Today’s gospel passage is familiar to all of us, the parable of the two trustworthy servans and the one fearful servant who does nothing with the money entrusted to him. We all know the moral of the story, that we are to use the gifts and talents given us by God. Let’s look a little further. I want to tell you two stories.
When I felt the call to ordained ministry, I felt uncertain, not of the call but of my ability to measure up. Would my blindness prevent me from being fully able to fulfil my ministry? A wise, older clergyman said to me, “It’s not through our strength but through our weakness that we give glory to God.” I went ahead, applied to the Vancouver School of Theology and was accepted. When I began my studies there, I was surprised that many of my classmates had the same anxiety as I. We were sure of our call to ordained ministry but were fearful we would not be adequate. That knowledge was very heartening to me.
Now I want to tell you about two very different persons I knew in a former parish. One was a man who saw life as dark and threatening. He saw himself as a helpless victim on whom life had laid many hardships. He was hard work to be around. He was so self-absorbed that he could only see the world through is distorted vision. One person called him “a cheerleader of gloom.” Years before he had been married and his marriage broke up because he had an extra-marital affair. Yet he saw himself as a poor victim who never wanted a divorce. He could not empathize with others’ troubles but only focus on himself.
Then there was Maureen, a woman of my age who had not had an easy life. Her first husband had beaten her in front of their two sons. Eventually she had the courage to leave him and raise her sons alone. In later years she married a kind man who was good to her sons and her. She had cancer but overcame that. Then her aged parents needed support, as her mother developed Alzheimer’s disease and her father, while mentally alert, had an increasingly frail body. She helped her parents move from their home to an apartment and later to several care facilities. She was always loving, respectful and kind to them. Then her husband developed Alzheimer’s. Her priority was to keep him at home and give him the best life possible. She organized outings and hosted dinners for friends, so that he would have stimulation and the best quality of life possible. She was always loving and kind to her husband and never complained about her lot in life. The most she would say would be an occasional reference to being tired. Then again she developed cancer. As her illness progressed, she didn’t want others fussing over her. When friends visited, she would ask us, “How are you? What’s new with you?” A month before she died she was able to move her husband to a care facility, so she knew he would be cared for well. Her attitude was always that one should look for the good, one should focus on the positive. What a contrast with the depressed man who could only focus on himself. When Maureen died, she left a big gap in the lives of many friends.
Each of us is a unique individual. We are the product of teaching and guidance from our parents, teachers and other elders and from our own life experience. Each of us is endowed with gifts and skills. Today’s gospel is a reminder to us that we are called to make the most of our gifts to live fully, as God would have us do.
Today I am supposed to talk to you about stewardship. A senior clergyman I knew once said to me, “I hate preaching on stewardship. The ones for whom the sermon is given always miss the point. It goes over their heads. It’s the elderly widow living on a pittance who thinks to herself, ‘Oh dear, may be I can give a little more.’”
Today’s church has challenges. Many of us are challenged financially by inflation. The church does require money to carry on its work in the community. Yet money isn’t everything. Those who are comfortable financially can afford to give more. Others may have limited finances. Yet stewardship is about more than money. Each of us, as I have said, has unique gifts. We can offer our gifts. If physical health limits mobility and energy, a person can offer prayers for the community, connect with others by phone, email or note. Each of us can make a difference. Even if we doubt ourselves, we are called to use those abilities and skills. Remember, the parable notes that the master “gave to each according to his ability.” The master gave more money to the two trustworthy servants because he recognized that they were more capable. He gave only one talent to the fearful servant, recognizing his limitations but still offering him the chance to achieve something. God never gives us more than we can manage. If we trust and move forward in faith, we may achieve far more than we imagine we can.
Be bold. Go forward in the light. Thanks to God who gives us such opportunities.