The gospel reading in this week's lectionary is one of my favourite parables: The parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The reason is because for years, I never understood it – I found it one of the most unfair stories in the New Testament. The person given the one talent kept hold of it, kept it safe and returned it to their master and for that they were thrown out and there was gnashing of teeth. It was not fair.
Then, one day walking between the University library and the Student Union I had what I can only describe as a revelation about what Jesus was trying to express to his followers in that parable. That it does not matter the number of talents you have, what is important is how you use them to grow God's Kingdom and to glorify God and even to enable our own relationship with God flourish. I have no idea why God chose to reveal this to me at that particular time and place. I have certainly never experienced anything quite like it again.
But that parable and its revealed meaning for me have played a part in my ongoing formation in faith ever since. It was what persuaded me (amongst many other wonderfully encouraging people) to complete the worship leading course, my Local Preachers studies and eventually to candidate. It is my go-to when I have doubts about my suitability or ability for a task. It helps me to discern, honestly, if the 'talents' (which could be long term gifts, abilities, skills, characteristics etc... or short-term flukes of ability arisen out of necessity) that I have received are the ones that should be invested, no matter how small the return.
It reminds me that I should not compare the amount of 'talents' with those of others – it is how I invest my talents that is important, for me and for God. And if I hide away, holding tightly to the things I have been gifted, then not only do I lose out, so do those around me.
It means that I may have to take a risk, that I will not necessarily see the return immediately, it may even look like failure from some angles. Yet even in this there will be transformation becoming a little closer to God, far more than if I hid all that I am away.
And most of all it reminds me that sometimes God does sometimes give us an answer from nowhere – the challenge is how we use it.
For all of us, five bag, two bag and one bag people, may we be affirmed in who we are and, in our being, be prepared to take holy risks and be open to recognise and invest those talents within us for the benefit of God's kingdom.
PS. There is so much to pray about in the news at this time: we pray for justice and peace for all peoples, for compassion and hope in the most violent of situations and for those who are seeking a place of safety. This Sunday (19 November) is also Safeguarding Sunday, a time to give thanks for our Local Church, Circuit and District Safeguarding Officers and all those who work so hard across our churches to make them safe spaces for all. We pray for wisdom as we continue to work on this. Amen