On Sunday, the gospel reading was taken from Matthew 25:31-40, where Jesus told the parable of the rich man who gave his servants a sum of money. To one he gave five thousand; to another he gave two thousand and to the last he one thousand. The first and second servant doubled the money by investing wisely but the third in his fear went and hid his money. Upon the rich man’s return, his joy with the first two servants was downturned by his disappointment with the third servant.
While the obvious message from the text would be to focus on the slothfulness of the third servant, I was moved by the number of talents each servant received. Five represents grace; two represents witness and ministry; and one represents unity. Stretching and challenging the meaning of the text, I began to see a bit more taking place which challenges our stewardship in the kingdom.
According to I Corinthians 12, each one of us represent various parts of the body. These parts work together to strengthen the entire body. Coupling that understanding with the parable, I see the gifts of grace, witness/ministry and unity as necessities of the ministry. As we have been given, we need to sow and invest in the world. Burying what we have been given, deprives the body of what is needed and affects the advancement of the Kingdom.
May we be faithful with the investment God has made in us.
As a Pastor, I have to be very careful that I am not preaching to others and omitting to follow my own words. However, being human, I am prone to make mistakes. The unfortunate reality of life is that pastors are expected to live above reproach; and sometimes, even a quick apology is not enough to remove the blemish. Hence, I am that much more challenged to live what I preach. On the other hand, I am also challenged to be compassionate about the faith walk or lack thereof of others.
One of my recent sermons was a challenge to the hearers to flip the script. We have been exploring our understanding of what it means to be a member to the Kingdom of God. Kingdom citizens are not conformed to this world but are transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:1-2). Gaging a reaction or overreaction can help to diffuse difficult situations before they start. As I explained, “we never know what the others might be going through.” Beautiful sermon. The challenge now is to live it.
Well the test of the strength of my conviction came recently when I entered a store as it was opening. I entered the establishment first and said, “Good morning.” No response. I did a mental inventory of my approach to explore possible reason for the silence, but could see none. Another customer behind me said good morning in very much the same manner and was greeted with a beautiful smile and good morning. Interesting.
I heard my thoughts. Her gift to me that morning should have been a sunny disposition. She should have met ME at the point of my need. She should have known better…but she didn’t. My sense of entitlement did not change what was happening.
As I walked away, I considered my sermon. I explored possible reasons why the salesperson did not respond to me and none of them was in her favor. It was then that I thought about something I have often told my son: keep doing what you know is right, even if the other person does not respond favorably. Simply put, while good customer service etiquette should have caused her to greet, at the end of the day, she made a choice to the contrary. That was her prerogative.
I walked away praying for both of us that day: the sales person, that she might sensitive to the needs of all customers; that if she was going through something, it would not make her bitter but better; that she would be a little more alert; and for me that I might not be too hasty to jump to conclusions; that I might consider other ways to share the love of Christ; that situations like this will not make me bitter but better.