What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Fear of failure, or just plain fear, is a kind of jail. It is hard to break out. Jesus taught people about what is possible in the world–he told stories with surprising meanings, with unexpected endings. And the people who heard him knew that there was something different about him. In today’s reading from Mark, we hear how they were jolted, did double-takes, scratched their heads, said, “What? What’s this?” They hadn’t heard anyone speak like this about how to live in a new kingdom. They said he was teaching with authority–that he knew what he was talking about! Jesus told stories about living without fear of failure, of living in the Kingdom of God right here on earth. Jesus taught people about the Kingdom of God (and how to live in it) by telling stories. Often, the particular type of story he told had a surprise ending—we call those stories parables. Parables never turn out exactly as you expect them to, and they leave you with plenty to think about.
One parable Jesus told was about a rich man who was going away on a long trip, the Parable of the Talents. He left three servants in charge of different amounts of money, called talents. A talent is a large sum of money—picture a bucket of gold. The first two servants used the money to invest and trade, and the third buried the money in the ground. When the rich man returns, he is pleased by the servants who made more money, and displeased by the servant who gave him back exactly the amount he had received. The money was not damaged, and the rich man wasn’t hurt by the servant who buried the money. Why was he angry? The money seems to represent something else. What could be damaged or wasted by putting it into a box and burying it?
- The only copy of Beethovenʼs Ninth Symphony
- The cure for cancer
- Seeds to feed the hungry of the world
The servant said he didn’t trust his master. He accused him of being a hard man who took what he didn’t work to earn. He was afraid of his master. The broken relationship between the master and servant may be the problem. This parable may be pointing to the need to take risks—to participate in the marketplace of the world–and to be in relationship with people. Jesus was talking about the risks of living, of giving yourself, of following him. Jesus gave himself–he lived in freedom, without fear. He cared profoundly about people, about justice, and about Godʼs vision for life in this world. He was not cautious, conservative, or concerned with safety. The cautious man who had one measure of money, and kept it safe, returning it to his master unchanged is the person who says “I am spiritual but not religious” –a code phrase as recognizable as a parable. It means “I understand God in my own way. My riches are separate from the world. The box is closed and buried, and my talent is not going to interact with anyone else.”
Jesus calls us to follow, to risk, to live fully. He invites us to invest our precious lives in the high-risk venture of being a disciple. We work for freedom, we hope for joy. And we share our love—and we do all of this together, in community. Hear the meaning of this parable: You are not to be ruled by fear. We are given the Good News of Godʼs love, share it!
Questions to think about:
- Who was the greatest teacher you’ve ever known?
- What made him or her so great?
- Can you think of a story that taught you something?
Blessings, Mother Anne+