“To those who have, more will be given . . . and then some!” [But Jesus didn’t say that. Read on.]

Cramer’s Corner 16 November 2008: First Congregational United Church of Christ, Santa Rosa, CA adult education

Extravagant generosity—how do we respond to it? Matthew 25:14-30.

Just before our recent election, the Episcopal Bishop of Bethlehem, PA addressed his people.

“I think it is obvious that as individuals and groups we are going to have to be more careful with our money,” the Right Reverend Paul V. Marshall counseled.
Then he tied this to mission.

“More importantly, all of us who have jobs and who retain some assets must be more acutely aware than ever of those in our communities who face a period of need. It is likely that the invisible white-collar poverty we saw in the 80s will reappear. Ask your children to be aware of who doesn’t have lunch at school. You might want to equip them to gently share.”

Bishop Marshall is mission-oriented. He wants his people to be. Be aware. Gently equip. Work.

Work?

“I invite those of you who think that I am over-dramatizing the situation to volunteer some time at a social service agency run by one of our parishes, or to visit the schools in down-town Reading where attendance drops in winters because it isn’t the turn of some children in the family to wear the one coat their mother can afford.

“Visit one of our churches in that rural town with the lowest high school completion rate in the state, or the one in the county with the highest incest rate in the state, and talk with the clergy about life there. Those record-holding places are both in our diocese. There is a level of misery around us that most of us understandably would prefer not to see, and are certainly not shown.

“But it is there, and as a people we need to respond. . . . We cannot afford the myth that we can do our own thing with no regard to wider implications for our fellow humans. That is true economically, spiritually, and ecologically. [“Mission” adds theology—faith—to life issues. RFC.]

“The truth I bow to here,” Bethlehem’s bishop explains, “means that each of our brains must stretch from what is comfortable to trying to seek what is just, useful, and most fruitful in our time. . . . The present crisis reminds us that the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of citizen-ship are much, much broader than many of us were taught to believe in the last millennium.”

Matthew 25:14-30 was much discussed online last week. Brian Stoffregen wondered, as a sly aside, who is Jesus in the parable of the talents, if in fact it’s in any way about him (which I think it is not). Jesus—the master? Jesus—the cautious slave who loses everything??? Most agree it’s a stewardship thought-provoker, but Stoffregen thinks it’s about extravagant grace and ways we might respond to it. I agree with that.

And . . . you must be wondering why I said Jesus didn’t say that strange thing about more to the more, and less to the timid. It was a common utterance in Jesus’ time. On its surface it therefore tells us little or nothing about Jesus even if he did say it — the Jesus Seminar divided in its vote: half said he didn’t say it, half said he might have but that’s unlikely. The Seminar did find the parable itself to reflect Jesus: he did tell it. Matthew has added his own take at the end, reflecting a different time and situation. So don’t fret about the Bible “quoting” a strange-sounding Jesus. Pay attention to a story of extravagant grace, as does a sermon I share now from the Internet. What does one do with such exaggerated generosity?

The Episcopal Church allows only ordained clergy and licensed lay preachers to bring their own work into the pulpit. The church provides a sermon each week. I share today’s—a good’un. (Handout distributed.)

Mission to the global marketplace is much on the minds of progressive denominations and ecumenical bodies. The World Council of Churches issued a strong statement just prior to the White House summit of the so-called G20. I share it with you because it didn’t appear in any major media to my knowledge. [I urge progressive Christians to seek out alternative media!]

A new “Bush Doctrine” insists that global leaders adopt American free-market policies as their joint standard. They are not likely to do so. I also share media reports on the Bush Doctrine (distributed). End.