Drawn In: Risk

**Ever a work in progress, we’re trying to find a new way to share weekly sermons.  Until we do, I’ll be posting them here.

Matthew 25:14-3

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.’”

May these words ignite our holy curiosity and creativity. Amen.

Message: Risk (July 21, 2019)

Anybody a fan of karaoke? May I confess to you that while I speak in front of people at least once a week, and have done so for 17 years now, I find singing in front of people really, really scary. Especially, karaoke…

It seems that those who excel are not necessarily the best singers, who know the tune and can find the pitch (that helps of course). No, the best karaoke singers are the ones who hold nothing back. Those who sing from the pit of their stomachs, from the tips of their toes. As far as I can tell, what makes karaoke fun, at least from the perspective of the audience is less about skill or even knowing the song, but so much more about singing with all that you are…throwing your whole self into it. Risking vulnerability and yes, even ridicule.  Better to watch a tone-deaf four-year-old singing with wild abandon, then a professional singing half-heartedly.

Remember that movie duets…or maybe that episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai professes her love in a song? Karaoke requires courage, the ability to take a risk, to lay it all on the line…and hold nothing back.

Perhaps our servant in today’s story should have tried karaoke.

In our gospel lesson today Jesus tells a story about a man who calls his servants to him and gives them money. To one he gives 10 Talents—worth more than 80 years worth of wages.

To another—5 talents. And to the last, just one talent, which remember is 16 years wages…or so that we can wrap our head around it…in today’s market, someone working in Massachusetts for minimum wage, and spending none of it, could make ½ million dollars in 16 years.

Ok…so the master gives them a lot of money. One begins to trade…and he doubles the money.  So too does the next one.  And the third…he picks up a shovel, digs a hole, and buries it.

Now it’s worth noting, as one scholar I read did, that this burying would have actually required more physical energy than simply taking it to a banker. A banker would not have been hard to find. It would not have been at all difficult for the servant to invest the money with a banker. It would not have been at all strange or unusual. The servant invests more energy into digging a hole.

And what happens when you put your money in a hole? The same thing that happens when you stuff it in a mattress or a coffee can…nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Now the boss comes back, not surprisingly delighted by the fact that the first two servants have doubled his money. And the third, he opens his response by insulting his employer. When is that ever a good idea? And when he reveals that he has done absolutely nothing…the manager is not surprisingly angry.

Which brings us to you and me.  Each of us has been given, by the ultimate creator, gifts, and talents, for the sake of the world. How often do we bury them? How often do we expend more effort pretending we don’t have them, or they’re not good enough, rather than developing them, sharing them, shaping them, using them?

It’s only when we put ourselves out there that God can bless and multiply our gifts. It’s only when we take a risk, when we are courageous and vulnerable, that God can truly double our talents for the sake of others.

Our church is turning 200 this year. And we have risk-taking in our DNA.

Two communities independently took the risk to invest in a building, one in Marstons Mills, another in Osterville.  Two separate groups of people stepped out in faith to offer the community, the village, a place to gather and worship and learn and serve. What if no one came? What if no one gave? What if the effort failed?

In 1968, those same communities would risk merging, joining two communities into one, building a new building where their mission and ministries could become one.  What if it didn’t work? What if the two communities couldn’t work together? What if too many people left and found other places to worship, grow and learn?

This church has taken risks. Think about the first-ever Holiday Fair…someone had to say “Let’s try it!” And could they have possibly imagined what it would become, a community event, welcoming people from all over the Cape and beyond not just to come and buy crafts, but to experience warm hospitality and joy, in church!

This church has risk-taking in our DNA.  Twenty-six years ago, our church became the first Reconciling Congregation in the New England Annual Conference.  The first to publicly stand in non-conformity with the Discipline of the United Methodist Church to proclaim that all God’s children are sacred, without exception, and that all are welcome here. A risk we continue to take in the name of sacred hospitality.

This church has taken risks, stepping out in courage to add the addition, to add staff, to bridge financial gaps. Individual leaders have taken risks to try a new project, learn a new skill, invite a friend to worship.  Just in the last year, this church took a risk, to invest in and install solar panels, for the good of the planet, our children and grandchildren, our church.

How many times has this particular community of faith, as a community or as individuals chosen to lead. Each fundraiser, each mission project, each time someone chose to join the choir, or teach Sunday School for the first time…each new idea, project, ministry a risk, an opportunity to succeed beyond imagining or to learn from failure. All requiring courage, determination, and a willingness to trust in God.

How many times has this community been willing to risk for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of building god’s kingdom in the world?

And how many times have we chosen to bury our talent, taking not just the safe route, but stopping growth, and possibility?

In this season of sabbath rest, of laying by the beach and walking by the water.  In this season of gardening and growing, may we ponder and pray, may we wonder with God while we weed and water.

Consider this: When it comes to your gifts and graces—where are you fully invested in risking failure and foolishness for the sake of the kindom? Where are you playing it safe, trying to hide your talent from yourself, from your neighbor, even trying, (however unsuccessfully) to hide them from the one who gave them?

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