Legacy Giving Sunday 2020

For the last few weeks I have spent time honouring the legacies that have been
left to us. Whether it was in honour of Reformation Sunday, All Saints Sunday or
Remembrance Day Sunday we have been spending time reflecting on what others have
done for us and how that connects us one to another. Well, today that all comes to a head
because in our denominational calendar this is called Legacy Sunday. Part of the purpose
of this Sunday is to get us to think about the financial legacies we might leave behind but
that’s not all. God is pleased when we share what we have- in all that we have. Portions of
this morning’s sermon come from the resource for this Sunday as written by Jim
MacDonald. You may recall that Jim came and spent a weekend with us this past
February. While it was kind of a different world back then I have drawn on some of our
conversations with Jim about legacies to build on our own current church experience.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells the story about a rich master about to
embark on a journey. Before leaving, the master entrusts three servants with some of his
money. The first servant receives five talents, the second receives two, and the third
receives only one talent. When the master returns, he discovers that his first two servants
have invested his talents and doubled his returns. He welcomes them to share in his joy.
The third servant, however, buried the talent in the ground and hands back to the master
only what he was given. The master is angry and sends the servant away. This seems like a
simple story about the management of a rich person’s assets. However, if we dig deeper,
we discover that Jesus once again reveals something unexpected, something surprising
about the kingdom of God.

In the ancient world of the New Testament, a talent was a measurement of weight and a single talent weighed several pounds. We don’t know exactly how much a talent was
worth, but one talent could have represented 9-years of wages for a skilled labourer or as
much as 15 years of a day-labourer’s wages. So, even the single talent was a huge
responsibility. According to the parable, the master evaluated the servants before he gave
them the money. He had faith in their abilities and all three should have been able to
manage the money. In order to double their investments – an impressive return – the first
two servants probably needed to take considerable risks. The listeners would have known
that. They would have known that the first two servants could have lost the master’s
money. They would have known that to earn those returns the investments might have been unethical or even illegal. The listeners might have been surprised that these two risk-
takers were so celebrated by the master.

The servant who buried the talent actually acted in a law-abiding, commandment-
following way. He didn’t go to lenders to try to earn interest. By burying the talent, he protected the master’s assets. He didn’t gain the master anything, but he didn’t lose
anything either. The listeners might have wondered whether he deserved such harsh
punishment. Why was the master so angry?

Jesus was revealing something about the kingdom of God. The people welcomed
into the kingdom might not be clean or careful or safe or upright. They might be messy
risk-takers. They might be the type who would risk everything for their master. The first
two servants saw potential in their talents: an opportunity to increase the master’s assets.
They recognized the trust the master had in them, had faith in the master and used their
knowledge and experience to grow their gifts. They took risks with what they were given
because they could see what they might gain. The third servant saw scarcity, not potential;
letting uncertainty drive him. He expected loss, guarding what little he had at the expense
of what he could have had. Even though he knew the master expected to reap what he had
sown, he didn’t see the master’s faith in him. He did not invest in the hope of growth and
overlooked the possibility of surprise. By burying the talent, he denied both the potential
of the gift that he was entrusted with and his responsibility to the master.

The kingdom of God is about having faith. The kingdom of God is about seeing
the possibilities God presents. The kingdom of God is not about playing it safe but using
our gifts, risking them all, for a future of hope, the way Jesus eventually would. Shortly
after sharing this parable, Jesus took the greatest risk of all. He left the safety of Galilee to
go to Jerusalem, where the religious authorities regarded him as a threat to their own
power and privilege and where the Romans would consider him a disturber of their peace.
In being faithful, Jesus risked everything God gave him, including his very life. The return
was immeasurable, everlasting, and a blessing to all creation.

We are the soil in which God’s gifts are planted. God has given us tools to do
God’s mission. What will we do with what we’ve been given and what will it say about
our faith? Over the last few months two people have come to my mind as people who left
legacies for this church so that we could be prepared during this pandemic. When Pieter
Riedijk was finding it more difficult to attend services on a regular basis he approached
Mike and I and said, “why can’t we live stream the service?” And I resisted. I told him I didn’t want to be on YouTube, that it was too risky to be online every week. My self-
esteem wasn’t prepared to go viral. And Pieter looked at me and said, “This isn’t about you. This is about the congregation.” He helped fund some of the changes needed and
pushed us to take the risk and go online. This meant that we had been live-streaming
services for nearly two years before the pandemic and so, we had some experience with
the technology. Quite a legacy for him to leave us. But now that we have so many more
viewers watching on line than in person further upgrades were required- we realized that
the quality of the live stream had to be such that it felt like worship despite many of you
sitting in your own homes. Doug Beattie had listed the church in his will and left a
substantial amount from his estate to us. Some of those funds have helped us upgrade to
new cameras, microphones, and a computer (and numerous other things that Mike has told
me but I don’t remember). This will allow us to provide services into the future whether it
is in person or online or some variation of the two.

Right now, we are living under the shadow of a pandemic. We have no idea what
is coming up next. With the future so uncertain, it would be easy to respond like the third
servant, with fear. We could protect the gifts we have been given, fail to recognize them or
pretend that we never received them. We could bury our funds or heads in the ground. Or,
we could be like the first two servants: living in faith, trusting God’s faith in us, stepping
outside of our comfort zones to take risks and using our gifts to participate in God’s
kingdom and share God’s message of hope.

The third servant’s legacy was fear. The first and second servants’ legacy was
faithfulness. Pieter and Doug’s legacy was hope for the future. God confidently plants
seeds of ability and faithfulness in each of us. We are given the freedom to choose how to
use the treasures we’ve received. We can choose to hoard these gifts, or we can choose
actions, great or small, to produce works of love and mercy. We can leave our comfort
zones and take risks for God. I’m so thankful for the many people who have helped us live
out a legacy of being Comox Valley Presbyterian Church even in unprecedented times.