Risking the way of Jesus
1 Thessalonians 5.1-11
As a young boy growing up in England, my attention was often captivated by tales of buried treasure. You’d hear of people finding a Roman coin or a medieval brooch in an ordinary field with a metal detector; but every now and then a real hoard was found.
In 1939, for example, the ‘Sutton Hoo’ treasure was found in Suffolk. It was the site of a seventh century royal burial, with a whole ship interred under the earth. And just in 2009, someone found 5 kg of gold and 2.5 kg of silver dating from the same century. These treasures had been buried for fourteen centuries!
Today’s Gospel Reading tells of buried treasure. A rich man has three servants. Each is given an absolutely amazing amount of money. Ten talents, five talents, one talent, all huge amounts of money.
In English, we speak of our natural gifts as ‘talents’, don’t we? The first time this use of the word ‘talent’ was recorded was 1430. And this meaning of the word ‘talent’ comes from this parable. In the days of Jesus, a ‘talent’ was the largest unit of currency. It was worth about twenty years’ wages for a working man. This huge amount became the word we use for natural gift or attribute.
We often tell this parable about stewardship. So the preacher often asks, How are we using the talents that God has given us? What a great gift this passage is as we bring our stewardship season to a close! Yet to be honest, this parable isn’t really about stewardship. It’s more about taking risks in a world in which the Lord is surely coming.
This was my first Sunday back from annual leave, and we had a guest preacher. Rev Michelle Cook is a very good friend of mine and of this congregation, a deacon in placement at St Luke’s Weipa (a cooperative placement with the Anglican Church of Australia) and patrol minister in Cape York for Frontier Services.
Michelle preached a fine sermon, taking Luke 19.1-10 as her text:
When I come down to Brisbane I usually spend a lot of time eating meals with family and old friends. I used to spend a lot of time rushing around trying to visit everyone I used to know but now someone organises one event where lots of people come – so then I can actually have a holiday rather than a series of meetings one after the other.
These get togethers are surrounded imbued and facilitated by food. Sometimes we eat out at a restaurant – old favourites and new ones on the scene.
More often now we meet at someone’s home – most restaurants don’t like being inundated with children under 10. I felt especially sorry for a restaurant we went to last week where Zaney decided the chopsticks were, alternatively, drumsticks, wings for a plane (that happened to be in his sandals) or stirring sticks for drinks.
So we eat a meal together and talk about new things that are happening, things that used to happen – and what things we would like to happen.
Hospitality abounds – food, wine, conversation. Sometimes it is a foretaste of that welcome and hospitality that I know heaven will look like – a foretaste of what the reign of God will be. Conviviality, love, laughter – joy –a meal that goes on forever without indigestion.
Meals are important. They are an overlap between a public and private space – sharing meals can be an intimate expression of care and love for those at the table.
But it gets me thinking about who I actually eat with. Who do I share this care and love with? How do I express hospitality to those around me?
Sermon for 26 October 2008
1 Thessalonians 2.1-8
Rev Michelle Cook is a deacon and the minister of St Luke’s Weipa, a cooperative congregation of the Uniting and Anglican Churches. She is also the patrol padre of the Cape York Patrol of Frontier Services, and it is this she spoke to us about:
As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals whether from you or from others…
No, we never did and we never do – why, because people in the bush have a very good bs detectors. They can see right through you.
My name is Michelle Cook – and I am a patrol minister up in Cape York.
To confuse people I usually say that I live on the West Coast of Queensland. Most people just look at me funny and say ‘wha?’.
That’s right, there is a west coast of Queensland – and I live near the top of it.
I live in Weipa – a mining town of about 3000 people – 10 hours drive from Cairns across Cape York.
You may notice that on the screen there will be some photos – this is just to give you a taste for the area that I travel around and the people that I meet.
So while you look at some photos you might be asking yourselves – what is a patrol minister? And how can I get a job that involves driving around some of the most beautiful country in the whole world.
Well I think I have been asking myself that since I was about 10 when I stuck a Frontier Services sticker on my bookcase at home. I don’t think I really knew what Frontier Services was then – but I liked the idea of travelling around the back of beyond helping people who lived without electricity, running water and television – of course I had a romantic view of these things imagining life was like “We of the never, never”. But in my three years in the Cape York Patrol I have found out what a patrol minister is…