Enter into the Joy

Enter into the joy of your master.

I don’t know about you but if I hear someone say that there’s a door that I can walk through to find joy, I’m all ears.  And all I want to know at that point is: what’s the address and where is the door and how do I get to it? 

Because a lot of life – and especially these days — is mundane, and repetitive, and everyday there are tasks that just have to be done, but we also know there is delight and happiness, and there are moments when everything else dissolves and it feels like nothing but that wonderful moment exists.

There is joy.

And we want joy

and Jesus tells us in this parable from our text today that he wants joy for us too.

The story goes like this:

Once there was a master who entrusted three servants with a varying number of talents, (which, at the time, was a kind of money).  But specifically, a talent was a superabundant, exorbitant, lottery-payout- change-your-life kind of amount –

an amount that the peasants and day laborers first listening to this story couldn’t begin to imagine, and an amount that we can’t imagine someone just giving us. 

In today’s currency a talent would be about a million and half dollars.

So, to one person, this master gives 7.5 million dollars, to another 3 million dollars, and to another person a million and a half dollars. 

The master gives them total control of these huge sums of money. 

He risks his riches, and he’s not going to micromanage them. 

he simply gives them the money and let’s them do what they will with it, and then he goes away for a looong time. 

And when the master returns, he calls on his servants,

And the first, who had received 7.5 million dollars comes and presents the master with twice that, 15 million dollars!  

And the master opens the door and says, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, enter into the joy of your master.”

And the second servant comes and shows his returned master that he has doubled his money to 6 million dollars!

And the master again opens the door and says, “ enter into the joy of your master.”

But the third comes before the master who has returned and admits that he was afraid of losing what was given to him and tells the master that in his fear he dug a hole and buried the money in the ground.

The master had expected more of this servant;

had expected him to do something with it,

and so, the master takes the unused money from him and gives it to the first servant and casts the third servant out!

Now he has nothing.

Jesus story tells us about God’s grace and God’s judgment, and what we are to do with the time while we wait for the future kingdom of God to come with all its fullness, and I think there are a few specific things he intends to communicate to us:

First, God’s gifts to us are superabundant. God gives us all  we have as a free and gracious gift:

God gives us life, claims us in baptism, grants us faith, assists us with love, accompanies us in friendship, surrounds us with community, entrusts us with vocation, supports us with the gift of the word, directs our hope with his promises, and God’s forgiveness is without end and his mercy is exorbitant and lavish and extravagant.

And then I think Jesus also means to communicate that we cannot, not matter what, diminish the riches of God’s grace.

Even the talent that was unused by the third servant, and on first glance seems to have gone to waste, was dug up and given to the first servant and we have to assume is going to be put to good use, because given his track record, the first servant will make more with it.

So, God’s riches can’t be decreased or lost or eliminated.

And finally, I what I think is at the heart of it all is that Jesus asks us a question:

The question is this:

Will we put the riches God has given us to good use, and will we be a part of the joy that comes with using the master’s gifts?

The English word “talent” meaning ‘ability’ or ‘aptitude’ comes to us from this parable, and it makes it easy to understand that God has given us talents and gifts, and expects us to put them to use out in the world…

and when we use these gifts, we will experience the joy of Jesus, because we are working for his mission.

I remember being at a conference a few years ago where the presenter suggested a new thought to me at the time — we shouldn’t think about our weaknesses and how to make them stronger,

but think about the things we’re already good at, things that are already strengths in our life, and trust God has created us this way and work to develop things that are already gifts and aptitudes.

A really important part of each of our lives becomes getting in touch with what our gifts are

and listening to what others in our community tell us about our gifts,

and discerning the gifts we’ve been given as a congregation.

In my first call in Johnson City, TN, we had a member of the congregation who had been a professional concert pianist.  I mentioned to her that I had always wanted to learn the piano but I never had lessons and that in my 30s I thought it was too late.  She was so gracious and she offered to give me lessons as a gift and I so I took piano lessons from her and she was a wonderful teacher.

And sometime on Thursdays when I would drive to her house and we would sit at the keyboard together and she would say, with a pleased voice “You’ve been practicing!” 

Other Thursdays I would drive to her house with a sinking feeling and sure enough we would sit at the keyboard and she would raise an eyebrow at me and say, “Have you been practicing?”

God gives us gifts and talents and an important part of our discipleship is to practice them, to use our gifts for God.

Or, perhaps sometimes to do some discernment and realize that we’re practicing the wrong gift, and at least in my case, admit I’m not gifted at the piano,

but I’m better suited to pursue the guitar! 

Its messy, hard work.

Perhaps you could think about your life, what your gifts already are, what you are good at, what you have an aptitude for, and how you could use the gifts God has given you for the sake of the gospel.

Perhaps with your family this week (or with your friends) you could talk over supper (or over zoom!) about what gifts you see in each other…because it can be easier to see someone else’s gifts before we see our own.

Whatever our gifts, there is no reason to fear naming our gifts, putting them to use, and honing them for the ministry in service to Christ.

Because, in the parable, the third servant’s error was being afraid to use the gift. 

And the servant’s fear shows that, really, his error is that he did not know the master.

If he had known the master, he would have known that the master was able to give such exorbitant gifts because there is no end to his riches.

The master’s riches were so superabundant that he would have been okay if he had taken the risk and not had a return! 

The master could give more!  And more!  And more!  And more than we could imagine! 

What the master wanted was not for the servants to invest the money just so he would have more,

but for the servants to use the gifts, and to put them out into the world, and for the servants to trust that because the gifts came from the master, they would necessarily be successful to bring a return.

Our master, Jesus, gives to us superabundantly, and prepares JOY for us that comes from trusting him and following him in discipleship.

When we use the gifts God has given us we take part in the life of God.

And all we need to be faithful is already given to us as a community. 

Our strengths, all put together, cover our weaknesses.

Our youth group taught me that:

when we prayed, before this pandemic time, we would get in in a big circle and we would all lock fingers like this, and they told me that this reminds us that where one is weak, another is strong, and God gives all that is needed to our community. 

I think about this now when I pray and I look forward to the day when we can all lock fingers and pray in this way again.

Sometimes we are afraid to use the gifts God has given us.  We are afraid to risk using our money for the sake of the gospel. 

We are afraid to risk speaking up for the gospel. 

We are afraid to reach out in service to others who are different from us with the gospel.

Like the third servant, we have, at times, dug a hole and put the gift of God in the ground,

but thanks be to God, God’s gifts can’t stay buried.

Jesus, the true gift of God, was crucified and buried in a hole, but God dug him up, and sent him back into the world full of the power to multiply the life and the joy of God that exceeds our ability to number or count or fully comprehend.

And Jesus’ new creation and resurrection life are the power that fuels your gifts and your talents for the sake of a world in need.

We have sometimes been like that talent buried in the ground. 

Like the talent in the ground, we have sometimes been buried by the mundane, repetitive nature of life and lost the vision to be looking out for the coming kingdom.

Like the talent buried in the ground, we have sometimes hidden our gifts or been reluctant to risk ourselves.

Like the talent buried in the ground, we have been silent in our witness to God.

Our talent has sometimes been buried or gone unused, but in baptism God digs us up, cleans us off, washes us clean and sends us back out in the world, to risk and to multiply the riches of God’s extravagant grace.

God has claimed you and me in baptism and says, Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.

So let your light so shine – let your gifts so shine – let your talents so shine that all may hear and see that in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection God has blown the doors off the hinges and said to us all,

“Enter into the joy of your master.”

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