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Getting on with it….

I have been on the road this week and unable to record a podcast on the readings for this Sunday. If I had been able to, I might have covered these points about the parable of the Talents:-
1. Like the previous parable of the foolish bridesmaids, this story expresses Matthew’s concern for how the early church was coping with the delay in Jesus’ return to take up his rule in the Kingdom of God on earth (which Matthew calls the Kingdom of Heaven, not meaning that it takes place in heaven but rather that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven). His main concern here is to emphasize that we all have a job to get on with, as opposed to sitting on our hands waiting for Jesus to come and rescue us from a troubling world. That job, in his view, is to transform our world by making disciples of all nations, as we know from his concluding chapter.
2. In the New Testament social context, a “talent” was a large sum of money, not someone’s innate ability. It came to mean the latter in later European contexts because of this parable! In this story, the rich man distributes his wealth among his servants according to their abilities, or “powers”, which is to say, his estimate of how likely they were to produce a good return on it.
3. In the case of the third servant, who only got one talent to invest, the master’s low expectations were well founded. This one’s problem was not so much a lack of ability as an unwillingness to advance his master’s interests, indeed a palpable hostility to and resentment of the master’s prosperity. Some scholars have argued that Jesus must have been on his side in his impassioned critique of capitalism, but that is not how the parables work. In any case, if the servant was making a brave prophetic stand, he should have done so right from the outset, rather than accepting the master’s commission.
4. We too have a commission, a shared task to get one with, to advance God’s investment in our world. We are each held responsible for recognising opportunities to advance that mission in our own lifetimes, according to our abilities, and to undertake risky initiatives in doing so. A “safety first” policy will earn us no brownie points from God, even though that may be our common Anglican preference.
5. It is all a learning process. As we learn from our successes and failures, God says “Well done, my good and faithful servants!” and gives us greater opportunities and greater rewards. We are all great saints potentially, great transformers of our world, so let’s just get on with it…
Howard Pilgrim

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