In the name of God who creates us, in the name of God’s son who redeems us, in the name of
God’s Holy Spirit who empowers us. Amen.
Along time ago, a little girl was given a beautiful doll by her grandmother. The doll had blond
curly hair, eyes that opened and closed, and the cutest clothes the little girl had ever seen. She
loved to play with her doll. She dressed her tenderly and carefully combed her shiny hair. Being
a smart little girl, when friends came over to play, the little girl hid her doll in the back of the
closet behind the laundry hamper so that beautiful doll could stay perfect. As time went by, the
little girl’s friends didn’t want to come over to play, they said the little girl was selfish and soon,
the little girl was left alone, with her perfect doll, but no friends.
Of course, that little girl was me, and when friends came over I did hide my beautiful Patsy as
far back in my closet as I could. I was afraid they would rip her clothes or mess up her hair. Sixty
years later, I realize my fear affected my relationships. My life was diminished by my fear and
ruled by a sad notion of scarcity.
When I read today’s gospel and the commentaries about it, I kept coming back to the same
thing. Fear keeps us from enjoying life in God’s kingdom, and it’s our fear of scarcity that God
Assuming that the master in today’s parable is God, many listeners have questions. Does God
prefer and reward the rich or punish the one who is cautious?
I suppose we could get that interpretation when the master says well done good and
trustworthy servant you’ve doubles my wealth so come into the joy of your master. Most of us
would think God the master would at least have pity on the slave who though who thought he
was doing his best for an unpredictable tyrant. But Jesus ends his story by saying “For to all who
have, more will be given, and they will have in abundance; but from those who have nothing,
even what they have will be taken away.”
Now we’re really scratching our heads, how can those who have nothing still have more to be
taken away, and somehow it doesn’t quite sound right to think of God as a cruel tyrant.
Jesus tells this parable in chapter 24 of Matthew’s gospel. It’s a parable preceded by some
pretty grim stories of life ending earthquakes, darkened suns and unlit moons and lawlessness.
Jesus says watch even the fig tree for signs that will alert us to the end of time and the coming
of the Son of man. Jesus clearly thinks his listeners aren’t getting the seriousness of his
message, so he tells the story of the nervous brides maids, followed by today’s story of the
Jesus has been trying in every way he can to alert his listeners to wat is going to happen when
the eschaton, or the end comes and God will simply clean things up and the kingdom of God
can be ushered in.
People being people get stuck on not having enough. Last week the bridesmaids didn’t have
enough oil, this week the cautions servant is so afraid he will lose his master’s talent that he
hides it in the ground, where surely it will be safe even if it can double in value or be shared for
How many stories have we read in the past few weeks where people terrified of a collapse of
the economic system have pulled their money out of the bank and have literally hidden it in
I must admit, in today’s environment I’m liable to be reading the gospel while keeping an eye
on the ticker tape. But deep down the word I hear about God… God is a God of abundance and
it’s my fearful heart that is focused on potential scarcity. With this parable, I believe God is
reminding us that we don’t, in fact never have lived in a world of scarcity and we do not ever
have to operate out of fear.
We have so much evidence to trust God’s abundance. Walter Brueggermann is professor
emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia. He says in an article
entitled The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity that the “Bible starts out with a liturgy
of abundance. Genesis I is a song of praise for God's generosity. It tells how well the world is
ordered. We hear over and over, "It is good, it is good, it is good, it is very good." It declares
that God blesses -- that is, endows with vitality -- the plants and the animals and the fish and
the birds and humankind. And it pictures the creator as saying, "Be fruitful and multiply." In an
orgy of fruitfulness, everything in its kind is to multiply the overflowing goodness that pours
from God's creator spirit.”
When the Jews leave Egypt they are terrified, perhaps they should return to the cruel system
they knew rather than take a chance on a life giving future in a new place. God hears and
answers the people's fears and complaints in an s extraordinary way. God's love comes trickling
down in the form of bread. They say, "Manhue?" -- Hebrew for "What is it?" …and the word
"manna" is born. The Jews had never received bread as a free gift, and this was food that they
couldn't control, predict, plan for or own. The meaning of this strange narrative is that the gifts
of life are given by a generous God and they are given in wonder and miracle. The gifts are an
embarrassment, they’re irrational, but God's abundance transcends the market economy.
Just as the lazy slave of 2000 years ago, we are conflicted between the promise of abundance
and our fear of scarcity. The gospel story of abundance asserts that we originated in the
magnificent, inexplicable love of a God who loved the world we inhabit into generous being,
and to make it more miraculous each of us has been loved into existence by God. The story of
God’s abundance says that our lives will end in God, and that this well-being cannot be taken
from us. In the words of Paul, neither life nor death nor angels nor principalities nor things --
nothing can separate us from God. It is always us who creates the separation hiding in the
closets we create or find, closets that cut us off form the abundant life God has promised for us.
The feeding of the multitudes, recorded in Mark's Gospel, is an example of the new world
coming into being through God. When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd,
found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed ,broke and gave the bread.
These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence. Jesus conducted a Eucharist, a
gratitude. He demonstrated that the world is filled with abundance and freighted with
generosity. If bread is broken and shared, there is enough for all. Jesus is engaged in the
sacramental, subversive reordering of public reality.
When people forget that Jesus is the bread of the world, they start eating junk food--the food
of the Pharisees and of Herod, the bread of moralism and of power. To often the church forgets
the true bread and is tempted by junk food. Our faith is not just about spiritual matters; it is
about the transformation of the world. The closer we stay to Jesus, the more we will bring a
new economy of abundance to the world. This message seems to go against everything we
believe and that is what makes it gospel. Jesus came to turn our way of thinking, our way of
being in God’s world on its head.
The last of the seven books of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia is appropriately entitled, The Last Battle. In
this chronicle, the evil characters are Narnian dwarfs. They are dark and gloomy folk, with
sneering grins, who distrust the whole world. The basic issue is that they have chosen to live in
darkness, refusing to see the good around them, refusing to believe that Aslan can bring God's
light into their lives and world. So, they live in misery, squalor, and self-imposed darkness.
Near the end of the story, some of the children who follow Aslan go out into a field where the
dwarfs live. They want to make friends; they want to help them see the light and the beauty of
the world which surrounds them.
When they arrived, they noticed that the dwarfs have a very odd look and were huddled
together in a circle facing inward, paying attention to nothing. As the children drew near, they
were aware that the dwarfs couldn't see them. "Where are you ?" asks one of the children.
"We're in here you bone-head," said Diggle the dwarf, "in this pitch-black, poky, smelly little
hole of a stable."
"Are you blind?" asks another child. "No," respond the dwarfs, "we're here in the dark where
no one can see."
"But it isn't dark, you poor dwarfs," says Lucy, "look up, look round, can't you see the sky and
flowers - can't you see me?" Then Lucy bends over, picks some wild violets, and says, "perhaps
you can smell these." But the dwarf jumps back into his darkness and yells, "How dare you
shove that filthy stable litter in my face." He cannot even smell the beauty which surrounds
Suddenly the earth trembles. The sweet air of the field grows sweeter and a brightness flashes
behind them. The children turn and see that Aslan, the great lion himself, has appeared. They
greet him warmly and then Lucy, through her tears, asks, "Aslan, can you do something for
these poor dwarfs?"
Aslan approaches the dwarfs who are huddled in their darkness and he growls. They think it is
someone in the stables trying to frighten them. Then Aslan shakes his mane and sets before the
dwarfs a magnificent feast of food. The dwarfs grab the food in the darkness, greedily
consuming it, but they cannot taste its goodness. One thinks he is eating hay, another an old
rotten turnip. In a moment, they are fighting and quarreling among themselves as usual. Aslan
turns and leaves them in their misery.
They children are dismayed. Even the great Aslan cannot bring them out of their self-imposed
darkness. "They will not let us help them," says Aslan. Their prison is only in their minds and
they are so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. "
These chronicles of Narnia reflect an ancient way of presenting truth through stories - using
allegory. Allegorical stories help us see, through ordinary events, another higher level of truth.
In this tale, the earthly lion, Aslan, represents the heavenly resurrected Christ who brings hope
and life and light into the world.
What the children of Narnia discover, to their dismay, is that everyone has a choice... to see and
respond to that light or to sit in self-imposed darkness unwilling to see the beauty which
surrounds them, to smell the violets held under their nose or eat of delights of God's table set
We all know people like this who live in the dark. It is a lesson Lucy, Edmund, and the other
children will carry with them as they return home through the magical door which separates
the mystical kingdom of Narnia from their very ordinary earthly home. It's a lesson we must all
eventually learn as we walk through the shadowy valleys of life.
All of us walk close to the darkness in our journey through life. Indeed, life is a struggle to push
back those dark times when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, times of grief
or depression, fear or guilt, pain or illness. The good news is that we have a light to show the
way, a friend to walk with us, a helping hand to lighten our burdens. As the children of Narnia
discovered, Aslan was always there when they needed him most.
I think it is important to remember that God took care of permanent darkness when he created
this wonderful world. The very first thing that God did in creation was to banish the darkness
which covered the deep. The first words out of God's mouth were, "Let there be light. Then God
saw that the light was good and separated the light from the darkness." Scriptures remind us
that we are created as children of light, thus we must reflect this light of God and like the
Narnian children who go to the dwarfs, help God bring that light to those who sit in the dark.
"I have given you to be a light to all nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring prisoners out
of their dungeons where they sit in darkness." In today's familiar Gospel from the Sermon on
the Mount, Jesus reminds his disciples and each and every one of us:
You are the light of the world. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. No, they place it
on a stand where it can give light to everyone in the house. Let your light shine that others will
see the good you do.
Just as he has been all summer, Jesus tells us a little more about the nature of God in this odd
little parable. God doesn’t want us to hide our toys, or our money or our light. The little we
have exists in the midst of God’s abundance.
When you come to the altar, you will receive a sliver o bread and a sip of wine, not much in the
scène of things, but trust it’s power, don’t be afraid to believe it’s not enough. It is food that
can transform you, and can ultimately, transform the world. Amen.
This isn’t an invitation to be frivolous or live beyond our limits. Even after an experience of
abundance the disciples still gather up and conserve wisely the leftovers.
A question to explore in a sermon is why we buy into the myth that there is not enough to go
around. The world operates with economic assumptions of scarce resources. The energy crisis
pivots on not having enough. In the name of national and economic security, we exercise
influence in far-reaching places to secure enough energy. It is a worldview of scarcity. Billions
starve because our culture operates with a system that limits distribution of goods and resources
in order to protect the security of the few.
I’m guilty of this. I live out a vision of scarcity with my own checkbook, time and resources.
This story of Jesus challenges me to re-imagine my life and live into an economy of God’s
abundance. In the kingdom of God we don’t have to hoard—there is always enough supply to
Today, we’re starting with a parable that you all might be familiar with. It’s the
parable of the talents. The word talent in this parable is a word for a type of currency –
like our word dollar. But our use today of the world talent to mean a gift or skill that a
particular person has comes from this parable, when Jesus describes three slaves
being given talents to care for, each according to ability. My attention is immediately
drawn to the end of this parable, when the Master, and thus Jesus we presume,
concludes: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an
abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
I’m drawn to this verse because of how negative my gut response to these words are.
God gives to those who already have, and takes away from those who have nothing?
That seems to go against everything I understand about Jesus, his love for the poor, his
words about the poor inheriting the earth, and really, just a sense of fairness and justice