Rear Admiral Miller spoke at Johnson Bible College to students entering ministry professions. Miller was the highest ranking chaplain in the military at that time. He told stories about Normandy ... about going soldier to soldier to give comfort ... soldiers who were screaming, crying and dying. It was a terrible time made worse by shells exploding, gunfire and all of the sounds that accompany war.
The students asked Miller the obvious question. "Why did you go to that terrible place, and endure the sounds of war and dying just to say a few words of comfort or to say a prayer for kids who didn't care if you were Catholic, Protestant or Jew?" He answered, "Because I am a minister."
The parable of the talents is an oft-repeated story that is commonly used to encourage us to give. I want to take this story in a slightly different direction because I believe the story is about three things ... what we have been given ... whose property it really is ... and what we do with what we are given.
The parable says we have been given talents. While this is a denomination of money in Scripture (Wikipedia says it is about $1.25 million) I think the idea is that we have been given something very valuable. In the United Methodist Church it is spoken of as our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. It encompass what and who we are.
The parable also says that this gift was the property of the giver ... off on a long journey. The giver has entrusted His property to three servants. For the sake of modernity lets say he has given the first servant $6.25 million, the second $2.5 million and the third $1.25 million. It is only entrusted to us ... it is and was never ours to claim.
And then the hard question ... what do we do with what we have been given? Rear Admiral Miller was given the gift of ministry, a gift he did not take lightly. He knew the gift was God-given and came from a source outside of him ... the God who inspires all ministry. He understood that he was called to use his gift in ways that might risk everything ... even his life. He did what I hear a lot when people don't want to risk ... he counted the cost (Luke 14:28). Then he did something I believe is a very Christ-like thing ... he did it anyway, realizing that his God was greater than the risk.
In the parable of the talents, two servants were willing to risk. These two were called "faithful" by the master. The third servant hid his $1.25 million in the ground, giving it all back to the master. The master was angry calling him wicked and lazy.
The point? We have been given talents valuable for the Kingdom by the Master of the Kingdom. The Master doesn't seem concerned with dollars here. He is, rather, all about the risk, the willingness to grow His original gift, the acknowledgement that His gift is something valuable that has been entrusted to those who say they are servants.
May we continue to be generous and risky with what God has given us. May we endure the dangers we will certainly face while using those gifts. May we be willing to arrive at that time of reckoning and hear the words "faithful servant" from our Lord, Savior and Master. For He knows a little something about risking it all for "a wretch like me." Randy