Sermon preached on the Second Sunday before Advent (16 November 2014) by The Reverend Guy Treweek, Priest in Charge of St James Garlickhythe and St Andrew's by the Wardrobe

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12:00pm Doors open for sightseeing
12:30pm Eucharist
4:00pm Last entry for sightseeing
5:00pm Evening Prayer
5:30pm Cathedral closes

Sermon preached on the Second Sunday before Advent (16 November 2014) by The Reverend Guy Treweek, Priest in Charge of St James Garlickhythe and St Andrew's by the Wardrobe

The Reverend Guy Treweek looks at risk and fear and concludes 'Our faith journey is impossible on our own'.

This week I’ve been thinking about risk.

I’ve had a practical problem to deal with old buildings and I’ve been

thinking (as one does) about the options open to us -- and which of them is the right one to choose.

And risk is part of the soup. A factor in the decision...

Which of the options, if they were to go wrong, would have catastrophic consequences and loss?

And how does that leave me feeling? How might this affect my actions? And where does my responsibility to God lie in all this?

Before I was ordained, I worked in the Capital Markets only a few

hundred yards from here so when Jesus uses financial examples to make his points, I feel I have a particular sensitivity to them.

Risk was something we dealt with every day.

Balancing potential rewards against the risks of differing degrees of loss.

I’ve known the excitement and satisfaction of high returns...

as well as the sickening feeling of a major loss.

And I’ve known the fear of making the wrong decision.

Of failing to meet the expectation of my boss... and the fear of how that would have affected my future.

Of serious personal consequences.

I think these are things many of us can relate to in some way – either through our work or in our private affairs.

And these are important themes in our readings today.

Risk and fear.

They give us an important lens to look through.

And perhaps to see ourselves.

How fearful are we?

How much risk are we willing to take?

Do we "play safe” too often -- and crush the potential for something

extraordinary to occur?

Specifically for us as Christians, to sell God short.

To be satisfied with pocket change & left overs when He would use

our talents to transform the world?

The two readings we heard today have a common theme.

In One Thessalonians, the apostle Paul teaches the church that the proper way to prepare for the Lord’s promised return is by conducting ourselves properly establishing and nurturing meaningful relationships within the community of believers.

And Jesus does the same in the Parable of the Talents.

Where he acknowledges that even though "The End Time” may not occur for a long time, Jesus insiststhat the question of how each person has handled their positions of trust and responsibility...

....that these questions will, in the end, be raised.

As Paul put it in the first reading: "there will be no escape!”

The time will come suddenly and unexpectedly.

Like a woman expecting a child. Like a thief in the night.

But come it will. So be forewarned he says... and be ready.

But how are we to be ready... what are we to do while we await the

quickening? The onset? The birth pangs? The thief scrabbling at the window?

Well not by frenzied working he says but through confidence that we are creatures of the light... of day not night.

Just as our baptism both assures and charges us.

That we are to be light and hope and that our light will always conquer the darkness and our love will, in the end, conquer hate and brokenness.

So the proper response, the proper preparation is mutual encouragement.

Thisis the ongoing responsibility Christians bear.

"Therefore encourage one another and build up each other,

as indeed you are doing.”

Build up. Encourage.

Be assured that ‘God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and has given us a place with the saints in light.’

Be confident... not timid, paralysed by fear.

For our God is great... and good!

And then we come to this extraordinary story Matthew records

where Jesus teaches us of many things.

It’s nuanced, layered.

But I think one of the most striking things about the opening of this

story is the meaning of "talent”.

This is not a description of an ability (like singing or maths)

‘A talent’ was a very large sum of money -- an amount equal to a

labourer’s wages for about fifteen years.

And into this intriguingfinancial story, Matthew mixes Kingdom language.

Twice we heard "enter into the joy of your master.”

And then finally:

"throw him into the outer darkness,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

A phrase Matthew uses eight times elsewhere.

These are not phrases used in business.

They have no meaning in the financial world / but they are very much a part of Matthew’s description of eternal judgement.

So we have eternal judgement and the Kingdom of God intermixed with a story of investment performance.

Fund manager comparison, if you will.

Now one of the traditional ways of looking at this parable is to summarise

it like this:

•That gifts which are unused, they atrophy.

•Whilst gifts which are exercised wellthose ones increase.

... like going to the gym.

And this is true of course.

But, I think, it misses two critical points in the story.

Risk & fear.

Two things we all ponder on.

It misses the high risk the first and second servants both put huge

amounts of their principal’s capital to.

The one who had trusted them with his assets.

The one they had a responsibility to.

They double the money a 100% return but what kind of risk was the

capital put to? They don’t say!

But a lot / I think.

And this is true with all the expectations Jesus has of his followers. His friends. His agents.

Caring, giving, witnessing, trusting, loving, hoping -- all carry risk.

Real risk.

With real, painful, costly consequences if they go wrong

And that last servant...

well his response to his duty and to fear he felt... well he was paralysed. Immobilised by his fear of failure, fear of punishment, and fear of loss.

And that kind of fear is something every one of us can relate to.

Because we see it all around us.

And all too often, we succumb to it to.

So fear and risk.

These are two of the challenges at the heart of The Faith.

Two of the things we struggle with.

But these texts remind us / we don’t do so alone.

God knows all about them. Intimately.

And we are part of a community of believers, a community that is available to support and encourage us...

and with the duty to challenge us too / when we backslide.

And indeed... just as we are meant to encourage and challenge others in turn...

We are not to give in to fear ... and fail in our stewardship, of the talents Our Creator gave us. Gave us for a purpose.

So we must never allow ourselves to be separated from our most

important support network.

The Church.

Our faith journey is impossible on our own.

We need God... and we need each other too. For on the Day of the

Lord’s return, we will not be standing alone.

And neither should we now.