The Second Sunday before Advent - Reflection

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; 
I will put you in charge of many things.’ Matthew 25:21

Brothers and sisters, Somebody reminded me the other day of a particularly dark chapter of my life which was when I reached the age of ‘employability’. I remember watching all my friends go off to university or start well-paying apprenticeships, going off to become teachers or doctors and there was I, 18 year old Jordan, with not a qualification in the world. However, eventually I was invited to an interview for an apprenticeship to do with accountancy, sponsored by British Airways in Luton. So I made the long journey down and camped out overnight, I went to the giant office block and followed a sign that said apprenticeships. I went in and I remember noting that these 30 or so other people didn’t look like the sort of people you’d think were on an accountancy interview. I was the only one in a shirt and tie for starters and then the people running the interview brought out a solid block of metal for each of us and opened the door to a huge workroom. They told us we had to take the metal and make it into a particular tool that they use on these planes. I sat down with my piece of metal, tried to put it in the big vice, immediately broke it. It must have looked pathetic as I tried to glue back together my metal block with a glue-stick, because even the mechanics interviewers didn’t laugh. They sort of sadly escorted me from the building. The problem had been that I hadn’t recognised the job that I’d been applying for. I hadn’t recognised the job that I had asked to be given to me.

Some people get to this text and misread it, that’s the reason it seems difficult and clunky or unfair. People misread it by doing either one of two things, they either; a. make it out that this is some sort of entrepreneurial philosophy – invest, invest, invest – which it isn’t, or they make it out like the word talents just means talents as in your abilities, try your best, and that’s not quite it either. The real point that Jesus is trying to make in this parable is this: You should recognise the job that you’ve been given. The point of this parable is not ‘invest, invest, invest.’ The point of this parable is that one of the three people who were given the money, didn’t recognise the job he had to do. He saw the investment, got scared and hid it underground. He thought that the investment was a deposit, he didn’t realise his job was to grow and expand the wealth, he thought his job was to hide it and make sure no one could get near it. He hadn’t recognised the job. People make out that this parable is about him not appreciating the money he’d been given, but actually he totally did do that, which is why a lot of us feel sorry for the guy in the story, because we don’t understand. The guy understood that he’d been given lots of money, he just didn’t understand his job with it. He thought his job was to hide it, but his job was to grow it. So now, why do you think Jesus would be telling this parable to the people of Israel?Because they hadn’t understood their job, either! God had given them this amazing gift, the gift of the law and the way to follow him, he had told them about how to live and told them to be a light to the nations through Isaiah. Yet, despite this, they hadn’t understood their job. They had hidden that gift away, made it so only the holiest, richest Jewish people could get to God. Instead of sharing God with the world, they’d hidden him away.

Let me retell this parable in a modern setting and turn away from money because I think we confuse things in our culture sometimes when we think of money. Let’s hear this parable told in another way: “There were three parents at a high school who were all asked to coach a football team. The first one was put in charge of the A-team. She got there every Saturday, worked the kids hard, she pushed them on the small tactics, got them working together as a team and they went on to win the local championship. The second parent was in charge of the B team. In the same way, this parent got them up and practicing constantly, they also did their best ever performance in the league. But the third parent, who was in charge of the C team, never bothered turning up. He didn’t think there was any point in practicing so instead he never bothered signing them up to any matches. When the head teacher found out, of course she took the kids of the guy with the C team and gave them to the other parents.”

This isn’t a parable about how we need to always be getting good results, it isn’t trying to say invest and you’ll always do well. It’s trying to say that some of the listeners hadn’t realised what their job was. It was their job to go out there and share God with the world, just like it was that servants job to invest, or that parent’s job to coach. So, what was God going to do to those people who hadn’t realised they were meant to be sharing God with the world? Well what would you do? He’s going to take it off them and give it to the people who will work to show his love to everyone. He’s going to give the job to the early Christians; to the people who know it’s their job. 

But what about us, today? You see, we make Christianity about so many other things. We can be just as bad as they were. We do the exact same things. We think that it’s our job to protect and hold on, to gate-keep, to bury God’s gift and maintain it. We forget that our whole job as Christians is to share the love of God with others. It’s our job to go out, to go and tell others, to grow God’s Kingdom. It’s not our job to steward God’s kingdom into the ground. It’s our job to tell others. Recognise the job that you have been given. Now, that may mean going out and telling people about Jesus directly, it may be inviting them to something. I may mean just going out and serving others in the community, caring for the poor or homeless by volunteering for foodbanks or other things, growing God’s kingdom in that way. But what matters is that we know that it is our job to tell others about God. Amen (from Fr Jordan).