freed from fear…imagine

preaching, 1-22-17a sermon, based on Matthew 25.14-30, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, November 19, 2017

Jesus tells a parable about talents. In his day, monetary units of precious metal equal to fifteen years’ wages of a day laborer. For our day, the root of our notion of our capabilities, our talents that enable us to do something.

Viewed through the worldly lens of economics, this story is about our stewardship of our abilities and our money; using them fully, investing them wisely for which we, at life’s end, will give a reckoning through our legacies and bequests.

Hmmm, maybe.

From a heavenly perspective, this story is about our faithful use of divine gifts, as Paul delineates in First Corinthians,(1) among them, faith and discernment, knowledge and wisdom, bestowed by the Spirit, which we are to use for the sake of others and for which we must give an account at the end of time, the Day of the Lord, the second coming of Jesus of which Paul speaks.(2)

Hmmm, maybe.

Today, focusing on two of the four characters, I suggest that this parable is about an elemental aspect of our relationships, all of our relationships, with God and with all others. Not the first two servants, who invest and double their money, make the same speech to their master, who, with the same words, praises and rewards them. They function as literary foils like Romeo and Juliet’s Friar whose patience magnifies Romeo’s impatience or Mr. Hyde whose evil illumines the goodness of Dr. Jekyll or the malevolent Draco Malfoy to the benevolent Harry Potter. The first two servants, in their exacting similarity, highlight the utterly different relationship of the master and the third servant; who, suffering from a case of fiscal paralysis, buries and returns the money.

Parable of the Talents, Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)

There is the point of the parable, which, though it may seem, is not a judgment against laziness, but rather is about fear.

FEAR - Scrabble tiles

The third servant imagined that his master was unkind. “I knew you were harsh, so I was afraid.” And acting on his fear, “I hid your talent and here it is.” The master replies, “You knew, did you, that I am as you imagine? If so, then you should have done otherwise.”

The point. Whatever we imagine about God and anyone else will influence our behavior. Speaking for myself, if I imagine God or you to be judgmental, I will be afraid and, in my fear, remain guarded, reveal little, risk even less lest I fail and fall under your judgment. If I imagine God or you to be benevolent and fair, then I am free to take the risk of being open and vulnerable, indeed, to be as loving and just as I perceive God and you to be.

What we imagine, we reflect. What we reflect, we will be and do, think and feel, intend and act.

If this is true – and I believe it is! – then the moral of this parable is this: Resist and reject fear. Risk faith and trust in our interactions with God and others, for there is truest freedom.

 

Illustration: The Parable of the Talents, Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)

Footnotes:

(1) 1 Corinthians 12

(2) 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 is the day’s appointed epistle reading.

3 thoughts on “freed from fear…imagine

  1. Love the message of this sermon Paul! Fear is a powerful emotion that can be extremely crippling. “What we imagine, we reflect.” Those are definitely words to live by especially in the craziness of our world today. I’m proud of how much you’ve written of late about “me too” and sexual harassment. So many men believe (and reflect) that women are objects and any behavior goals. That thinking can and has created the culture we live in now. Now it’s up to us to “imagine and reflect” equality for women. I’m thrilled that so many women have felt empowered to overcome the fear and speak out.

    I hope to continue to listen to God and imagine and reflect the life I’m supposed to be living. I love God with all of my heart and I want to be free and not bound by fear that has sometimes gripped me over the last 16 months. I imagine helping others and having them help me in return…. and my lifestyle reflects that. Having faith and trust in God and Being free is so worth working hard for. Thanks for that reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loretta, once again, I thank you for your commentary. I had not connected – in my thinking – the heart of this sermon (What I imagine, I reflect in my behavior) with my recent posts concerning sexual harassment and assault, particularly in regard to one’s view of women. Thank you! For as I imagine a woman to be, so I will treat her. Yes, yes, yes.

      And, concerning your life of aiding others – verily, being the bearer of hope and joy in the face of daily soul-crushing circumstances of caring for loved ones with dementia – surely is a mighty way of living into God’s freedom from fear. Yea, you!

      Love you

      Liked by 1 person

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