Wednesday, November 15, 2017

the parable of the faithful servant

I want to admit first of all the difficult nature of this parable. It is not a fair sort of parable and again we have some uncomfortable images of God.
If we take this parable at face value we have a parable that is a justification for capitalism and investment on the stock market. We also have a vision of God as a cruel tyrant worthy of any rapacious corporate boss.
Ched Myers, a contemporary Christian theologian, has argued strongly that this is a parable which Jesus would have been telling with his tongue stuck firmly in his cheek.
We have to take this reading in context. The parable before and the one following inform this one. There is no way that Jesus normally talked about the poor being relegated to hell, just the reverse. It is usually the comfortable and wealthy that have to watch out. And perhaps here is the key. The message that Matthew obviously wants to give us is that (like in the previous parable of the bridesmaids) the lesson is that we must live in anticipation of the imminent return of Christ. Therefore we cannot afford to rest upon our laurels and slacken of with the use of our gifts. We must keep using our gifts to further the reign of God’s Justice and peace.
 So what does this have to say to us as the church in this age and as individuals.
First of all this parable recognises the myth of the level playing field. Just as people are born with different levels of intelligence, different social and educational opportunities, and different levels of love and security offered to them, so too churches start out with very different prospects. 

We are not going to find many answers about how to use our gifts from this parable. It tells us to invest wisely but it will not tell us what to invest in. It will not tell us, as the church, which mission strategies or worship patterns or leadership structures are the most productive use of our gifts. And if I can risk heresy here, just waiting on the Lord for guidance probably won't give us many answers either. God's guidance is most often given to those on the road, not to those thinking about the road.

The one thing that I know for sure is that God is looking for wise stewards of God’s gifts, and that God will continue to give new blessings to those who learn to use wisely and productively what has already been given.  If you use the talents God has entrusted to you in ways that most strengthen the shared task of God's people, God will surely be seen as the faithful restorer of his people and you will be among the privileged recipients of his word, “Well done good and trustworthy servants; you have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Finally I want to say that, this does not have application only for the church. In our lives it is all too easy to live in the sort of fear that the third servant lived in; the fear of losing his own gifts by using it. Lets face it, none of us use our gifts to the utmost, and it is our constant challenge to overcome that fear and face the giftedness and strength that God has given us.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Playing safe
Haiku for faithful stewards

Talents were immense
lumps of money, like a big
CEO payout.

The so-called experts
don’t agree, but a million
will get somewhere near.

Another story.
This time three slaves are summoned,
trusted with big bucks.

Their freehanded boss
is going on a journey.
Take care of my things.

You know how it goes:
Five talent man makes five more;
two talent man, too.

When the boss returns
he commends them. You’ve done well,
I’ll trust you with more.

The one talent man
got cold feet; panicked, anxious,
hid it in the ground.

Here we are! he said
when he came before the boss:
All safe and secure!

He is not impressed.
Security is worthless;
learn to take some risks!

Get out of my sight!
You cannot serve God’s kingdom
if you play it safe!


© Ken Rookes 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Youmust be ready

Haiku for the faithful

You must be ready!
He tells his friends a story,
as is his practice.

Ten bridesmaids with lamps
go out to greet the bridegroom;
a flaming escort.

The neighbourhood girls
invite themselves to the feast
with dancing and song.

The bridegroom is late.
The maids rest their heads and sleep.
The lamps keep burning.

The shout at midnight:
Here he is! Come to meet him!
Bridesmaids trim their lamps.

Five have brought spare oil.
The other five entreat them:
Give us some of yours!

There won’t be enough.
Make haste and rouse the dealers;
buy oil for yourselves.

They return, their lamps
recharged and burning brightly.
The rest have gone in.

The door has been shut.
Lord, lord, let us in! they cry.
Sorry, you’re too late!

Set your sights upon
the kingdom, Jesus told them,
make yourselves ready.

© Ken Rookes 2017