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  • pastoremily5

November 19, 2023

25th Sunday After Pentecost

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

Psalm 90:1-12

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:14-30


This week we are going to use our holy imaginations

to engage with our parable for the day.

Good parables bring up different questions each time we read them.

This time when reading the parable

the question that arose for me was:

what if there was a fourth slave in the parable?

Imagine with me if you will…


Jesus, is teaching,

telling parables about the coming of the day of the Lord,

he finishes up the story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids

and looks out at his disciples and says,

let’s try another one,

it’s like this:


A man going on a journey summoned his servants

and entrusted his property to them,

to one he gave the equivalent of 75 years’ wages,

to another he gave the equivalent of 30 years’ wages,

to one he gave the equivalent of 15 years’ wages,

and to the last he gave the equivalent of 7 years’ wages.

He gave to them each according to what he perceived their ability to be,

then he went away.


The first servant invested the money given to him

and managed to double it,

so did the second servant.


But the third servant who had received 15 years’ wages

went off and dug a hole in the ground

and hid his master’s money.


Now the fourth servant,

the one with 7 years’ wages,

having received the money from his master

turned to walk home.


on his way he met a local fisherman

surrounded on either side by Roman officials,

“friend, what is happening?” the fourth servant asked

“I am being arrested” the fisherman answered

“my boat sprung a leak and I’ve been unable to repair it,

and so I haven’t been able to go fishing,

and because I haven’t been able to go fishing,

I haven’t been able to pay my taxes

and so now I am being sent to debtor’s prison

until I pay off what I owe.”


the fourth servant,

feeling the weight of 7 years’ worth of wages in his satchel,

said to the Romans “what if I pay his taxes? Will you set him free?”

They agreed that that would be acceptable,

so the servant paid what the man owed

and the Romans released him.


then the servant thought,

‘this will only happen again if the boat isn’t fixed’,

so he gave the fisherman what he needed to fix his boat as well,

then continued along his way.


A little further along

the servant saw a crowd gathered,

and when he went to investigate

he found the local baker at the center of the commotion.


‘Friend, what is happening?”

the fourth servant asked

“the grain that I purchased to make the bread for today was bad” the baker replied

“and now I do not have enough money to replace it

with good grain to bake bread for the people to eat

and they are hungry and getting angry.”


Again the servant felt the weight of his satchel against his side

and said “if you could purchase more grain,

would you be able to feed all these people today?”

“yes” replied the baker,

“here” said the servant reaching into his satchel,

“go and purchase what you need,

and put a little aside in case this happens again,

then you will always be able to feed the people”

and he continued on his way.


In a similar manner

as the servant walked along

he met a farmer whose ox was sick,

and a mason whose tools had broken

and to each person who had a need

he gave out of his satchel

until his bag was almost empty.


Reaching the city gate

he met a man there begging because he had leprosy,

and without thinking he reached into his satchel,

pulled out the last of the coins

and gave them to the man.


After a long time the master returned

and called for his servants to settle their accounts.

The first two servants came,

showing that they had doubled the money entrusted to them.

“well done” the master praised them

“you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.”


Then the third servant 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; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” but his master replied “you wicked and lazy servant! You knew, did you, that I reap where I do not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have at least deposited the money with the bankers where the money could earn interest. So take this money and give it to the first servant and throw this servant out.”


After all this,

the fourth servant came forward

and said to the master

“after you gave us the money I was walking home

and I met a fisherman about to be arrested and sent to debtor’s prison,

so I paid his debt and gave him the money to fix his boat,


and then I met a crowd of hungry people

and a baker with no grain with which to bake bread for them,

so I gave him money for the grain,


and all along the way

I kept meeting people with problems that money could fix,

so I gave them money,

until I reached the gate

and gave the last of it to a man with leprosy who was begging.

So I have no money to return to you

but I trust that you are a gracious and generous man

and if you go out into the community

you will find that fisherman was able to repair his boat

and has now expanded his fishing business

and provides fish for the town,


and you will find the baker

is now able to provide bread enough to feed the community,

and the farmer has been able to grow the grain to make the bread,

and everyone to whom I gave your money is thriving,


even the man who was begging,

there was enough money for him to buy some ointment

which healed his leprosy,

and now he is working for the fisherman.


So while I have no money to return to you,

you do return to a healthier community thanks to your money.


And the master replied….




And that’s the big question isn’t it?

How would the master respond to the fourth servants’ use of his money?

We know he responded positively to the two who doubled their money,

and very negatively to the third

because he buried it in the ground out of fear,

when at the very least he could have put it in the bank

where it would earn interest.


Now if we believe this master is only concerned with making money,

it is easy to imagine him

having an even more negative reaction to the fourth servant,

and throwing him into the outer outer darkness.


But remember this is a parable about the coming of the day of the Lord,

a day which is unknown and in the future,

possibly a long time off,

Jesus is teaching to prepare his disciples

That he will leave them, at least physically for this time


But he will not leave them empty handed

he will leave them with the vast treasure of his good news,

and the question is: what are they going to do while they wait for his return?

Are they going to take a risk and put the vast treasure to work?

or are they going to hide it where it will be “safe” but it won’t do anyone any good?

I think we know which Jesus would prefer

So here is how I imagine that the parable with the fourth servant concludes:


After explaining what had happened the fourth servant concluded:

So I have no money to return to you

but I trust that you are a gracious and generous man

and if you go out into the community

you will find that fisherman was able to repair his boat

and has now expanded his fishing business

and provides fish for the town,


and you will find the baker

is now able to provide bread enough to feed the community,

and the farmer has been able to grow the grain to make the bread,

and everyone to whom I gave your money is thriving,

even the man who was begging,

there was enough money for him to buy some ointment

which healed his leprosy,

and now he is working for the fisherman.

So while I have no money to return to you,

you do return to a healthier community thanks to your money.


And the master replied:

“you creative and trusting servant,

you knew that I was a gracious and generous man did you?

While this isn’t what I was imagining that you’d do with my money,

I can see that your investments paid off in other ways.

You have been creative and trustworthy with a few things

I will put you in charge of many things.

Now, enter into the joy of your master.”


Amen


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