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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

27 Pentecost - Proper 28
November 16, 2008
The Rev. Kristine Hill
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
Small Parish - Big Heart
The little church you've been looking for!
All are welcome!
Our Mission:

To worship
the Lord

To serve the

To grow the
Judges 4:1-7
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
Because  he  was  frightened,   he  couldn’t  decide  which  would  be  best.  Should  he  
hide  the  box  under  a  loose  board  in  the  floor  and  cover  it  with  an  old  rug,  or  
put  it  way  back  in  the  corner-of-the-darkness  on  the  top  closet  shelf  (no,  anybody  
would  think  to  look  there),  or  take  it  and  bury  it  somewhere  out  in  the  woods  
(but… someone  might  see  him  and  mark  the  spot).   He  wasn’t  going  to  entrust  it  
to  a  bank,  that  was  for  sure!   Not  after  the  hardships  he  had  suffered,    him  
without  a  friend  in  the  world.   Trust  a  bank?   For  goodness  sake.       He  opted  for  
‘under  the  loose  board  in   the  floor,  covered  by  an  old  rug.’  He  made  it  look  as  
door.    Late  at  night   with  the  curtains  drawn,  his  doors  bolted  and  only  the  barest  
light  on,  Silas  Marner  would  take  the  box  out  of  its  hiding  place  and  run  his  
fingers  through  his  gold.  His  eyes  would  shine.  All  that  gold -  his!     He  never  
spent  any  of  it;  he  lived  as  poor  as  a  church  mouse -  wearing  old  clothes  and  
eating  crusts  of  bread.  He  was  afraid  if  he  spent  any,  people  would  suspect  he  
had  more  and  come  looking  for  it!    They  might  find  it  and  take  it.     No,  he  never  
spent  it.   His  pleasure  was  in  having  it.  Those  nights  when  he  bolted  the  doors,  
closed  the  curtains,  and  ran  his  hands  through  his  coins   were  the  only  happy  
times  he  had;    until  the  child  appeared.

But  before  that,  a  terrible  thing  happened.    One  day  while  he  was  out,  someone  
broke  into  his  house  and  stole  his  gold.  The  entire  box  was  taken;  nothing  was  
left.  When  Silas  returned  home  and  saw  that  he’d  been  robbed,   he  was  dumb-
founded,   then  aghast,   then  enraged.   He  overturned  everything  in  the  house  
looking  for  his  treasure,  he  searched  the  yard  and  the  barn;  he  tore  at  his  
clothes,  pulled  his  hair  and  ran  through  town  crying  out:  “thief!  “thief!”   People  
clucked  their  tongues  and  shook  their  heads  and  said  “dear,  dear,”   but  his  
money  was  gone.   Silas  Marner  was  shattered.  

After  that  he  retreated  to  his  house,  staying  closed-up  in  there  all  alone,   grieving  
his  loss…  until  one  cold,  snowy  night   he  heard  a  sound  at  his  front  door.  Going  
to  investigate  he  found  a  small  child  crouched  there,  shivering.  Silas  picked  her  
up  and  brought  her  inside  to  warm  her  by  his  fire.  The  next  day  he  looked,  but  
could  find  no  family  relations  to  claim  the  child.  So  Silas  decided  to  raise  the  girl  
as  his  own.  His  life  became  new.  He  spoke  to  people  and  they  spoke  back.  For  
the  child’s  sake  he  received  their  kindness,  whereas  before  he  had  rebuffed  it.   
In  time  he  became  known  to  his  neighbors,   became  part  of  the  community.  The  
child  thrived  and  he  doted  on  her;  she  loved  him,  too.   Silas’s  life  became  rich  in  
ways  it  had  never  been  rich  before.  

That’s  a  wonderful  story,  George  Eliot’s  novel  Silas  Marner.  In  fact,  as  I  was  
reviewing  it  in  preparation  for  this  sermon  I  got  out  my  old,  old  copy  of  the  
book,  saw  that  the  words  were  faded  and  ordered  myself  a  new  copy.  Human  
nature  loves  to  hear  stories  about  reversals  --  where  a   person  who  had  been  
closed-off  from  human  community  becomes  open  again,  where  someone  who  had  
been  wounded  and   broken  is  healed  and  restored  to  the  fullness  of  life.   Silas  
Marner  is  that  kind  of  story.  It  is  also,  however,  a  story  about  a  person’s  fear  of  
living  and  the  power  of  money.     People  are  not  meant  to  love  money,  yet  they  
often  do.   Even  so,  a  person  may  love  money  or  wealth  for  various  reasons  --  out  
of  simple  greed,  or  a  desire  for  finery,  from  a  lust  for  power,  or  to  exalt  oneself,  
or  because  of  fear.    Fear  may  the  most  common  reason  why  people  accumulate  
and  keep  wealth.   A  large  bank  account,  lots  of  stocks  and  bonds,  would  appear  
to  be  a  strong  barrier  against  the  harsh  things  life  can  throw  at  us  –  hunger,  
homelessness,  deprivation,  sickness,  ending  one’s  life  alone  and  unknown.    Great  
wealth  would   appear  to  shield  us  from  that,    but  does  it?

Life  is  a  complicated  business.  We  have  so  many  responsibilities  to  fulfill  --  
responsibilities  as  parents  or  as  children,   at  work,  as  a  citizen  in  this  community,  
this  nation.   We  have  individual  responsibilities  which  tend  to  pile  up  on  us  --  
bills  to  pay,  a  home  to  maintain,  our  health  to  worry  about,  keeping   food  on  the  
table  and  clothes  on  our  backs,  the  car  to  look  after,  commitments  to  loved  ones,  
taxes  that  come  due…  all  manner  of  things.   In  this  day  and  age  we  must  
constantly  be  learning  --  about  computers  and  other  technology  (get  ready  for  
HDTV  in  the  new  year  or  you  won’t  have  a  picture  on  your  television  screen).   
Then  there  are  the  new  gadgets  that  come  out  -  a  cell  phone  that’s  a  day  
planner  that  gets  email,  plays  music,  cooks,  and  does  the  laundry.    Keeping  up  
with  it  can  wear  a  person  out.   Add  to  all  that  the  uncertainties  of  the  economy  --  
the  unemployment  rate  is  up,  home  foreclosures  are  sky  high,  middle  class  
incomes  are  stagnant  --  and  there  is  cause  for  some  anxiety.

Our  current  economic  situation  puts  today’s  parable  from  Matthew  in  a  sharper  
light.   The  specific  language:  “the  one  with  five  talents  went  off  and  traded  with  
them,  and  made  five  more  talents…”  brings  to  mind  the  activity  of  the  stock  
market.  A  case  might  be  made  that  the  first  two  employees  in  the  story  were  the  
owner’s  top  two  young  brokers  with  whom  he  left  a  couple  of  large  accounts.   In  
his  absence  they  did  a  great  job  and  thus,  received  a  promotion  upon  his  return.  
The  remaining  young  broker,  also  a  talented  prospect,  was  afraid.   He  chose  to  
bury  the  investment  he’d  been  given   in  the  backyard  rather  than  risk  losing  a  
penny  of  it.  When  the  owner  returned  this  employee  gave  back  exactly  what  had  
been  given  to  him.    Well.      So…

What  if  the  owner,  before  leaving,  had  given  this  employee …  a  fine  mind,  
creative  and  able  to  piece  together  solutions  to  conflicts  between  quarreling  
factions,  and  the  ability  to  stick  with  a  task  patiently  and  confidently  until  it  was  
completed.   In  addition  to  that,  the  owner  had  given  this  employee  a  caring  heart,  
the  kind  that  sympathizes  with  the  feelings  of  others  so  that  he  is  able  to  see  
their  viewpoint  but  without  it  impairing  his  independent  judgment;  of  course,  we  
know  that  a  caring  heart  also  means  he  could  be  wounded  by  others.   Then  
finally,  the  owner  gave  this  employee  a  sense  that  he  was  loved,  a  sense  that  all  
people  are  loved,  so  that  the  employee  knew  in  the  depths  of  his  heart   that  
conflicts  should  be  resolved  so  that  people  can  live  well  with  one  another.   Then  
the  owner  went  away.  

But  the  employee,  left  with  these  fine  talents,  looked  out  at  the  world  and  saw  so  
many  possibilities  for  defeat,  so  many  places  where  conflict  raged  and  people  
were  not  reconciled;  he  saw  how  unkind  people  could  be  to  one  another;  he  saw  
how  those  who  tried  to  make  peace  between  warring  factions  were  often  ridiculed  
or  blamed  for  making  things  worse,  and  he  was  afraid.  He  decided  to  stay  inside  
rather  than  risk  failure,  ridicule  or  getting  hurt.    Because  of  his  fear  he  never  
ventured  to  try  any  of  his  abilities.  Instead  he  kept  them  to  himself  so  that  when  
the  owner  returned  the  employee  gave  him  back  the  same  fine  mind  he  had  
received  -  unused;  the  same  caring  heart  - unused,  the  same  good  judgment  -
unused.          What  a  waste.   What  gift-giver  would  be  pleased  with  that?   It  doesn’t  
make  any  sense.

Today  is  our  Stewardship  Sunday,  a  day  when  we  consider  the  various  gifts  God  
has  given  us.   Each  of  us  has  received  remarkable  gifts  from  God  -  minds  and  
hearts,  voices  and  vision,  intelligence  and  compassion  and  insight.   God  has  given  
us  bodies  and  souls,  minds  and  spirits  for  living  life  well,  for  living  our  lives  
productively  and  distinctly  as  people  of  God.  Some  of  us  can  teach  others  to  
sing,  some  can  talk  to  children,  some  listen  and  in  their  listening  help  others  
know  God’s  presence;  there  are  people  among  us  who  can  tell  the  story  of  God’s  
love,  who  bring  joy  to  lonely  people,  who  encourage  people  who  are  down-
hearted,  who  look  at  conflicted  situations  and  see  the  beginnings  of  a  solution.    
Everyone  in  this  congregation  can  let  the  light  of  Christ  shine  through  him  or  her  
to  make  the  world  a  better  place,  and  certainly  we  can  do  that  together.  

But  sometimes  fear  gets  a-hold  of  us  and  we  become  like  Silas  Marner,  hiding  
our  gifts  under  the  loose  board  in   the  living  room,  covering  it  over  with  a  rug  
and  pretending  nothing  is  there.   We  hid  our  gifts  from  fear  of…  what?   Maybe  
fear  of  letting  others  truly  know  us,  the  good  and  the  not-so-good.  Maybe  fear  of  
change,  in  our  routine  or  in  ourselves  --  we’ve  been  doing  things  this  way  for  so  
long.   What  would  it  be  like  to  do  things  differently?    Maybe  fear  that  if  we  give  
generously  from  our  financial  resources  to  God’s  work  at  Calvary  church  there  
won’t  be  enough  left   to  save  us  from  the  future.    We  like  to  think  money  will  
protect  us  from  the  future.   It  won’t,  but  we  like  to  think  it  will,  so  it’s  hard  for  
us  to  give  well,  …a  tithe  …or  more.    We  have  to  fight  the  urge  to  put  our  
money,  our  gifts,  in  a  box,  and  hide  them  where  nobody  can  find  them   or  steal  
them.    And  the  heartbreak  of  it  is,  that’s  no  way  to  live  at  all,  with  the  door  
bolted  and  the  lights  dimmed,  the  curtains  drawn  and  the  world  shut  out  so  no  
one  can  touch  us.

We  don’t  have  to  live  that  way.  Our  hope  is  not  in  a  box-of-treasures  buried  in  
the  backyard.   Our  salvation  is  not  in  our  bank  account.   And  contrary  to  what  the  
last  employee  seems  to  think  of  his  Master  in  today’s  parable,  ours  is  not  harsh  
and  demanding,  expecting  us  to  succeed  at  all  costs.  Our  Lord  is  gentle  and  
honest,  just  and  merciful;  our  Lord  first  came  to  us  as  a  child  so  that  we  would  
not  be  afraid  as  we  might  have  been  had  God  approached  us  as  a  mighty  king  or  
a  conquering  warrior.   We  were  won  over,  instead,  by  the  love  of  a  little  one  who  
then  grew  to  be  our  good  and  gracious  Savior.  

It  is  Jesus,  the  Savior,  who  calls  us  to  use  the  gifts  we  have  been  given  to  live  
fully  in  this  world,  to  live  distinctively  and  joyfully,  as  God’s  people.   There  is  no  
need  to  fear;  we  are  not  going  to  lose  ourselves;  Christ  has  our  lives  safe  in  his  
keeping.   The  future  is  no  threat;  come  what  may,  Jesus  will  be  with  us  as  our  
friend  and  our  guide.   If  we  stay  shut  up  in  our  houses  out  of  fear,  what  good  is  
that?   But  if  we  come  out  and  pool  our  resources,  help  each  other,  address  the  
needs  in  our  community  as  one  people,  encourage  each  other  with  hymns  and  
prayers  and  fellowship  all  in  Christ’s  name,  our  gifts  multiply,  God  is  served,  and  
blessings  abound.    Let  us  open  our  hearts  and  give  freely  of  ourselves - our  
abilities  and  our  blessings - to  serve  God  and  to  live  deeply  the  life  God  has  
given  us.        amen.