33rd Sunday

Mt 25: 14-30

A well-worn one dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty dollar bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation. The twenty dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the county. “I’ve had a pretty good life,” the twenty proclaimed. “Why I’ve been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean.” “Wow!” said the one dollar bill. “You’ve really had an exciting life!” “So tell me,” says the twenty, “where have you been throughout your lifetime?” The one dollar bill replies, “Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church ….” The twenty dollar bill interrupts, “What’s a church? Today’s gospel message is how do we use our talents?

“America’s Got Talents” or “American Idol” programs focus on finding and identifying an individual’s unique “talent”. You might call our Gospel today the original “talent contest”. The ‘talents’ are distributed by a master to his servants in varying amounts in today’s gospel. One received ten ‘talents’, another five and the third one was entrusted with one ‘talent’. You might ask, If the master of the parable stands for God, why is life like that? I don’t know.

We are all equal in the eyes of God. But when it comes to our abilities, we are as different as different can be. God simply did not make us all the same. There some people who can handle five talents; there are some who can handle only one. There are some persons who have great intellectual capabilities, and some who do not. There are some who have the ability to project and articulate their thoughts, and there some who can not.

The important thing to remember is that each servant was given something. No one was left idle. You may not be a five-talent person, but you have some talent. We all do. That is the good news. No one is without a gift.  And the gospel is clear that even the person who receives the smallest talent was expected to use it.  That’s the important message.

Three servants, each given money to invest. Two were successful; one was not. The servant who received one talent buried it and earned his master’s displeasure. Why did he bury the talent? The gospel says he did so out of fear. If we are to understand the message of this parable, we have to ask why two of the servants were able to overcome their fear while one was not. I think it’s because he did not know his own value.

Unless we are willing and able to claim our own worth, we will not be able to use the gifts that we have been given, and our lives will be ruled by fear. This is what happened to the last servant in the parable.  For whatever reason, he did not know his own worth. So, when a talent was entrusted to him, he was unable to invest it.

There are no ungifted people, but there are people who do not use their gifts. There is no person in this church today who does not have some talent given by God. But some will be unable to use their talents because they cannot see their value in God’s eyes. In such blindness what will most likely be done is to take what has been given and bury it. The good news of the gospel is that we do have value in God’s eyes. Therefore we should not be afraid.

So when your children push you to the edge, when you again fail to communicate with your spouse, when your parents still do not understand and you begin to fear that you will not make it in your family, Jesus says: “Do not be afraid. You are valuable to me and you have gifts you can use.” When school becomes burdensome, when you have to face someone in your class who is a bully, when things at work get turned around, and you begin to fear that you cannot adjust, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. I have gifted you with talents that can make a difference.”

God would not give us gifts without the ability to use them, but our ability to use them depends on accepting our true status in God’s eyes. Therefore, today let us claim who we really are: beloved daughters and sons of God. In accepting that identity we will drive out fear and be able to use the talents our Father has given us.