What have we done with your gifts? What have we done, church, with our gifts? This is often the question we reflect on as we celebrate New Year, and pause to think about what we want to do differently in the year to come. Today, this reflective question we have on our hearts from scripture is more than just about personal fitness or our jobs, it's about our relationship with God and our growth in the faith. A faith that transforms us and by our actions the world around us. So we pause in these final few weeks before Advent, which is our liturgical new year, to slow down to take stock of our lives, a life which is so different right now, as we yearn to embrace a sense of direction again. Our question remains what direction, what normal, are we embracing- ours or God’s, which is fleshed out again in scripture. Today we are given the answer as we look at what we’ve been given, through the lens of the beatitudes, and ask ourselves what we are going to do with it for the sake of the kingdom of God. Something Matthew unpacks for us today.
The parable of the talents is a harsh teaching in the way it seems there is anger from God when we are not generous enough. Indeed, there have been many stewardship sermons written on this text to reflect the nature of what it means to be a joyful giver. If we give with abundance, we enter into the joy of our master. Sure, that's all well and good, but there is still something deeper here. Like last week's parable of the wise and foolish virgins, it's a parable about preparation and action in the face of longing and waiting as we approach Advent. The oil of our lamps lights the path towards Jesus in the Manger, and the talents of Matthew ask us to look at what we’ve been given and think about how we are using them to transform our world, and thus our lives. We do this while looking through the lens of the beatitudes, but what have we been given, and why the beatitudes? We look through the lens of the beatitudes because of their formative nature, a formation that shows us everything we have is from God.
It's hard sometimes to look around us and think about abundance, or even understand abundance, because of how accustomed we become to what we have. We take for granted sometimes the roof over our heads, the food in our fridges, even the education and jobs that provide us with opportunities in the world. It's easy, I think, to do this because sometimes we don’t often connect God and abundance together. The beatitudes, however, challenge our status quo, and give us not only the framework for the Kingdom, but a mirror onto our own lives. You see, this is a story about you and I, and our ability to see God's presence in our life, and choose to act on it, in faith, to bring about the life of the beatitudes a life that challenges the status quo and upends our assumptions about this kingdom life we live. Sometimes though, that upending feels heavy and burdensome, being beyond our paygrade. Fear not, there is grace in all of this work today.
It's far too easy sometimes to get paralized with guilt, in the sense that we aren't good enough in the face of the work before us, or that the problem is too big for one person's action- but that misses the grace in this parable. We are good enough, and we are doing this work. Like any financial investment, returns do not happen overnight, we must think long term with our actions. However, we have to actually be invested to even expect a return! We can't have what we aren't willing to invest in. So this taking stock is not about beating ourselves up over missed opportunities- but about making the choice to buy into the investment- the kingdom- here before us, and investment made real in the beatitudes.
Think about it for a second. Think about all those social movements in our world, from the time of Christ to today. What happened? Someone got up and said, enough, this needs to change and invested their life in the change, a change which brought us closer to the kingdom of God. An african american woman refused to get up from her bus seat. A drag queen refused to be beaten by police anymore. An african american man had a dream. Indigenous people had a truth to tell. We as a parish asked who was taking care of our homeless friends on the street. A country of Anglicans wanted a way to respond to a devastated community after a terrible tragedy. It all started with a small action, a small step away from a world that said its not possible, and into the kingdom of God. You see what's happening here? These people, throughout history, stopped and said “enough, lets change this.” And change did happen, slowly. Rosa Parks and MLK opened the door for the first black president. Indigenous voices refused to be silent in their need for us to hear their truth about the woman who have gone missing, the kids who never came home, and their life on reservations which led to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an invitation to deeper relationship with colonial Canada. The drag queens and riots of Stonewall opened the door to a more inclusive society. This parish started packing ziplock bags that led to a ministry that spans the whole westside of Vancouver with connections to UBC which is actively addressing the cycle of poverty in our neighbourhood, and the Primate's world relief and development fund continues to change lives after being born out of the tragedy of Nova Scotia in 1958. Notice how none of this happened over night, nor any of it complete. Race relations are not finished. Reconciliation is not finished. An inclusive world that celebrates all humans with dignity and respect is not finished. Poverty, homlessnes, and isolation are not finished. But, as we embrace the wisdom of the beatitudes and invest our gifts- our talents- into the work of the kingdom of God, we begin to see the mutual transformation of ourselves and our world into a more generous reflection of the Kingdom of God.
But this doesn't happen overnight. We must have patience and perseverance, and we must take stock of our lives. Take stock of your investment into God’s inbreaking kingdom, church. Take stock of your gifts, and ask where those gifts can be put to use in the kingdom of God. What have you done with your gifts from God, church, What have you done with your gifts? Are you ready to invest them into the work of the kingdom again this week? Take stock church, for tomorrow He comes!