SERMON from 10-28-12: “I Do Not Intend to Tiptoe Through Life Only to Arrive Safely at Death” Bumper Sticker Series (final)

 

Matthew 25.22-29

22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents. ’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master. ’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours. ’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 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.

Bumper Sticker Theology: I Do Not Intend To Tiptoe Through Life Only To Arrive Safely At Death

The third slave from the parable of the talents always struck me as a lovable, little goofball.  Honestly, I cannot think of him as anything else than an impression of Woody Allen.  So, imagine me in thick glasses–and a foot-and-a-half shorter.  “Master–it’s alright if I call you “master,” right–you are a great guy.  Love you.  You’re the best.  I knew that you appreciated the fact you’re wealthy, and I most certainly knew it was my responsibility to take care of this vast sum–though, not as great a sum as you gave the other schlubs.  That’s okay.  It’s no skin off my nose.  I’m sure I did something to prove to you I wasn’t up to that particular task.  Honestly, let me say thank you.  You saved me a great deal of work.  What I did–to make sure your money was safe–is that I buried it.  That’s right, I buried it.  If you would have given any more than one talent, I would have had to have dug a bigger hole.  With my sciatica, it wouldn’t have been good for me to be doing all that extra digging.  No, no, no.  Not for me.  Not for you.  Not for my wife.  Anyway, here it is–exactly as you gave it to me.  This was great.  We should do it again.”

I don’t do a great Woody Allen, but that’s how I imagine most of that scenario going down.

Of course, the master is not pleased with the results of the third slaves efforts.  He didn’t do too much.  He didn’t do the wrong thing.  He did nothing.  That was the mistake.

I’m sure there is someone I can attribute this paraphrased quote to, but when I was writing this–I didn’t want to switch over my web browser and do a Google search.  “You don’t have to hit a home run every time.  You may even strike out every single time, but at least swing the bat a few times.”

That’s the point of the parable.  It’s the same thing that Jesus is reported to have said in the book of Revelation, “You are neither hot or cold.  You are luke-warm, so I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Other than being a bit gross, that is a powerful image of how it is Jesus expects us to handle ourselves.

It begins to get us thinking about our bumper sticker for today.  “I Do Not Intend To Tiptoe Through Life Only To Arrive Safely At Death.”

The first time I saw this bumper sticker, I thought about one of those kids with an overprotective mother.  To go out and ride a bike with training wheels, the mom has the kid all bundled up with a comically large helmet, big puffy elbow pads, wrist protectors and knee pads.  Certainly, there is such a thing as safety, but you gotta have a limit, right?  What happens we the kids gets to college and everyone is sitting around telling stories inspired by the scars they have.  The kid’s not going to have any scars, and they’re not going to have any stories.

Conversely, you can’t go through life with your guns blazing–lest you shoot someone who has no problem shooting back.  You can’t swing at every pitch, or you might not get a feel for strike zone.  You don’t always have to wear a helmet, but maybe it’s a good idea when you are doing a trick on a half-pipe.

I think the only activity where a helmet is useless is skydiving.  At that point, the helmet is wearing you for protection.  If your parachute fails, you don’t kinda make it.  But I digress…

What does it mean for us, though?  “Alright, I’ll have the filet once in a while.”  What does Jesus mean by this parable?  Are we to be cast off for not doing anything?

Typically, I might treat that last question as rhetorical, but not this time.  Yes, it’s true that God’s grace is a free gift, requiring no effort or expending of energy on our part.  But anyone who is a Christian for any length of time cannot escape the fact that the example of Christ, the actions of the early church and the entirety of Christian history tell us that we are never done.  We never reach Christian perfection.  We don’t ever get to the point where there is nothing more the Spirit can help us do.  We never get to the point that the church is dead.

It doesn’t matter how young you are.  It doesn’t matter how old you are.  It doesn’t matter how sinful you had been or are currently are.  God can take any piece of garbage and turn it into an instrument of his grace.

Anyone.  Anytime.  Any place.  He can use a large, suburban congregation to send short-term missionaries to Africa to build schools and install wells for safe drinking water.  He can use a group of nuns to make a difference in the slums of Calcutta.  He can use a small, rural congregation to reach out to the poor and disenfranchised that still inhabit the town that once filled its pews.

This might be the shortest sermon you will hear me preach, but it may just be the most important.

Do you intend to tiptoe through the rest of your life, only to arrive safely at death?  Do you intend to continue to watch new faces inhabit the homes of people you knew, and not reach out to them with the gospel?  I’m not talking about handing out a couple of fliers and some yard signs.  I’m talking about being the hands and feet of the church.  Are you willing to let the church become a museum for good people?

You definitely have that choice.

There are no less than thousands of churches like ours out there today.  They exist in very similar circumstances to our own.  Some have already closed down.  Some are on the verge of closing down.  Some aren’t really close to shutting down, but you’d be hard-pressed to see much evidence that they’re open.  Some will remain open for another generation or two.

After that?  Who knows?

It’s like the boss who is approached by their employee about going home for the night.  The boss says, “Well, if you are happy with the work you did today, go right ahead.”  They continued, “If you can sign your name to this day and say ‘I’m proud of it,’ you’re free to go.”

It makes you stop and think.  Maybe it should make us stop and think.

Can we sign our names to what it is we’ve done in our lives and be proud of it?  With your family.  With your job.  With your faith.  Or, do you have to tiptoe around your life to arrive safely at your destination?

AMEN

One comment on “SERMON from 10-28-12: “I Do Not Intend to Tiptoe Through Life Only to Arrive Safely at Death” Bumper Sticker Series (final)

  1. sacredstruggler
    October 28, 2012 at 2:22 PM #

    Just wondering if you ever did end up seeing Lord, Save Us From Your Followers? It’s sad your bumper sticker series is ending.

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