A TRIPLE-ESPRESSO FAITH
SCRIPTURE: I Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30
In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen!
I am not a coffee drinker. I have had two cups of coffee in my entire life, and both of them came under the same circumstance. In each case, I was on a weekend scout campout and practicing using a canoe on the Canadian River along the Texas-New Mexico state line. Those of us in my canoe turned it over. Our adult scout leaders gave us coffee to warm us up.
I do like the aroma of coffee as a can is opened or as coffee is being brewed. My parents drank coffee all the time. For many people coffee and conversation go together. So this morning, I have to admit that I am not all that familiar with what a latte, cappuccino, Frappuccino, doubleshot mocha, espresso, or regular coffee is all about. I have heard people say that these different types of coffee offerings pack a real punch, especially when you buy the large size.
There are scriptures which are warm and soft. There are others that are beautiful, soaring and imaginative. There are passages which give wonderful glimpses of the grand transcendence of God. Our two passages today aren’t in those groupings. Both of these passages are like strong coffee, they have punch. So I invite you to think with me about a “Triple-Espresso Faith”.
These two passages call us to accountability. Matthew tells Jesus’ parables in loosely organized clumps (that’s a technical literary term). There are parables of grace in chapters 18, 20, and 22. The Parable of the Talents is the middle of three judgement parables in chapter 25. A talent was originally a unit of weight, around 75 pounds.
It became, by Jesus time, a unit of silver coinage equal to 6,000 denarii. Since a denarius was an average subsistence wage for a day’s labor, the talent was worth more than 15 years wages. Jesus is peaking in hyperbole (exaggeration) here.
There are many ways to read a parable, but what is important is to let the parable read us. Matthew is telling these parables, especially the judgement parables, to indicate what the people are to do while they anticipate God’s kingdom. The Parable of the Talent’s is especially instructive to us. We could say these are instructions for us as we wait for other aspects of our life together.
There’s punch here like three shots of espresso.
The first shot is use it or lose it. Whether we are thinking of skills, abilities,
interests, or financial resources; if we don’t use what we have we will lose it. At least some of those to whom Jesus spoke were farmers. Their value system said if you bury it, will grow. That’s not necessarily true of silver coins though. The man who buried the talent given him discovered it didn’t grow. In fact it was taken from him. He lost it.
When Israel occupied the Sinai some years ago, police and army patrols uncovered more than 180 Mercedes-Benzes buried in the Sinai sand. It was believed Bedouin nomads were stealing the cars, burying them, and then planning to uncover them after Israel withdrew from the Sinai.
It was believed there were many other fine cars so hidden, but the problem was that shifting dunes and so landmarks made it impossible to locate buried objects even after a short time. The Parable of the Talents is a call to use what we have and not bury it. Use it, or lose it.
The Apostle Paul calls the Thessalonian church, and us, to accountability and action. He states the day of accountability, the “day of the Lord,” will come like a thief in the night. He calls his readers to be awake and sober and not drunk and asleep. We are to be using the talents we have for God’s work. T. S. Elliott speaks of “dreamers of the day.” As opposed to dreamers of the night, dreamers of the day are those who take action on their dreams.
Paul gets quite political. The phrase “peace and security” was a Roman government slogan putting a positive spin on their iron fist rule of intimidation and fear. Paul says when the government claims peace and security it is time for Christians to be accountable and act according to their faith in God. We are to “espresso” our faith.
It is clear from both the parable and Paul there is a risk involved in living the Christian faith. What if the person with one talent had invested and lost? What do you suppose Jesus would have said? Perhaps, “Take two from the one who has ten and give to this one because at least he used his talent.” What do you think? If we don’t use our talents we lose them. We are called to accountability and to act faithfully. When we use our talents we have punch.
The second shot of espresso in these passages is we have choices. In Jesus’ parable none of the three who received talents were told what to do. The choices were theirs. In Paul’s contrasting images between light and darkness, day and night, and soberness and drunkenness, he is saying we have choices to make.
The Church of the Resurrection United Methodist Church is in Kansas City. The church was founded twenty eight years ago and has grown from 90 members to over 16,000. The reason for the growth, was that in every quadrant of the church they have fully committed to being accessible, open and inviting to everyone in everything the church does. They have made a choice and everything they do is focused toward that choice: the style and placement of their buildings, the times of their services, the types of music, their offerings of education, and the thrust of their preaching. The Church of the Resurrection has stated the purpose of business is to make new customers. The United Methodist Church has stated our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world. The Church of the Resurrection makes every choice in that direction. It has certainly given them punch.
The third shot of espresso is you get out of life what you put into it. Life does not treat us all the same. Some of us are one talent people. Some of us have 75 talents or the equivalent of 75 years of income to invest. We all have something, but what will we do? We are called to accountability and action.
Some folks are experts in the game of “gotcha.” They don’t do much themselves, but they sit and wait for another to make a mistake. Then in self-righteous pomp they point out the other’s failings. Some others play “gotcha” on themselves. Yet others play too safe in relationships. They never invest themselves. They don’t take risks. They live in little boxes of peace and security.
Still others are always demanding perfection. They are never satisfied with those around them. They may also be those who are never satisfied with themselves. Jesus called us to be and do otherwise. He called us to take risks, to invest ourselves, implement the Kingdom of God. He called us to be a city on a hill, and to be light and salt.
Do you remember the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane? The disciples were sleeping, but Jesus was laboring in prayer. Jesus was being accountable and acting. On the very brink of his death, he was still giving himself to God.
With whatever you have, be it many talents or one, be it complex and sophisticated gifts or simple gifts, be it great wealth or modest means; we are called to a “triple espresso faith,” a faith of energy and action, a faith of giving and spiritual life. Live a triple espresso faith.
A man by the name of Bruce Johnson, a lay person from a large United Methodist Church in California is the founder of a mission project entitled, “Americans Helping Asian Children”. Annually he hosts a fund raising banquet to support his mission work. At one of his banquets he told a story of one of his volunteers eating breakfast at a sidewalk café in Vietnam. A small boy came by selling lottery tickets. Through an interpreter the volunteer learned the boy was supporting his family who lived in a rural village.
The boy lamented if he had a bicycle he could travel to better pats of the city and sell more lottery tickets. The volunteer inquired how much a bike cost. The answer was $15.00. To the interpreter he said, “Can you get one now?” In ten minutes time a bike was there, purchased by the volunteer, and given to the boy.
Mr. Johnson told this story at his banquet and $3,000 was given that night for bicycles. That’s triple espresso faith. In the love of Christ, let us live and give actively through the church to transform the world.
Thanks be to God.
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH