Sermon for Pentecost 24

Year A – November 15, 2020

Matthew 25:14-30

We have the opportunity to transform the world with the power of love — if we would but take the chance. 

The parable Jesus presents in today’s gospel involves incredibly large sums of money. Does this mean Jesus intended His words to be a mere lesson on money management? Or, as so often happens with parables (and many other things Jesus says and does), is there something more — something which resonates with our faith today?

In this parable, a wealthy man goes on a long journey. Before he takes that journey, he entrusts several slaves with large amounts of money. Though the measure of money — five and two talents, respectively — doesn’t sound like much, it was a very significant sum, especially for ordinary folk like slaves.

A few months ago, we heard a story which incorporated an ancient Roman coin known as a denarius. The denarius was the typical wage given day laborers at dusk. One talent was worth about six thousand denarius — almost eighteen years’ worth of a day laborer’s wage. This meant that the two slaves who received five talents each were both entrusted with ninety year’s worth of income — more than a lifetime’s worth of wealth today, and several lifetimes in Jesus’ day.

To better understand just how much money was involved, it may help to compare it to several professions known to our context. Nurses, teachers and clergy are, on average, a part of the middle class, each making an annual salary from the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties. Remember that five talents was equivalent to ninety year’s worth of income in the ancient world. Ninety year’s worth of income for a typical middle class worker today would be around five or six million dollars.

Future dollars
Dollar coins awaiting imprint at the U.S. Mint. Published on by Daniel Terdiman.

To our ears, it sounds strange that the master would trust such a large amount of money to a lowly slave. In the ancient world, it was not uncommon. Nor was it uncommon for folks to bury money and other treasure in order to protect it. Brick-and-mortar banks have only been in existence for a few hundred years. Not only may this have been their safest option, it may have been the only option available to protect their assets.

What would you do if you were in the slave’s position? Regardless of the master’s temperament, burying the money sounds like the safest option to me. Taking the master’s tendency to ill temper into account, the chance the first two slaves took with the five talents given them sounds quite risky.

So, what message should we take from this parable of talents, this parable about money, two thousand years after Jesus first spoke them? Is there any meaning to His words for our context?

I wonder how the meaning of this parable would change if we were to read it as a metaphor for the risk of love rather than one about money. We’ve been given all the love in the world by the Divine Hand. That love began in the creation, when at the end of each and every day, God noted, “it is good.” It is good…it is good. It is all good, and holy. That love determinedly continued through the sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus, and through the voices of the prophets. That love persisted in the life of Jesus, who came to call us to a better way of life, to bring us closer to God and neighbor. When He paid the price for making that call, His love opened the way not only to a life love on earth but to an eternal one in the light and love of God.

We’ve been given all the love of the world, if we would but accept it. Once we do, what will we do with it? Will we hoard that love for ourselves, or will we risk the pain of rejection to generously share it with our neighbors, perhaps even with the world?

We have the opportunity to transform the world with the power of love — if we would but take the chance.

Rector’s Report – January, 2016

Your Vestry and Program Council have accomplished much over the last year including implementing a new church database system to replace our old one which was not user friendly. Hopefully all of you have logged into our new CCB (Church Community Builder) software and updated your profile and even added a picture. It is not any more difficult to navigate than Facebook and group leaders can use the system to communicate with their group members and schedule events on the calendar. Eventually the system will also assist us in walking through regular processes in the church like follow up with new members, getting Eucharist to the sick, signing up for picnics, helping with hospitality events and taking food to those who have suffered a loss among other things.
One item that we have left to accomplish in 2016 is completion of a capital campaign. As most of you know, the building we worship in is not paid for and our Building Fund, which has been the source of our mortgage payments, is being quickly depleted. Reducing this debt will give us the ability to use existing funds to do some much needed maintenance around the church and Academy rather than letting things go until they become an emergency. In particular, we are in need of new windows in our old building and the church and Academy parking lots are in need of repair and restriping. Our lack of capital replacement funds is an area that needs to be dealt with and a successful capital campaign can free up funds in other areas to allow some of this work to be done. Stay tuned for more information and please make every effort to work with the folks who will be calling to tell you about the program and invite you to participate.
Our Holy Cross Ministry Program and Holy Cross International Ministry Program are thriving as we move into our third year of working with these important partners. Our connection with organizations like Safe Harbor, Habitat for Humanity, Little Steps, Upstate Warrior Solutions, Synergy Garden, Kairos Outside and all the others give us all an opportunity to put feet and hands to the work of faith in Christ. Our Pumpkin Patch ministry has once again allowed us to be strong financial supporters while Dan Donboch, our volunteer coordinator has seen to it that we hear from one of these partners on a regular basis. Another piece of good news is that it appears we will be building this year’s Habitat house right here in Simpsonville. Steve Donboch has agreed to be our coordinator of the Habitat work.
Finally, thank you all for your prayers and support over this past year. Sharon Putman has been a great Senior Warden, Mike Nichols works hard to oversee maintenance with the assistance of Tom Jones. I also want to thank Lynda Clark for her work on revamping our website. Anne Smith has overseen the work of Program Council, Brown Garrett, Johnna Reed, Tobby Fields and Jim Webb (Stewardship Chair!!)  have given countless hours of their time, please thank them. All the members of Program Council – Tom Jones, Kathy Cobb, Marcia Jones, Brian Beal, Dan Donboch, Heather Devine, Roseann Medaglia, Monica Rodriguez, Nancy Mathews (receptions!!!) and Marc Gonzalez are to be applauded for their efforts. Also Anne Brown, our altar guild directress has had to step down due to knee surgery. Anne has served for more years than I can tell you (I’m sure she can tell you!). Kathy Cobb has agreed to be her replacement until further notice. Worship cannot happen without these dedicated servants – thank you Anne for your years of checking on everything!
And finally please thank my staff members who keep this place running so smoothly. The Rev. Linda Gosnell, the Rev. Fred Gonzalez, the Rev. Susan Hardaway, Jennifer Hellams, Fran Styron, Leslie Donahue, Shelley Allen and her team, Walter Hundt, Joyce Ann Gunter, Weston Taylor, Lynn Causey and our unpaid staff member, John Ackerman, whose skills as a treasurer have kept us in a good place financially. These folks are worth so much more to this community than what we pay them, and all can say is “Thank You!” for your service and dedication.
This is an amazing place to work and worship and it is so because of the work of so many; not only those mentioned above but all the folks who do their part to make DOK, Primetimers, the altar guild, our life groups, covenant groups and all the other ministries that make up Holy Cross Episcopal Church. We are blessed to have such a variety of ministries and Christ-followers who are dedicated to love and service in Jesus’ name.