Life in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast was fairly bare bones. I don’t say this as a negative thing, but just stating the reality of the situation. When the Dioceses of Alabama and Florida carved out the CGC in the late 1970s, they were very careful not to give away too much of their extra oil, to borrow an image from last week’s Gospel lesson. Alabama kept Montgomery and all of its endowed funds. Florida kept Tallahassee and all of its endowed funds. Life in the CGC was pretty much lived congregational pledge payment to congregational pledge payment. The same was true in Foley, a congregation barely 100 years old, built in a community that for the better part of 75 of those years was mostly small and agricultural. In that context, the parable of the talents that we will hear on Sunday doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in terms of money. If you don’t have silver talents to invest, you have to hear this story another way.
Over the past decade, I have read this story to be about other types of talents, be they art, numbers, music, wood-working, electrical, computer, or the rare-as-a-unicorn ability to work with middle school youth. I stand by this reading valid. I follow Paul’s teaching that we are each called to invest our gifts and talents for the building up of the Church, and to squander those gifts by hiding them in a hole, is to succumb to the sin of laziness. Where I have been wrong in the past, however, is in suggesting that this parable might only be about these talents.
Maybe it because the Finance Ministry Team will be ironing out the 2018 budget this afternoon, and I’ve been knee deep in endowment fund reports for the first time in my ministry, but now that I’m serving a congregation with some named funds that exists in a Diocese with the same, I’m beginning to realize that the parable of the talents might also actually be about the money entrusted to our care. and how we make wise investments of it for the up building of the Kingdom of God. Just as we are called to be wise stewards of Creation, so too are we to make smart choices when it comes to the hard earned money that others leave, either through gift or bequest, to the Church for its long-term sustainability. Part of those smart choices are ensuring the money is placed in sound investments with good long-term strategy. The other part is making us of that income. Nobody gives money to the Church so it can sit in a bank account and make interest for ever. People give money to the Church for mission, for ministry, and for the in-breaking of the Kingdom. As much as I don’t really like this parable being about real money, and as much as I know that it is not only about real money, I can no longer deny that yes, perhaps Jesus did have actual money in mind as he told his disciples this parable.