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|March 24, 2010 -- Lenten Week 5 Vespers
-- Service Guide
But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed. . .”
This evening we consider the fifth of our Lenten penitential meditations based on parables of our Lord. Our focus with each of these parables has sought to identify a common sin that attaches our sinful condition that can become an obstacle thwarting us from appreciating the passion of our Lord and the benefits He will work there for us and our salvation. This evening we would consider the universal symptoms of your fallen condition - the sin of slothfulness - that is, the sin of blowing off our responsibilities because we think them as unimportant or inconsequential. The parable of the talents is interesting and perhaps a little disturbing in that Jesus singles out the person with the least resources to be invested in the master’s service as particularly prone to blow off his responsibility to use what he has diligently. How might this be so . . .even with us at times? When we encounter situations where we evaluate our resources in connection with the desired results. and believe as they say, we haven’t a ghost of a chance to accomplish the desired outcome we are seeking - we may say . . . forget it! Blow it off! And we either go through the motions half-heartedly or just, walk away. This is the sin of slothfulness . . . the failure to be good stewards of the time, talents and creativity that God has given to us, to be invested in the interest of our neighbor’s welfare - serving Christ through the neighbor’s need.
There are two kinds of mistakes we can make about our talents and labors where God has placed us to serve our neighbors. One, we can think that we have such superior and abundant gifts and talents that we are able to produce the good results ourselves simply by our own doing and power. Praise to me from whom these blessings flow! . . . . This is the sin of idolatry, believing in one’s own potency and taking credit for the good results that only God can produce. As we have understood from previous discussions, God has give us responsibilities and potencies to do as he has faithfully commanded in our service to our neighbors . . . but He is the One who will get the good results from our labors - when, where, and as He chooses. Our love of God and neighbor is actualized by motives and behaviors as God commands us in our tasks and duties where we live, work, and play. But God is God because He loves consequentially . . . He loves in and through all things, even evil and fallen behaviors and efforts, to work all things, to accomplish all ends according to his desires and will. We are to do . . . He achieves the good results. Our labors are indeed instrumental, but honorific. He does not need us. He can reap where we have not sown . . .indeed where no one as sown. And he can gather where not one has scattered seed. No grapes needed to be gathered, no seed needed to be scattered in order for our Lord to have delivered the best of wine at the Marriage Feast at Cana.
Nevertheless, even though God does not need our labors to produce any of what He desires for our neighbor . . . it is his pleasure to work through our labors, whether we see them as great or small, important or unimportant. And it is when we see them as small and unimportant that we can be tempted to become slothful . . . to blow off our responsibilities by having deemed them inconsequential or perhaps even futile. As we turn our attention beginning Sunday to the events of Holy Week with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem . . .can you imagine how Jesus may have been tempted to consider his teaching of the crowds as a lost cause? Or perhaps can you imagine Jesus throwing in the towel teaching of his disciples - considering them a lost cause; knowing of the betrayal of Judas, the disloyalty of Peter, and the abandonment of all the others in the midst of his passion before the hostile courts and angry mobs. . . and of course, knowing that He is going to get killed in the end.
To walk with Jesus the road of the cross is to understand that Jesus is not only the champion of the powerless, but He is also the Savior of both: the one who, being so very talented, is tempted all the time to see himself as the powerful one who is the paragon of one success story after another. . . . And the one who is angry and resentful of those more talented and blows off his responsibilities and good stewardship of what he has . . .or she has . . . precisely because of being confident of not being able to produce any good results . . .which of course only come from God. The sin of slothfulness is the sin of feeling resentful about not seeing any real correlation between one’s talents and significant results. It is the sin of refusing to value, as God values, your faithful labors and duties as God has given them to you with the time and talents to perform them responsibly to the best of your ability whatever level that might be.
But in some ways, it is the one-talent people who may be closest to the Kingdom of God as they reflect on their poverty. When it comes to the weightier matters of our spiritual responsibilities - ordering all our loves and labors around a fear, love and trust in God - self-realized spiritual poverty may lead, with God’s nurture, to a very healthy regret and repentance. And this may lead to a desire to enter Holy Week with Jesus, resigned to do nothing but just spectate all that God will accomplish for us and our salvation. By using using the talents and energies of evil men and the forces of Hell to accomplish our redemption and victory over all our frailties and lack of godliness, all of us may enjoy and wonder again at how God’s abundance has used the poverty of many to grant us salvation.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. A-men.