Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"The Multiplicity of Faith" (Matthew 25:14-30)

Too often with the scriptures we take the negative view . . . the punitive view . . . the “woe be to you if you do this” point of view.  For example, how many times have you heard this morning’s parable told with the attitude that you shouldn’t be like the one servant who goes off and buries the man’s money while he is off on vacation?  Probably more times than we want to admit, and probably figured that this morning would be another one of those times that the preacher was going to let us have it one more time.  Is this what we have come to view the scriptures as . . . a warning against less than stellar behavior?  A whipping point?

Well, if that is what you expect to hear from me this morning after hearing this parable . . . well, I am sorry that I am about to disappoint you.  There is something of great value that is shared in this parable . . . something that is positive that we ought to consider this morning . . . something that we should actually consider doing ourselves. 

As you know the parable is about three servants who are given equal shares of their master’s money to watch over while he is gone.  Each does his own thing with the money . . . one invests it heavily and increases the wealth of the master in leaps and bounds . . . one, more cautious, puts it in the bank and allow it to draw a little interest and thus increase his master’s wealth a little . . . and, the third one, deathly scared of his master, goes and buries it in the backyard so that nothing happens to that which he has been entrusted to watch over.  When the master returns each is awarded according to the risk that they took . . . except for the one who chose to bury it—he gets punished more or less.  The lesson?  Don’t go burying your money to be safe . . . do something with it.  Right?

I suppose to a point that is right because we have been preaching that message for generations . . . for hundreds of years.  But, what if . . . what if we focused on the fact that two of the men ventured forth and actually tried to do something with the money they were given.  What if we focused on the fact that these two guys did something positive and in the end they receive a “gift” or a “blessing” for their actions . . . they increased the gift they had been given to watch over.

Way back in 1996, Michael Keaton starred in a movie—Multiplicity-- in which he played a man who never seems to have enough time to do all the things that he wants to do.  By some quirky stroke of luck he discovers that he can duplicate himself . . . that he can create a second one of him.  What a stroke of luck he decides as he reasons that with two of him he can do twice as much as he is already doing . . . he can create a way to make more time to do all the things he wants to do.  Of course, if you can create one and save time, what would happen if you create several more?  Instead of duplicity it becomes multiplicity . . . the quality of multiples.  Since this is a comedy you can imagine the fun they had in this movie when dealing with four duplicates running around at the same time.

Now, this idea of multiplicity is quite simple . . . it is the quality or state of being multiple.  It is the taking of something and seeing how many times it can be duplicated and actually grown.  This is something that is possible when it comes to practicing our faith . . . something demonstrated fully by one of the servants, slightly by another and, not at all by another. 

A long time ago I heard a story about a young woman who had written a beautiful poem about her faith.  It was a poem that she shared with her minister.  The minister in turn shared the poem with the choir director.  The choir director was so impressed with the beauty of the poem that she wanted to put it to music and make it a song.  In turn the choir director shared the new song with the church worship leader who was so moved by the whole thing that she wanted to create a liturgical dance that could be shared in worship set to the words and music of the poem.  The minister seeing this chain of events decided that it would be really neat if all of this was shared as a worship service for the whole congregation to share. 

From a simple poem of faith there came an explosion of faithful action . . . a song . . . a dance . . . and, so much more.  In the act of sharing her gift, this young women multiplied the gift . . . from one came many . . . a multiplicity of faith.  Even after the worship service I was told that one member of the congregation was so moved that he wanted to paint a picture that expressed what he felt.  It is the multiplying of faith through the simple act of sharing what is there.

Even those the master did not realize it, he created an action of multiplicity when he gave to his three servants money to watch over.  In the actions of the one who totally embraced the responsibility put upon him he created an even bigger gift for his master . . . a gift that then “blessed” him in the end. 

God has blessed us all with gifts . . . many wonderful and beautiful gifts.  We all have gifts.  Some of us have the gift of music and we witness the multiplicity of that gift each Sunday morning when the choir and congregation sings.  Some of us have the gift of speaking and telling stories . . . of being able to make people listen and laugh . . . watching the fellowship time after worship each week affirms this gift.  Some of us have the ability to cook and I have not yet been to a dinner in this church where that gift was not on display.  Some of us have the gift of comfort and empathy found in a warm hug or a gentle pat on the back.  And there are many, many more gifts out there just waiting to be shared.  It is in the sharing that the gift is multiplied . . . where the gift is grown.

The gifts of faith may seem like a single seed when we hold tightly to the gifts we have been blessed with by God; but, when they are shared they have the potential to become so much more than any of us have ever imagined.  I do not want us to walk away from this parable this morning thinking about what we should not do, but instead I want us to think about what we can do with that which we have been blessed with.  Remember that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts . . . thus there is a reason to share the gifts we have been blessed with.

With faith there is a multiplicity that must be embraced.  For each of us there is a seed that must be shared and watered and nurtured in order for it to come to its complete realization.  We are the children of God . . . each of us has been blessed with the gifts and abilities entrusted to us by God.  Let us go forth and share our gifts . . . to plan our seeds . . . and, let us watch to see where the Spirit takes them.  There is nothing to fear . . . this is the desire of God . . . for we are the good and faithful servants who have been called to go forth and multiple the faith.  What are you going to share?  Amen.

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