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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 25:14–30

“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.’” (NRSV)

Reflection
One purpose of a parable is to turn us upside down, to shake up our current categories of our world and our lives, in order to help us see things anew. This parable certainly accomplishes that purpose for me. I experience emotional whiplash when I hear the drastically different responses the Master makes to the last slave, as opposed to the other ones. The first two people come forward and receive generous praise.  They are called good and trustworthy. They are invited into the Master’s joy, the Master’s reign.  But the third one, the one with whom I identify (I am rather cautious when it comes to risk taking), is called wicked and lazy, and ends up in the outer darkness! I have always tried to figure out why the Master responds so sternly to the last slave. 

I have wondered if it is because the last slave began his plea to the Master by telling the Master that he already knows the Master is harsh and unethical (reaping where he did no sow). It is as if the slave had already decided who the Master was and chose to fence him in by those expectations. The slave was already preemptively disappointed in the relationship. Might that be the reason why the Master responded the way he did? As Tom Long has suggested, could it be that the slave got the peevish tyrant of a god he believed in? There is a prayer I occasionally hear that includes this line: “Lord, help us to let go of the god we no longer believe in so that we can be claimed by the God who believes in us.” How do our expectations of God and the ways we believe that God acts get in our way of meeting and knowing the God who claims us? 

Prayer
God, help me to let go of all our preconceived notions of who you are and how you can work in my life and in our world. Bless me with a more generous picture of your love and your grace. Help me to be good and trustworthy—the way you have created me to be. Amen. 

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor


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