Rev. Nicole Lamarche
Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12; Matthew 25:14-30 and Start Close In by David Whyte from River Flow: New & Selected Poems, Many Rivers Press
Good morning and Happy Sunday, to you wherever you are and however you are experiencing our worship today. Thank you for being here and for showing up for yourself, for others and for the world we know is possible. As we come to this time in our gathering, where the invitation is to dive a bit deeper, to hear beyond the surface, I invite you to take a deep breath and let yourself arrive more fully.
And as you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19 verse 14)
In a time with little relief, a time of hardship and uncertainty, many of us are having trouble sleeping or having weird sleep patterns or having odd dreams or waking up in the middle of the night to worry or pray or sit in silence because that just might be the only way to hear that still small voice beyond the anxiety. I keep wondering if we know what was, shouldn’t be the new normal, what should be? What does God imagine for us right now? If God had her way, what would things look like after this? In the realm designed by the Creator of the Universe, how should things be set up beyond the moment we are in?
If I let myself, my worries can become a swirl of terror downward. The same with my fear. I awake with worry that moves to fear and the list is long: fear about what this is doing to our kids, fear about our democracy and this dangerous time in between, fear about what a warming earth will mean…
But I realized recently that part of what is underneath that fear and worry, for me at least, is anger. Anger that those with influence have squandered trust in institutions, anger that a love of power has been put before the common good, anger that lies continue to be subsidized since it is increasingly difficult to carry on as it is.
And while I think it is okay to let ourselves be angry and to scream and to cry, I am also learning myself, that what lifts me up, what actually gets me out of it, is doing something that builds the world we know is possible. It is important to feel our anger, but perhaps the shadow side is when we always project it beyond ourselves. It allows it to be about somebody else, it allows us to be disengaged, unless we channel it into action doing good and making things right.
And I believe that discipleship asks something of us, not just for others, and not just for Beloved Community, not just for God, but also for each of us. Because I have seen what happens to my own spirit and to that of others when we make a meal, or send a card, or make a point of reaching out... I have seen how caring for one another, sharing ourselves, our gifts, our skills, our resources to add love in the world, heals cracks out there, but also in here.
This might be obvious to you.
But I have learned that it isn’t to everyone. I believe we are designed to connect what we are good at and who we are, with what is needed in the world. Otherwise, we can become numb, sad, overcome with a sense of meaninglessness or purposelessness.
Perhaps you have already heard these wise words from Howard Thurman, who was an American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, civil rights leader and a prominent religious figure, who wrote, ”Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
What the world needs right now is people who have come alive!
In a time with little relief, a time of hardship and uncertainty, the people were gathering around Jesus to hear him respond to their questions: If this shouldn’t be the new normal, what should be? What does God imagine for us right now? If God had her way, what would things look like after this? In the realm designed by the Creator of the Universe, how should things be set up beyond the moment we are in? What is the kingdom of heaven like?
Here in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus tell this parable about three servants each given, what the more academic translation calls talents, which in the ancient world was one unit, equal to one year’s worth of labor. So here they are referring to a huge sum, 15 years worth of labor.
In the version you just heard, after having been gone for a while, a master returns to the three servants after having given them each that same huge sum of money. The first two are celebrated because they both doubled what they had been given. But the last one is chastised and shamed and thrown into the outer darkness, not because he lost his investment, but because the text says that out of fear, he just hid his talent in the ground.
It is striking that the worst thing is doing nothing- not failing or asking if they came by it honestly, but according to this, the thing to avoid at all costs, is hiding out of fear, burying our talents to avoid risk.
I don’t think it is an accident that Jesus tells this story right before we read of the plot to kill him. That comes in the next chapter. As if to say, focus on loving God and loving one another and loving yourself. And also don’t forget this other most important thing: what matters isn’t accumulating, or succeeding, what matters is living faithfully, claiming this life as our own with boldness, loving this one shot completely, daring to put who we are out there for the sake of the world we know God wants, because this is the life we have.
John Buchanan, a longtime Presbyterian minister wrote that with this story, Jesus is saying something like, “The greatest risk of all, it turns out, is not to risk anything, not to care deeply and profoundly enough about anything to invest deeply, to give your heart away and in the process, risk everything.”
”Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
And this truth shouldn’t paralyze us because we aren’t sure where to start. Just start.
As the poet David Whyte wrote, “Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
your own voice,
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
A group of us on the Nominating Commission have been hard at work hearing from you what your interests and skills are and how we can connect that to the work of the church and our ministry in the world. Our conversations have been inspiring as so many of you have said, “Yes I will serve!” On a recent phone call with our own A.K. about serving on the Spiritual Life Commission, he said, “You know what, I have been on the sidelines, I am ready to get back in!” He loves music and fly fishing and he is a brilliant story teller. Yes, the world needs more of this!
What does God imagine for us right now? We don’t need to know much, to start.
That allows us to take responsibility for our own place, our own power, our own role in co-creating.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian known for his ties to the conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime, which led to his execution in 1945, wrote that, “The sin of respectable people reveals itself in flight from responsibility.”
Discipleship asks something of us, not just for others, not just for Beloved Community, not just for God, but for us. According to Jesus, it is our responsibility not to succeed or to acquire, or to be a successful investor, but to avoid all costs, hiding our gifts, our hopes, ourselves, out of fear.
In a time with little relief, a time of hardship and uncertainty, don’t bury yourself because you think your presence, is too small. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”