Sunday, 15 November 2020

Using the talents and gifts
God has entrusted us with
to the fullest of our ability

‘Loadsamoney’ was a catchphrase of comedian Harry Enfield … but is a load of money worth stashing away? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 15 November 2020

The Second Sunday before Advent

The Readings: Judges 4: 1-7; Psalm 123; I Thessalonians 5: 1-11; Matthew 25: 14-30.

There is a link to the Readings HERE.

Talents and drachmai … old coins outside an antique shop in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The catchphrase ‘Loadsamoney’ and the character to go with it were part of the comedy sketches created by the English comedian Harry Enfield on Channel 4 in the 1980s.

‘Loadsamoney’ was an obnoxious Cockney plasterer who constantly boasted about how much money he had to throw away. The character took on a life of his own and adapted the song ‘Money, Money,’ from the musical Cabaret, for a hit single in 1988 and a sell-out live tour.

That year, the Labour leader, Neil Kinnock used the catchphrase to criticise the policies of the Conservative government of the day and journalists began to refer to the ‘loadsamoney mentality’ and the ‘loadsamoney economy.’

On the other hand, we all know people who are reluctant to flash their cash and who would prefer to stash their cash. We have all heard of people who kept their savings in a mattress, thinking it was safer there than in the bank.

They may never have realised how right they might have been about the banks. But leaving your money under the mattress is not going to put it to work. And, these days, putting my money on deposit in the bank may cost me money rather than earning it. With low deposit rates and taxation at source, you may end up collecting less than you had when you first opened that savings account.

But piling up your money has its risks too. At a time of rapid inflation in war-time Greece and Germany, people who saved their money as banknotes found it quickly depreciated in value. I have enough 5 million drachmai notes to make two sons multi-millionaires. Sad to say, those notes date from the 1940s and the only value they have today is mere curiosity value.

Saving them in the bank, or piling them up under the mattress would have earned nothing for their original owners.

And yet, I am aware this morning of how many people in this parish are now feeling the financial pinch because of the fall-out from the pandemic. Shops and businesses have closed, household incomes have gone down, economic activity is in freefall.

Yet the cost of living remains the same … and people in this parish have been more than generous in continuing to pay into the parish finances to keep parish life going, even when parish life is shrinking, without expecting a thank you.

Your continuing commitment is an expression of your faith and your values. Thank you.

The parable we are looking at this morning is set in the realm of finance. Before leaving on a journey, a master entrusts his servants (that word deacon again) with his money, each according to his ability.

A talent (τάλαντον, tálanton) was a lot of money – enough to make any one of those slaves a millionaire, and enough to make them fret and worry about the enormity with which he had been entrusted.

One source says a talent was the equivalent of more than 15 years’ wages for a labourer. Another suggests a talent was worth the equivalent of 7,300 denarii. With one denarius equal to a day’s pay, a talent would work out at more than 26 years’ wages. So a talent was extremely valuable, and the slave who was given five talents was given 85 to 130 years’ wages, vastly more than he could ever imagine earning in lifetime.

Earlier in this Gospel, we have come across another parable of talents, when a servant who is forgiven a debt of 10,000 talents refuses to forgive another servant who owes him only 100 denarii (Matthew 18: 23-35).

Two servants invest the money they have been entrusted with and earn more, but the third simply buries it.

When the master returns, he praises the investors. He says they will be made responsible for many things, and will enter into the joy of their master.

But the third slave, admitting that he was afraid of his master’s wrath, simply returns the original sum. The master chastises him for his wickedness and laziness. He loses not only what he has been given but is also condemned to outer darkness.

What would have happened to the two investors who took risks with vast sums of money had they lost everything?

There was an old maxim that you ‘must speculate to accumulate.’ But every investor knows there are risks, and the greater the risk the higher the interest rates that are promised.

What if they had overstepped their master’s expectations in the risks they had taken?

What if this bondholder had been burned because of the folly of two of his risk-takers, and only one had been a careful steward? After all, there is a rabbinical maxim that commends burying money to protect it.

If this parable is about the kingdom of heaven, if the master stands for God and the servants for different kinds of people, what lesson does it teach us?

Does God reward us for our works but behave like a stern judge when we keep faith without taking risks?

Will we be judged by our work?

Will failure to use what God gives us result in punishment and our separation from God?

Of course, we cannot imagine that the two slaves who traded with their talents and produced a profit were engaged in reckless trading and speculation, still less in reckless gambling.

What was the third slave doing with his time after he buried his talent? Was he doing any other work on behalf of the master? Is he chided for his refusal to invest or speculate, or for his refusal to work, his laziness?

In this, did he show disdain for his master?

Is your relationship with God one of trust and gratitude? Or do you fear God to the point of thinking of God as the source of injustice?

What talents and gifts has God entrusted you with?

Are they yours? Or are they God’s?

Are you using or investing them to your fullest ability?

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Is the parable less about talents and money and more about those who are exploited in the world by others and who are left destitute? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 25: 14-30 (NRSVA):

14 [Jesus said:] ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.’

‘To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability’ (Matthew 25: 15) … old coins in a table top in the bar at the Hedgehog Vintage Inn in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green (Year A, Ordinary Time)

The Collect of the Day:

Heavenly Father,
whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
Grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory,
we may be made like him
in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Gracious Lord,
in this holy sacrament you give substance to our hope.
Bring us at the last to that pure life for which we long,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Hymns:

466, Angel voices, ever singing (CD 27)
527, Son of God, eternal Saviour (CD 30)

‘For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night’ (I Thessalonians 5: 7) … at night on the streets of Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This sermon was prepared for use in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, on Sunday 15 November 2020, but was part of a celebration of the Eucharist in the Rectory.

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.



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