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Focus from the Rev. David F. Sellery, Priest-In-Charge, St. John’s Church, Salisbury, CT God's ROI - Matthew 25: 14-30

This is a particularly appropriate gospel to contemplate against a backdrop of volatility on Wall Street. The master has split his portfolio among his servants and he expects a solid Return on Investment (ROI) from every one of his servants. On average, their performance is outstanding. But this master isn't playing the percentages. And neither is ours. He wants us all to do our part.

God has a tremendous investment in each one of us. He created the universe for our amazement. He raised us from the primal ooze for his glory. He gave us the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation. No hedging. No shorting. God is "all-in" on you and on me. He doesn't look on us as numbers to be crunched or costs to be averaged. Each one of us is unique. Each one of us is his beloved. At our baptism, each of us was entrusted with his divine saving grace… the "talent" of the parable.

God’s gift of grace is precious… but it is not decorative. It is nourishing… but it is not consumable. It is strictly utilitarian. God expects us to cooperate with his grace… to work with it to build his kingdom. God did not play it safe with us. He wants us "all-in" for him. That means daring to take risks for his sake… the more radical the better. As St. Paul puts it, we must be willing for the world to see us as: Fools for Christ's sake. That means loving when the smart money says hold back. That means giving when it hurts and forgiving when it
hurts even more.

The faithful servants took risks. They made themselves vulnerable. But they had faith in their master. They put the talents he gave them to work. They knew "no risk, no reward." Our master expects his faithful servants to make ourselves vulnerable for his sake. He does not expect us to play it safe… hoarding his grace, burying his love in a heap of self-indulgence. Christ did not endure Calvary to lead a host of cowards… too timid to proclaim his love… too lazy to build his kingdom.

In this gospel, Jesus tells us to snap out of it… to stick out our chins… to dare to love. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a commandment. It overrides the inhibitions and inertia that cripple our ability to love. C.S. Lewis captured Christ’s challenge to love when he wrote: "To love is to be vulnerable. The alternative... is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the perturbations of love is in Hell."

Let's take a moment to get in touch with God's grace within us. Dig deep. Have we buried his grace in a heap of self-absorption… of ambition… of resentment… of distraction? Are we taking grace for granted, treating it like an insurance policy on salvation… filing it for future reference? God expects a lot better ROI than that.

Each one of us is called to greatness… not to grandiosity, but to greatness. It is the greatness of a couple struggling to raise a Christian family in a hostile,
secular world. It is the greatness of a youngster defying peer pressure to do the right thing. It is the greatness of seniors remaining actively faithful in the face of increasing infirmity. It is the greatness of every individual believer daily witnessing Christ’s love in word and deed. It is the greatness of all who carry his cross today.

The gift of God’s grace makes this greatness possible. But it’s more than a gift. It’s an investment. God expects us to give it back to him with interest… to build his kingdom. Starting with family and friends, let’s share his love deliberately… fearlessly. Let’s take it with us right out the church door. Let’s spread his love wherever we go today. The more we share the love of Christ, the more love we have to give away. And the more we give away, the richer we are. Let’s give God his ROI… his return on investment. You’ll find it pays handsome dividends… in peace… in joy… in eternal partnership with Jesus Christ.

eDevotions from The Rev.Bob Dannals Daily Devotionals - Proper 28, Year A: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-8; I Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

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 ... so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.' - Matthew 25: 24-25

The third servant of the Parable of the Talents was afraid and refrained from risk. In trading and exercising a talent, this servant didn't even take the chance of modest investment. The Master simply received from his servant the talent which had been given, no more, no less. The unused talent is taken away from the servant and given to the one who made the most with his (her) gifts.

Challenge and Opportunity:

The disuse of a talent or gift finally leads to its complete loss, but use of it leads to its development and growth. Walker Percy once said, "One can get all A's and still flunk life." When fear reigns it robs us of God's robust mission. It shrinks our capacity, it shrivels our will to serve, it diminishes our nerve to take risks. That is why the most common refrain in all the Gospels is "fear not."
Clergy Confidential: Finding God in Daily Chaos by Tim Schenck In Good Faith: Day after Day

Be honest. Do you have any leftover Halloween candy or have you eaten it all by now? Your
answer likely depends on whether or not you have children in the Halloween-obsessed zone and just how stealthy you are about “reapportioning” some of the bounty.

But even for those of us who don’t get many trick-or-treaters (no sidewalk, live next door to a church) or who have children past the dress-up age, you still must be prepared. Which involves buying a few bags of your favorite candy — just in case. “Oh, rats, there’s just so much leftover candy. Well, I wouldn’t want it to go to waste…”

We don’t often think about the day after holidays. We’re big on eves, of course. Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, All Hallow’s Eve (aka Halloween — the night before All Saints’ Day). The word itself derives from “evening” and thus the evening before a big holiday is full of anticipation.

In the Christian tradition, the concept of keeping vigil the night before a major holy day runs deep. It is a time to wait, watch, prepare, and pray for the celebration that is to come. In the early church, the all-night liturgy that preceded day break on Easter morning was the most sacred ritual of the year and the Easter Vigil remains the most ancient of Christian liturgical rites. If you expand the idea, you could argue that the entire seasons of Advent and Lent are like extended “eves” before Christmas and Easter.
Yet for as much emphasis as we have traditionally put on vigils and eves, we don’t think much about the day after a big holiday.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There is Boxing Day, which is celebrated in England, Canada, and other parts of the former British empire, on the day after Christmas.

In the Middle Ages, it was the day when a church’s alms box was opened so the contents could be distributed to the poor. It was also traditional that servants got the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families — since they all had to work on the actual holiday itself.

In modern America, since we don’t tend to have servants, “boxing day” might refer to either cleaning up all the boxes from the absurd over-abundance of Christmas gifts or the fights we get into with our dysfunctional families over the holidays.

Boxing Day aside, little thought is given to the day after holidays. I know on December 26th I generally feel like I’ve been hit over the head by a giant candy cane. But that’s more a function of having led a slew of church services in the preceding 24 hours.

I do wish we collectively put at least a modicum of emphasis on the day after a major holiday. It’s probably enough to take a few minutes to pause and reflect upon the greater meaning of the day; to sit in the warm glow of shared memories for a moment; to contemplate the unique traditions inherent in our most beloved celebrations.

But all of this can wait. In the meantime, I have some candy corn to attend to. I wouldn’t want them to get stale.

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