A sermon based on Psalm 96 and Matthew 25:14-30, preached on November 16th, 2014 on Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church’s Centennial.
I am so happy that each and every one of you are here as we join together to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our beloved church. This is an “all in” kind of day!
As you drove up Main Street and pulled in the parking lot this morning, I bet a flood’s worth of memories came pouring into your mind’s eye. The same thing happens, I’m sure, as your stroll these hallways. These walls are filled with your memories. I know that because I feel them every time step inside. But this day’s celebration has less to do with buildings or walls and more to do with the gathering together of a people. Of coming together so that we can celebrate our shared story—so we can be living reminders to each other of how far we have come, so we can lift up our voice as one people of God and give thanks that He has carried us these first 100 years as the body of Christ here at Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church.
We are the beneficiaries of many bold decisions and risks taken by others, all of which have helped build this church into what it is today. Our history is packed with big dreamers and faith-filled visionaries who believed that God was calling them to go all in—to invest themselves wholly into building up a people of God here in Barboursville.
Our first 100 years are filled with faithful women and men who took the gifts God had given to them, who listened for God’s call upon their lives and stepped up, stepped out, and invested their time, their treasure, their God-given gifts, their prayers—their very selves into this church.
That’s why are all here this morning—throughout our history there have been faithful disciples who have been entrusted with a vision given to them by God and who have gone all in. Who went bold and made something from nothing because together they sensed that God was calling them to be church with and for one another.
God’s plans for His Church don’t come into being with crossed fingers and a couple lofty prayers—they start with people who are willing to risk something big, who go all in, who invest 100%—every bit of themselves into a new thing.
In Jesus’ parable, all 3 servants are entrusted with all that their master possesses—8 very valuable coins—each worth more then 16 years worth of wages. They were given with no instructions. There was no earmark, nothing written on the memo line. Their master trusted them completely with the riches he handed to them, and he leaves town.
Each servant becomes a caretaker of his master’s riches. Two of them take what’s been entrusted to their care and they invest it. They take it and use it and they make something happen with it. Each of them doubles their money. So we know that whatever they invested in was risky. No one doubles their money without accepting an equal risk of losing it all. These first 2 servants plunged all of themselves—all of their master’s money and all of their credibility into something that could have gone either way, and both came up big.
And the 3rd servant? Well, we know what he did. Out of fear of his master he hid it. He froze. He buckled under the pressure and refused to use what was given to him. He was so scared of what his master would think of him that he went into maintenance-only mode, bunker mentality. Out of fear, he did the safest thing he could think of—he buried it.
The funny thing is, when his master returns from his trip, the 3rd servant begins to brag about his carefulness. It sounds like he’s proud of what he did:
I kept it to safe for you, Master! I didn’t do a thing with it, and I hid it so no one else could either!
The master, though, sees things differently:
You could have put it in a bank to let it accumulate interest! That’s the very least you could have done!
And he’s sent away. Where there’s grinding of teeth the text says.
The 3rd servant never even tried. Too afraid to take any risks, he comes off looking selfish. More to the point though, in an effort to secure his own well being, he ends up being completely useless, and he costs his master severely.
It’s the careful 3rd servant who ends up being the unfaithful one—holding onto what he should have shared. And he’s cast away and called worthless. Worthless.
Playing small doesn’t serve the world.
Entertain me for a moment. Far be it from me to say anything is missing from any of Jesus’ parables, but I want to know what would’ve happened if there was a 4th servant—one who went out with any number of coins, and with great intentions for multiplying his master’s money, actually ends up losing it all. Who, despite all his effort, comes home with empty hands and pockets.
When his master came back from his trip, this 4th servant would have to admit to him that despite his best efforts, he lost every bit of the money entrusted to him.
This 4th servant might even think that the most severe punishment awaited him because out of the 4, he was the only one who had no coins to give back to his master. But I think his master would have had compassion upon him and kept him as his servant. At least he tried in good faith to risk something. At least he went out there and gave it his best shot—refusing to keep what he had all to himself and making his best effort to do something with it. I think that even though his master came back to find him with empty hands, still he would have applauded this imaginary 4th servant—calling him “good” and “faithful.”
That’s what I imagine, anyway.
Friends, there’s a certain recklessness to the life of discipleship. God wants us to go out there and throw it all at the world. Every bit of ourselves.
God wants us to share everything we are and everything we have—to give it all we got. That’s what God has done through Jesus Christ. God has recklessly thrown God’s self into the world. Through Christ, God invested big—100%. God became flesh and dwelt among us—God went all in. From the very beginning of time, God has never played it safe. God has given Himself away for the world over and over again.
And in Jesus Christ, God took the biggest risk of all. God must have known that there was nothing safe about the incarnation—about taking on skin and becoming vulnerable. By sending Jesus Christ, God risked it all and gave away every last coin He had—hoping, but not knowing, something wonderful would come out of it. And on the cross, Jesus gave it all up for us, risking it all for our sake, even though it meant paying the ultimate price. Much more than a few coins—Jesus risked his very life for the sake of ours. That’s how all-in Jesus was, and that’s how all-in Jesus wants us to be. Being Jesus’ disciples means investing 100% of ourselves in mission and service to God’s world. It means using everything God has given us to further the Kingdom of Heaven—the one here on earth.
Discipleship is risky business. There’s no such thing as halfway. Playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There are too many Christians out there who are like that 3rd servant, they’re so afraid of believing in or doing something wrong that they don’t even try. They hunker down and hold their breath, waiting for their arrival at the pearly gates.
Our parable today says that that kind of self-preservation gets us nowhere—if we hide what we have, we end up having nothing to give to God in return.
God doesn’t want us play it safe. God hates buried treasure. God wants us to invest big. To go deep and risk ourselves—100% of ourselves for His Kingdom. God wants us all-in.
This parable is here to tell us about the sheer uselessness of fear—as Episcopal Priest and author Robert Capon says,
The utter nonnecessity of ever having to fear God.
Fearing God freezes us in place and makes us look pitiful and even unfaithful.
The call of God’s Kingdom—the call of this parable—is to go bold, to die empty. There’s no such thing as riding out this life in the hopes of heaven. God wants us to take chances in this life—right here and right now. To go all-in.
The Kingdom of God is not for the hesitant. It’s for the reckless, the adventurous, the ones who take chances. Those who are willing to lose it all in the hope of gaining it all. Self-preservation doesn’t get us anywhere, and playing small doesn’t serve the world.
The 3rd servant kept the gifts he was given to himself. He hid what he had.
My hope for us going forward into our 2nd Century as church is that we would never keep a thing for ourselves! There’s nothing faithful about safeguarding the treasure that’s been given to us. Burying what we’ve been given out of scarcity and fear means that we’ll miss our opportunities to grow with God’s Kingdom.
I also hope that we would not only be “Keepers of Light” but that we would also be sharers of light.
Lighthouses are there to help nearby ships see their way through the dark seas and the dark nights that fall heavy upon them. Lighthouses exist to give their light away.
Let’s be bold, luminous disciples! Let’s shed light! Let’s invest ourselves in brightening up Barboursville. Let’s risk every bit of ourselves to make known the light of Christ!
In our next 100, let’s go all in!
All praises to the One who made it all and finds it beautiful!