All the cools kids are keeping up with Advent devotionals this year. Are you? Here’s a good one. (I wrote tomorrow!) Of course this is only supplemental to your chocolate calendar. Duh.
“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 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.’ 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.’ 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.’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; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 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? 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.So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.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. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Though the words I speak are mine, let the word we hear be thine. Amen.
Poor, poor third slave. Can we call him Bob? Where did Bob go wrong? Did he mishear the instructions for his master’s treasure? Was he jealous of the previous slaves’ larger shares? Maybe he thought his single talent was too small to be important. Like most of Jesus’ parables, I’m a little unnerved at how easy it is to relate to the one who got it wrong. The one who ends up in the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Poor Bob.
Tina Fey got her start in comedy working for the Second City improv troupe. In her memoir Bossypants, she talks about the rules of improv and how these rules have shaped the way she lives her life. The first rule, she says, is to AGREE. If someone in improv says “Freeze, I have a gun.” and you reply “that’s not a gun, it’s your finger.” you are breaking this first rule of improv.
As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?
The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.
To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.
Remember our friend Bob from this morning’s gospel? I don’t think Bob understood these rules of improv. Fear, jealousy, something paralyzed him into thinking he had nothing to offer this scene. Yes, I know improv is a comedic performance where one’s goal is to be as whimsical or ridiculous as possible, but really, as a Christian community living in 2011, ‘improvise’ is the best word for what we do. We create spontaneously, figuring out where the mysteriously good news from a cross meets the world at 821 South Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky. “Yes, and…”
God entrusted every last one of us with a piece of his treasure. Small or large, it’s important. Like the slaves in our gospel reading, we ask ourselves, what do we do with it? Do you fortify it? Keep it under lock and key? Hold on to it so tightly that your fingernails leave marks in your palm? Or do you share it? Invest it? Give it to the world as freely as God gave it to you? Do we use it to answer the world with “Yes, and…” The day will come when you, too, will be held accountable for your piece of the treasure.
If that sounds apocalyptic, it’s because it is. A chapter previously in the book of Matthew, Jesus had been asked “What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” We well know, he did not respond with May 21, 2011. Instead, Jesus’ reply is a long rant including two parables, one of which is our gospel reading. These talents aren’t ours to lose, but God’s to invest.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to give you a little homework for this week. : to look for moment’s of “yes, and…” It might be at work, or with family or friends, or some other variety of people you get to interact with. It might be something spontaneous, or planned or something you’ve done out of habit for years now. Something- “yes, and…”