On Faith: Take stock of how you use your time
November 13, 2020
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Fellowship of the Ring"
It's been a long haul hasn't it? Our "new normal" hardly seems new anymore, as we can most accurately measure its duration in months. Much of our lives seem more complicated, more difficult, and sometimes downright impossible. We see the number of cases climbing, our schools moving to digital platforms, more events being modified, postponed or canceled altogether. All this dovetailing with a season of falling temperatures and dying light. It is an exhausting and difficult time to be alive.
This coming Sunday, Nov. 10, has as its appointed Gospel reading Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Talents. In the parable the master gives out talents, or a large sum of money, for each of his servants to invest and to yield returns on behalf of the master. The first two servants do well, returning the original sum with considerable interest. The third did nothing; he took the money and buried it in the ground. Predictably, the master is pleased with the first two and angry with the third for squandering their opportunity. The third is chastised and is met with judgement, outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The note of judgement here in the text should not be ignored of course. Yet, as I read this text, I can't help but think of the quote above from Tolkien's epic "The Lord of the Rings." Frodo, the main protagonist, has come to a moment of despair. The task before him - to destroy the ring of the evil lord Sauron - seems monumental, impassable, immovable. In this moment he wishes he was anywhere but where he was and laments that he finds himself in such a time. The wise wizard Gandalf agrees but admonishes and also encourages Frodo. They may not wish to find themselves where they are. Yet that is something beyond their control. It is not for them to decide. All that is before them is what choices will they make. How will they choose to spend the time given to them?
I think the secret to finding the good news in Matthew's parable comes in the fact that God chooses to invest in us, that behind God's anger is sadness that we so often are afraid like the servant in the text, that we despair of our abilities. We listen to the lies that we are not enough, that we don't have any gifts, any talents, to bring to bear. Yet as we look at the cross, we discover a God who is deadly serious about our worth, a God so convinced of our value, that God would humble God's self to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I do not wish to find myself in such pandemic times as these. I suspect you do not either. Yet that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is how we will choose to use the time that is given us. Christ was crucified, buried and raised because God believes that we, that you, are worth investing in, worth dying for. So, the question then is this, how will you use the time given you? How will you keep people safe and healthy? What will you do to be an encourager, a light in the long nights that lay ahead? What will you do with the time that is given you?
CJ Boettcher is a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Cloquet.