November 12, 2011

Proper 28

Filed under: Financial Commitment,Lectionary,Legacy,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 7:15 pm

Of all the Gospel readings in our lectionary, this is the one I’ve always secretly hoped I would never be called to preach.

The Parable of the Talents speaks to every single one of my personal and cultural insecurities—Do I deserve five talents? Do I even want five talents? How would I ever live up to being given five talents? Am I good enough?

Of course the one-talent servant is just as difficult. The fear of failure. The hunkering down and not making things worse. I get that, too….

I am an avid college football fan. There are family legends about my game-day behaviors. In years when my team is in what we tactfully call “a rebuilding year,” there are days when I go into the game thinking, “OK, we’re not going to win, but let’s please just not lose.”

Maybe that’s why I find the two-talent servant so tempting: he isn’t given quite as much, but he works hard and he at least takes a shot at the possibility of an honorable result. Is it possible that doing my best good enough?

As I was contemplating all of this earlier in the week, I did what I always do when I’m feeling unsure: I got up and did something else.

I went to the gym. And there, in one of those moments of grace that defies coincidence, I bumped into the one person who for as long as I can remember has always been able to make things right: Julie Andrews, and her daughter Emma.

The interviewer quoted Prince Albert of Monaco, “Every aspect of her tremendous career is testament to demanding the best of oneself, while giving back with equal passion.”

Asked what inspires that passion, this indisputably five-talent servant graciously responded, “When one is as blessed as I think I have been, I think it’s absolutely right to give back all the time. I think it should be expected; if one’s lucky enough to do something one loves, give it back.”

Could the journey from scarcity and fear to abundance and joy really be that simple?

It begins with an acknowledgement: When one is as blessed as I think I have been….

When we make a conscious decision to see our glass as not just half-full, but our cup as over-flowing….

When we frame our lives in an attitude of abundance and name all that we have as blessing, giving back with equal passion comes naturally.

When we name ourselves as a five-talent servants…. When we choose to see ourselves in an attitude of abundance, giving is released from the shackles of obligation, from the fetters of guilt and scarcity. Demanding the best of ourselves and giving back with passion becomes a right and good and joyful thing to do.

It is important to remember, however, that there is no one right way of bringing this to be in each of our lives. Each of us is in a different place on this journey that we make together. You may be growing into proportional giving, or into the tithe. You may be considering an offering from your abundance that is beyond the tithe, or even beyond the span of your time in this life. Perhaps you are discerning the right use of your time, your education and experience, or your natural gifts. These are all parts of the stewardship journey. And they all manifest themselves differently in each of us.

Nor does joyful and abundant stewardship ask us to be unrealistic; if anything, faithful stewardship demands that we be wise and discerning as we seek and serve Christ in all persons—including ourselves.

I don’t think it makes me less a person of faith to acknowledge that the world in which I live—the world in which I give—includes the realities of health care, unemployment, and the price of heating oil. What matters is that we bring our gifts from a place of abundance, with an attitude of thanksgiving.

That is the thanks and praise that it is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give to the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

And here’s the really good news: It is not only right and good…it’s contagious. When people of joyful abundance come together in community, bringing the gifts they are called to bring, without reservation and without apology, we are so much more than the sum of our parts. Working together in joyful abundance, we choose to be a congregation of joy, a parish of vision, a community of passion…called to be God’s people of the over-flowing cup in this time and place.

With that, only one question remains: Why wait until master returns? Why not say to one another in this season of annual commitment, “Well done, Good and Faithful Servant.”

Enter into the joy of one another, in the presence of the Master who graciously accepts us as living members of his Son our Savior Jesus Christ.


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