I volunteered to write a meditation on risk for a Lenten booklet being produce by Lake Harriet Christian Church. My apologies to Karin Pettijohn, the church adminstrator and editor of this project for not getting in on time.
Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30
The year was 1979. I was nine years old and had won my school's spelling bee and went on the next level. I was a great speller. At some point, it was my turn and I was given the word "subtract." I spelled it wrong.
The thing is, I threw the match. I knew how to spell subtract and if I had spelled it correctly, I had a good chance to win the spelling bee and go on to the Regional. But I was afraid of being successful, so I mis-spelled it on purpose.
And I've regretted that moment ever since.
The Parable of the Talents in Matthew is an odd one. I used to feel sorry for the final servant who was treated so harshly by his master. I mean, he had taken good care of the talent and gave it back to his master. It's only been in recent times that I've realized that this parable is about taking risks. The other servants were given talents and did what they could to make more money. This final servant was afraid. Maybe he was afraid of being successful. Or maybe he was afraid of failing. Whatever the problem, he decided to play it safe and faced the consequences.
Followers of Christ are called to live risky lives, just as Jesus did. Jesus was willing to offend the sensibilities of those in power in order to God's work in the world. He did it at the risk of his own life. Risk is really another word for faith. Faith and risk aren't based on certainties, but on trust. When we risk our lives for Christ, we know that God is with us.
When I was in seminary a few years ago, I had the feeling that I need to help plant a church. I tried to ignore the urgings, thinking that I didn't have what it takes to start a church. In 2004 I took a risk and heeded the call from God and helped start Community of Grace Christian Church. The road has not been easy. As the co-pastor of a new church, you have to deal with a tiny budget, little or no pay, and trying to get people interested in coming to church. And yet, I've seen God at work: people who were estranged from church, have come back to the fold and we have given a large amount of our money and time to worthy causes.
I still don't know if I have what it takes to be a new church pastor, but God has worked through me because I placed faith in Jesus and that has made all the difference.
What about you? Are you playing it safe or are you taking a step of faith and trying to follow Jesus?
Now if I could just adjust the space-time continuum to go back and correctly spell "subtract..."
Christ, our Immanuel, God-with-us, forgive us when we are filled with fear and fail to do your work of healing and justice in the world. Give us bold hearts to take a risk, and remind us that you are always with us, every step of the way. Amen.