Or, Can a First Century Guy Find Happiness with a Twenty-First Century Fundraising Campaign?
We are in the midst of a Stewardship campaign that happens to be an unusually energetic one for Small Church. I have actually been only marginally involved and only as a cheerleader. On Sunday, the third and final meal and conversation that comprise a major portion of the effort will take place before church. The following Sunday we will consecrate our pledges. So it will come as no surprise that I would like to preach something this week that is supportive of the good efforts of the Stewardship Committee.
Glancing ahead a few weeks ago, I noticed we had the Parable of the Talents on tap for the 13th, and I spared a casual thought or two for how I might use the material. I felt pretty confident that I knew what it was all about, you see.
But then there was that darn James Howell, writing in Christian Century, not to mention those revolutionary editors of the “Seasons of the Spirit” curriculum we use, putting many inconvenient thoughts in my head and leaving me feeling pitifully inconclusive.
I expect this is just how the people around Jesus felt when he finished telling the Parable of the Talents.
Today I have heard it interpreted in what I think of as the old-fashioned way (complete with John Houseman for Smith Barney intoning: “They eahhnnn it.”); as a radical rejection of the economic system of the First Century (with the talent-burying servant featured as the one who speaks truth to power—huh?); as a call to churches to be faithful rather than individuals (good for Congregational types, but it seems to me there was no “church” at that moment in time); and a comparison of parables to the Trojan Horse (now we’re getting somewhere—you think you’ve got one thing, then, whoa, it’s something else again).
I love Howell’s notion of the Trojan Horse parable. I’d like to play with that some more. The only trouble is having Howell the Horsie meet Stewardship and like it very much. Although Matthew was writing for an audience a half-century after Jesus’ life, he was hardly writing for an institutional religious crowd. Certainly they were not engaged in sorting out capital expenses and ongoing budget needs.
What in the world was Jesus getting at? What part of this was Matthew’s gloss? And why do I feel like I’m in for a week of gnashing my teeth? Leap in and express an opinion, please.