Proper 28 / Year A
What is your goal in life? What is the target at which you aim and what exactly is the bullseye you are trying to hit? If you had to prioritize everything important to you, what would be at the top of the list; the one thing from which all others get their orders? If you can’t answer these questions, by the end of my sermon you will have a suggestion to ponder.
But first, let me offer why it is helpful to have an aim:
· Without an aim you risk wasting your life away.
· If you drift through life you may find yourself with many regrets.
· An aim will help you make good decisions and give guidance for life’s biggest questions.
· Knowing your ultimate goal helps you to be the best possible version of you; to maximize who you can be.
I spent some time this week reading student essays speaking to this question. I noticed each student has a vision for what he or she wants to do in life – become a doctor or a teacher or research scientist. And each student articulates why he or she wants to become something specific – to help people or to make the world a better place or to follow in the footsteps of an admired person, for example. But no student wrote about how he or she wants to navigate life in and beyond a career. For these young people the job itself is the ultimate aim.
As we grow older we begin to sense we are more than what we do – much more, in fact. We learn who we are and what we do needs to be grounded in something significant in order to give it meaning. The actor and comedian Jim Carrey once said in an interview, “I hope everybody might get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know for themselves this is not the answer.”
This morning we hear Jesus tell his parable about the Talents – money a master entrusts to his servants while he is away. Each gets a differing amount – ten, five, and one – according to his abilities. Two put the money to use and make a handsome return for the master. One buries his resource and, upon the return, hands it back. The master who empowered the servant is not pleased with his lack of effort.
Two obvious questions arise from this story. First, what are your talents? And second, what are you doing with them? But the parable also raises a question about your ultimate aim. Two servants strive to take advantage of an opportunity in order to please their master. One seeks not to disappoint his master by losing what has been entrusted to him. The first two hear these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” while the third receives harsh condemnation.
What might your goal in life be? What might be the bullseye? Your number one priority? Allow me to suggest it should be this: Live your life in such a way that at the last, when you come to your “heavenly reward”, the words you will hear will be “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
To hear these words you don’t have to be the most talented person in the room. You don’t have to be the most ambitious or the most successful. You merely have to be good and faithful.
I came across this prayer in one of my old devotional books I use for Monday night’s Evening Prayer:
If any word of mine has caused on tear
from other eyes to flow;
If I have caused one shadow to appear
on any face I know;
If but one thoughtless word of mine has stung
some lovely heart today;
Or if the word I’ve left unsaid has wrung
a single sigh, I pray
Thou tender Heart of Love, forgive the sin.
Help me to keep in mind
That if at last I would Thy “Well done” win,
in word as well as deed I must be kind.
This prayer reminds me the goal of being good and faithful is not the same as being perfect.
The New Testament word for sin is hamartia and it means “missing the mark” as when an archer’s arrow does not hit the target. Now there are two ways an archer can miss. One is by being off aim. The arrow goes left or right or over the top. You are trying to hit the mark, but every now and then you miss. Such is the human condition. The other way to miss is by not pulling back the bowstring far enough to get the arrow to the target. It is not a question of aim, but of effort and intention, both of which are lacking.
I guarantee you the two good and faithful servants missed the target more than once in their lives, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The sin of the one talent servant is the sin of not trying. He is condemned because his life lacks effort and intention.
What is your goal in life and with how much diligence are you working at it?