  They could bury serving others, and seeking the ways of the kingdom of God, using the talents they’d been given because they didn’t see the need or the urgency.

Now this can be the way many Christians are today. We have many Christians who think they were saved and they’re headed to heaven.   They believe they’ve got their heaven insurance and so they’re just trying to be morally good, live a clean life, come to church, pay your membership dues so when they die they can go to heaven.  But these folks are sadly mistaken just as the one talent servant was.  You see, when Christians become Christians they profess that Jesus is their Lord and Master.

People, especially we Baptists, can get focused on the Savior part. We focus on getting saved so we won’t fry in hell.   And since we think that’s the key part, being one of the saved who are guaranteed heaven, we become no different than the one talent servant who didn’t use his talent to serve his Master.  Pews are filled with people covered in dirt, who never really professed that Jesus is their Master.  And what’s so tragic is that one day they will stand before their Master who will ask them to give an account of what they did with the gifts God gave them and their fears, inadequacies, and excuses will not help.  They will live in regret (weeping and gnashing of teeth) for all of eternity. ……

Now today is the 2nd week of our stewardship campaign.   And today I want you to think about the gifts God has given you…….Think about one thing God has given you---a talent or attribute, a material resource or a passion or experience in your life that God has entrusted you with. (Offering plate)  Pray about it and then write it down….and then this week put it in a place (mirror, dashboard) where you can look at it everyday.  And I want you to think about and pray about where you can use that gift to make a difference in the lives around you. 

Perhaps it’s something that you can utilize that’s on the stewardship commitment form. There’s a whole section on there of ways to use God’s talents. 

Really pray about this. Ask God to show you the gifts He wants you to use and ask Him to give you’re the courage to use them…. 

Jesus, our Master, wants us to make the most of the history we’ve been.   He wants us to not just sit there and do nothing; but rather use the talents he has given us to invest in the ways of the kingdom.

Let us not bury them and later live in regret. Let’s dig them up; let go of our fears and our excuses and get to the business of the joyful life of serving our Savior AND our Master…

 

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen