First Lesson: Judges 4: 1-7
Responsive Reading: Psalm 123
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 25: 14-30
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
In 1996, a movie called Tin Cup was released. Tin Cup tells the story of Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy a West Texas driving range Golf pro. Tin Cup had all the golfing ability in the world, yet he could never bring it all together. Tin Cup tried to qualify for the Pro Tour a number of years before, but he fell apart in the end after trying to hit some foolishly risky shots. Tin Cup grows bitter over the years as he watches his biggest rival as a youth rise to the top of Tour by always playing the percentages like a good golfer should do. Tin Cup believes his failure to achieve greatness has nothing to do with himself, but only external forces so as a way to prove this he sets out to the win the US Open. Tin Cup is playing the Golf of his life during US Open week.
There was only one problem the 18th hole; a par-five with a sloped green that trickled balls into the lake that guarded the front of the green. Golfers who played the percentages would lay up, not Tin Cup. He handed landed in the water the previous three days of the tournament. Now Tin Cup comes to the 72nd hole tied for the lead. Tin Cup believes that the previous three days had been a fluke; he believes that he is capable of hitting the most difficult of shots to win the tournament. Final round on the last hole, Tin Cup hits a beautiful ball that looks like it is going to be the shot of a golfer’s dreams. This would be the type of shot that would make Tin Cup’s rags to riches turnaround complete by winning the US Open. The only problem was a slight gust of wind began to blow at the last second causing the ball to roll off the green and down into the water. A different golfer would have taken a drop and played the percentages believing they still had a chance to win, but not Tin Cup.
Tin Cup was going to hit the same shot again from the exact same spot until he got it right. 4th shot, 6th shot, 8th, 10th shot all end up splashing into the water. Tin Cup had been blinded to reality in the emotions of the moment as he was throwing away tens of thousands of dollars with every ball that went into the water. Tin Cup gets down to the final ball in his bag, if he hits one more shot into the water, Tin Cup is disqualified and out thousands of dollars. Tin Cup being as stubborn as ever believes that he is going to get his shot finally right. So being a movie, you can guess what happens next the 12th shot goes into the hole as the crowd goes wild. Tin Cup after the fact realizes that he just blew perhaps the greatest opportunity in his life in spectacular fashion.
What consoles him is that someone points out to him that “No one in five years will remember the winner of this tournament, but people will always remember your “12”. The story of Tin Cup reminds us that the line between success and failure is often very different than we imagine it to be.
Today’s Gospel lesson comes to us from Matthew the 25th Chapter. It’s the second of three parables of judgment from Holy Week. Last week’s parable in the Parable of the Ten Virgins dealt with being ready for the Bride Groom’s arrival at an unexpected hour.
This week’s parable has to do with how one should spend their time while waiting for the Second Coming of Christ. The reason for this parable is the earliest Christians to who Matthew wrote often believed that The End was just around the corner, so, therefore, engaging with the wider world around them wasn’t a priority.
As Jesus tells Today’s parable he reminds people in verse 19 that the Second Coming might not come for a long time, so here is some direction for the short-term.
To illustrate the meaning of the Parable of the Talents, let me begin by providing a brief overview of the story. There will be a Lord/Master going away on a journey (hence it beginnings with a reference to its context being between Christ’s death and Second Coming). On this journey, the man entrusts to three servants his property to take care off and watch over (This would be a reference to the Era of the Church).
One of these three men received five talents, another man received two talents, and the other man received one talent. A talent was the equivalent of three years of a laborer’s wages. Even the man who received one talent would have been given the equivalent of one hundred thousand dollars plus in today’s financial terms to invest.
As people hear the detail of the differing amounts of money given to the three servants, they might wonder why one man receives five times as many talents. I think this detail matters very little to the overall story. In fact, when the first two servants eventually double their initial investments, the Lord gives them precisely the same words of thanks “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
So finally out comes the third servant to whom the Master gave only one talent. The third servant approaches the Master with all sorts of excuses for why he didn’t do anything with his one talent. He expresses his fear of the Master’s judgment so therefore he did nothing but bury his one talent into the ground. The Master is disgusted by his inaction so therefore he banishes him from his presence.
It seems the one problem with the conservative investor had nothing to do with his lack of profits, but rather everything to do with how he saw God. The Master was not as unreasonable as it might seem. The Master merely wonder why Mr. One Talent was so afraid of risk that he didn’t invest his money with bankers at low-risk rather than bury it into the ground.
The big problem is Mr. One Talent couldn’t understand the nature or the character of the Land Owner. The Land Owner wanted to be gracious, yet Mr. One Talent couldn’t shake the image of an ungracious Lord from his head. “I knew you to be a hard man.” The Man with One Talent couldn’t quite understand the nature of his Lord would soon be made known upon the Cross.
Last Sunday after church, I traveled to McGrath, Minnesota between McGregor and Mora on Highway 65, a friend of mine named Elliott was moving to a new call in Southeast Minnesota. Elliott’s last day is today, so Elliott will give his last sermon on this parable. McGrath faces the same challenges as plenty of other rural churches: population is declining, membership is again, and it’s becoming a struggle increasingly to keep doors open. People in McGrath or Silver Bay or anywhere could grieve plenty of things about seemingly having one talent before them, when others have two or even five talents. The problem with just mourning your current situation is that it gets you nowhere. We sometimes fail to consider that we can do just as much good for God’s Kingdom with one talent as with five.
Our parable for today doesn’t deal with the profits of the investors, but rather their faithfulness to God’s process. It seems the key question to reflect upon is the following “what if the first two investors had failed spectacularly?”
What if the first two servants had lost everything that the Master gave to them? Would the master’s response to them have been different? So is this parable concerned with process or results? I would say that the money earned has very little to do with the Parable’s meaning. What the first two servants could grasp is that their Master would take them in, even if they failed. How the worst thing in life is not losing, but rather being afraid to win.
Today’s parable has to deal with the risks that we take and the risks that we ultimately fail to take. Tim Zingale tells the following story. There once was a housing developer in Oklahoma who thought of a new feature for his homes. For an extra $2,500, new buyers would be offered the chance to purchase a tornado-safe room within these new homes. As you can imagine, people were extremely fearful of pending tornados, so he sold ten homes and nine wanted the tornado proof room.
The tenth couple thought of things just a bit different. The tenth couple decided that they would rather spend $2,500 hundred dollars on a hot tub than invest in a tornado proof room. Now you probably have an image in your head of the couple who wanted the hot tub. You probably picture them as young, reckless, and foolish. You would be wrong in this assumption; the couple who wanted the hot tub was well into their seventies. This couple figured they would rather embrace risk than safety when it came to planning every day for the rest of their life.
Perhaps this couple understood the meaning of grace that it everything went horribly wrong, they would still have a God forgiving and embracing them in the midst of their mistakes.
One of Martin Luther’s most famous works On the Freedom of a Christian this was Luther’s treatise on the Christian’s life. Everything you want to know about Christian living from Luther’s perspective takes place within in its pages. What Luther wrote about is that Christian living is not following a series of rules or regulations trying to appease the taskmaster God that the man with one talent feared. The Christian life instead centers on the reality that God is gracious that God is risky in taking sinners into his presence. The Christian life is defined by not a straight line for all to follow, but a series of callings that invite and embrace risk.
In the words of French Theologian Pierre De Chardin, “God obviously has no need of the products of your busy activity since he could give himself everything without you”. So we are not called to risk for the sake of our salvation, we are rather called to risk to build up the Kingdom of God around us.
What does this odd story have to do with our future as a community of faith? Quite a bit actually, it’s a parable that draws upon what type of Church, God wants us to be. It serves as a reminder that we are not supposed to try to copy another Church as a way of emulating its success. Sychar Lutheran Church rather has its unique calling to the broader community and world. The point of our parable is to find own unique ways to bring our talents forth to every person we shall encounter. Like Tin Cup on the 72nd hole, this involves a whole lot of risk.
My Dad’s best friend in College has a daughter named Allison. Allison went to Concordia where she sang in the Concert Choir, she then went to the University of Minnesota where she earned a Masters in Vocal Performance. Allison is a wonderful singer. Allison set out with the dream of trying to make it as a singer. This is a hard nut to crack. She’s had to spend time waiting tables, when it was far from anything close to her dream. Plenty of people could easily tell her that the time, effort, and energy isn’t worth it. The chance to fail is too high, these people might be right on some level. They will inevitability sound like the Man with One Talent only thinking in terms of potential consequences.
The type of people needed to build the Kingdom of God are risk-takers, the Tin Cups, those who dream big, those who throw caution to the wind. The type of people who invite others to church realizing that nothing ventured ultimately leads to nothing gained. The Parable of the Talents is not a tale about money. The parable is rather a tale about our unique callings, gifts, and abilities being used to reach the world. It’s a parable about how these callings might inevitability bring failure and disappointment. This is OK! Because we have a God who forgives failure! This is the Parable of the Talents. Amen!
 Matthew 25:21, 23
 Matthew 25:30
 Matthew 25:27
 Matthew 25:24
 The best commentary on this passage that I found comes from Mockingbird over at mbird.com in a post entitled “Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty-Five Verses Fourteen through Thirty”. This was published on July 7th, 2014.
 Mockingbird. “Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty-Five Verses Fourteen through Thirty”.
 Zingale, Tim. “Risk?”. Sermon Central.com. November 2005. Web. 10. Nov.2014.
 Zingale, Tim. “Risk?”
 This quote comes from a sermon written by Father Charless Hoffracker entitled “Trust, Not Fear” that is published on Lectionary.com and linked to by Text Week.