From the Chaplain
We are fast approaching Advent and the Christmas Season….
In the Christian tradition, Advent is the four-week period before Christmas that begins the churches liturgical year. This season can have a penitential feel, although it is different to Lent. It is a season of anticipation, preparation and being ready. It is often celebrated by reflecting on the themes of love, joy, peace and hope. As we come to the end of the Year of Matthew’s gospel, the Sunday readings continue with the exploration of what The Kingdom of Heaven is like. However, the explicit and allegorical references to the Parousia- Jesus’ second coming and eschaton- a time of judgement, the final event in God’s divine plan, make for challenging reflection.
Taking Advent seriously is the perfect antidote to the jaded feel that the ‘Father Commercial Christmas Season’ can sometimes bring upon us, as it challenges us to think about what is most important. Last Sunday’s gospel reading was Matthew 25: 14-30. ‘The Parable of the Talents’. It contains confronting ideas that do not sit well with an image of a loving and comforting Jesus. ‘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’. And as if this was not enough, I have always been challenegd about the fate of the third slave in this parable who was cast out into ‘Deep Darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”’. No other character in the bible is treated so harshly.
This parable is about a wealthy man who goes away on a long journey. Before he departs he distributes his property to three slaves. It is a great deal of money. A talent would be about the equivalent of fifteen years wages; five talents would be a life times earning. The first two slaves receive five and three talents respectively and trade the money. This would have been high risk. The chances of loosing all or some of the money would have been very real. However, we are told that the slaves both do well. The third slave takes a very different approach with his one talent. He buries the money in the ground and all the money is kept safe.
This is not a bad man. He is prudent and careful. He takes no risk with someone else’s money. However, he is treated harshly. Many conventional sermons about this bible passage would make explicit reference to worldly and divine economics. Often implicit in this economic interpretation is the notion that we will be asked to account for our use or non-use of God’s gifts to us and that we will be punished or rewarded accordingly.
This bible passage has never spoken convincingly to me in these ways. I have never understood that the mysterious generosity of God could be reduced to economic constructs. Christians would better understand this gospel passage by engaging with eschaton- end time reflection. A time of final judgment, which no one can know when it will occur, as it is God’s time, not human time to appropriate.
This parable is better understood as directing the faithful to pay attention to their own life and the decisions they themselves have made. This is not a parable about stewardship of what we already have, nor is it about economics or reward. It is a parable that exhorts us to speculate wildly about a glorious God shaped, Kingdom of Heaven, shaped future. A future shaped by trust not fear, goodness over wickedness, disciplined work over laziness. Jesus is challenging us to be faithful servants who choose to allow life, God’s very own life, to grow within us. To choose otherwise is to deny ourselves the opportunity to live to our full potential.
Being faithful servants of Christ is a high-risk venture. Jesus is telling us this parable during the last few days of his life. He had made the decision to leave the safety of rural Galilee and go to Jerusalem. This parable teaches us that the greatest risk of all is to not risk anything. We must care deeply and profoundly enough about our faith to be willing to risk things.
To ‘play it safe’, to live cautiously and prudently at all times will not grow us as human beings. Ultimately a risk-free life becomes something akin to death, like being banished to an outer darkness- the fate of the third slave.
Magdalene Centre Christmas Hampers
The Pulteney Community has a strong tradition of helping the Magdalene Centre in the lead-up to Christmas. The Magdalene Centre is preparing to give away 500+ Christmas Hampers of food, toys and gifts to those in need. All donations are greatly appreciated. As we all know finding the right gift for a teenager is sometimes perplexing so if you have any gifts suitable for a teenager they will be especially welcomed. Please leave items in the chapel foyer.
Pulteney Christmas Services
Pulteney’s St Peter’s Cathedral Festive Carols Service will take place on Friday, December 8, beginning at 7:00 pm.
Pulteney Community’s Christmas Nativity Service, will be at 6:00 pm on Sunday, December 24, in the school Chapel.