Grumpy: For Sunday November 16, 2014

Grumpy: Matthew 25: 14-30

There lived a man who was grumpy. He was grumpy from birth. He was a grumpy child, a grumpy father and a grumpy husband. His wife had the patience of a saint. She saw all his gifts, but he couldn’t see them. He had everything and saw nothing. He died grumpy.

When he arrived in heaven he was shown to a room filled with beautifully wrapped boxes. The boxes were covered in tapestried paper and ribbons with bows and little trinkets on the outside to suggest what there might be wrapped inside the packages.

“These are all the gifts you never opened.”

“What are these boxes,” asked the man grumpily?

The reply was: “These are all the gifts we sent to you while you were alive on earth and you never opened.” * I don’t know the origin of this story. The beginning was suggested by Joshua Chasan, Rabbi at Ohavi Zedek in Burlington, VT

Either I’m grumpy or we’re dealing with a grumpy part of the Gospel. This ain’t no God in heaven story from Matthew this week. This is one about an arbitrary and manipulative slave owner. He lends money to test his slaves. Two of them are unafraid enough to invest their talents and one does not. He buries his. In the end they remain slaves and none of them get to keep any of the profits. One is cast into the outer darkness; the other two are given more responsibility to make more money for the slave owner. The first two take the opportunity to test their talents and creativity, the later doesn’t.

If Jesus told this story are there layers here? Use your talents, gifts, in spite of the odds that may be against you. Open the gifts that have been given to you whether a slave or free. And yet could there also be an indictment of the economic system that places human beings under such pressure and fear? Finally, what do we do with the fear of the slave master on our way to freedom, to creativity, to God?

I think all of the above and more that I do not now see are true for me. Paul Tillich talks about Europe during the time up to and including Germany in WWII. In “The Courage to Be” he writes, “The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself in spite of being unacceptable.” He talks about the affirmation of life “in spite” of the fearful voices within and without: To speak our “no” to injustice, violence, racial and economic inequality, and not count the cost. And to have enough courage to see through our prejudices and narrow mindedness, to be able to make enough room in our lives for those who make us uncomfortable and downright grumpy.

This is to say that the word and command of Jesus is to Love God, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That word and command is to be lived out in spite of our fear.

At root for all of this is a faith that there is some source out there and within that holds you in spite of the way you may feel or in spite of what takes place around you. You are held by a love and a mystery that will sustain you in spite of everything.

For many of us that Source is Jesus. His mercy flows in spite of how many gifts we refuse. But why not open some of those boxes you’ve got stashed away in the closet or under the bed and try them on?

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