November 19, 2023
Matthew 25: 14-30
Jesus said to them, “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.’”
Today’s sermon is titled On Leaning In.
The parable we are offered today is the second one in a set of three parables Jesus offers to his closest followers just days before he is put to death. His crime is remaining silent when asked if he was the king of the Jews, the long-awaited Messiah. In saying nothing, he said everything. In saying nothing, he sealed his fate. In saying nothing, he was willing to be put to death to prove that there is a force greater than fear and greater, even, than death. That force is love; that force is what we call God. That’s the magnitude of what we are dealing with here, Friends, so let’s take a look at this parable of the talents. It comes directly on the heels of the parable we studied last week about the bridesmaids and the importance of being awake, prepared, and ready to respond.
Remember those impromptu races when we were kids? The runners would line up and someone would say, “Ready. Set. Go!” Last week’s parable was the “ready” and the “set;” this week’s parable is the “go.”
Jesus tells what is really a hyperbole; it is an outrageous example that would sound something like this to our 21st century ears: Imagine this. A corporate executive is planning to travel abroad, so the executive calls three interns into his office. All three are college students, deep in debt, and working as unpaid interns. The executive entrusts one intern with 5 million dollars, another intern with 2 million dollars and the last intern with 1 million dollars. The first two use their millions to make more millions. The third intern is sure this must be a trick. Why would the boss be giving away millions of dollars? The intern is overwrought with anxiety about what to do with the money. Paralyzed by fear and self-doubt, they decide to hide the million under their mattress. When the corporate executive returns, the interns are called in to give a report. Two of them have made great gains and the executive says, “Welcome to my world.” While all this was taking place, the third intern was on the crosstown bus to fetch the million from under the mattress. With nothing more to show, not even 5% on a 6-month CD, the intern is fired from their modern slavery “job” and turned out into the darkest time of their life, where they will have plenty of time to lie awake and think about what they should have done, what they could have done, and what they would have done if only they weren’t so afraid and full of self-doubt. The corporate executive has so much money, he tells the first intern to just keep the 10 mil, and the other million from under the mattress, too. The second intern gets to keep their 4 million. And while the former interns are on their way to the bank, the boss emails the third intern and writes, “Don’t dwell in the darkness. Don’t you know you can change the world? Believe it and be bold. Don’t shy away; instead, lean in.”
Vivian Silver did not shy away from confronting inequality in the world. She was born in Canada in 1949 into a Jewish family. Vivian Silver was in her junior year of college when she traveled to Israel for the first time, and it was there that she found what would be her life’s work, building economic and social connections between Israelis and Palestinians. Silver worked tirelessly for women’s rights and gender equality within the Israeli culture while building bridges of peace between Israeli and Palestinian communities. In 1999, Silver worked with a Palestinian colleague to establish the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation. In 2014, after members of Hamas kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers and Israel retaliated and killed over 2,200 residents of Gaza. Mothers on both sides of the border were fearful and angry.
Vivian Silver gave Israeli women a platform by organizing Women Wage Peace; their slogan is “We must end this madness!” On the other side of the border, Gazan women organized Women of the Sun. Listen to the words of Reem Hajajri, one of the leaders of “Women of the Sun”: “The journey to peace is long and full of challenges. We maintain our strength and determination as more and more women join the movement, women who want to protect their children and prevent them from being the next victim. We started out as a movement with a few lone women and now we are thousands from the West Bank and Gaza. We no longer take the back seat and are determined to act persistently to end the cycle of bloodshed and to achieve freedom and a just, honorable life for Palestinian and Israeli children.”
And now words from Vivian Silver: “The paradigm that we’ve been living under for all these years is that only war will bring us peace, and that has been proven false time and time again. We can’t put up with this anymore. We can’t be sacrificing our families for no purpose because there is no purpose in this warring.”
Women of faith, Jewish and Muslim, joined together to host an event on October 4th of this year. They had no way of knowing what was being planned by the warring minority in just three days’ time. Thousands of women gathered. Their message was as follows: “We, Palestinian and Israeli mothers, are determined to stop the vicious cycle of bloodshed and to change the reality of the difficult conflict between both nations, for the benefit of our children.”
The visionary behind this interfaith women’s peace movement, Vivian Silver, went back to her kibbutz after the event. Three days later, she was one of the victims of the violence. It was five weeks before her death was confirmed just this past Wednesday. Vivian Silver was a woman of faith who leaned in to a conflict that some say is impossible to resolve. Vivian Silver was not deterred by the impossibility of her mission and she did not let her fear and self-doubt stop her. Like the two servants who multiplied their gifts, Vivian Silver shared her passionate determination for peace and thousands joined her.
Vivian Silver is a beautiful example of how Jesus is calling us to live our lives. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Living in abundance requires risk. Living in abundance requires overcoming our fears and our self-doubt. Living in abundance requires a focus that includes the wellbeing of many, not just the wellbeing of those we love and those who look like us and pray like us and vote like us. Living in abundance requires us to extend ourselves in service to one another, to speak up for basic human rights and the dignity of all people, with no exceptions.
In closing, Friends, let us not forget the terrible ending to this parable, where the one who made the choice to play it safe and risk nothing ended up in the darkness. It was Ben Franklin who said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” So I pray we will venture to take more risks with the goal to spread love and encouragement in our relationships of family and community. In loving we move from darkness to light. I pray we will not shy away from difficult issues, but instead lean in to them and learn what we can. In learning we move from darkness to light. I pray we will find opportunities in conversation to put in a word for justice as a path to peace. In speaking up for peace and justice, we move from darkness to light. Finally, I’d like to end with joining our voices in a prayer of sorts. There are so many brothers and sisters suffering all over the world…suffering from lack of necessities, and suffering from violence. Let’s do a call and response. I call for safety, and you say, “safety.” I call for food, water, medical treatment, freedom from violence, security, love, justice, hope, peace, stability, lovingkindness, compassion, civility and wisdom. So be it. Amen.
In the stillness of this moment, Lord, lead us closer to that place within us where You are all that is. In your omniscience, you are aware of needs that have no voice…needs for healing, for forgiveness, for support, and for acceptance. As we wrestle with senseless crime and violence, we invite your peace to dwell within us, so that we may become part of the solution, part of the remedy, part of your holy design that mends the broken. Shine your light on opportunities to right our wrongs, so we may experience a clarity of mind, that is impossible when conflicts sit unresolved. Remind us, God, that through your love, all things are possible; through your love, the unimaginable becomes reality, and through the Christ Child, we can approach aspects of ourselves that need your unquestioning healing and grace. This we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
From the book of Jude: “As for you, Beloved, build up yourselves upon your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God…unto life everlasting.”