If you grew up in the Midwestern states, or in a coastal community, you know this sight. Because of the expanse of sky revealed by a level landscape, the scope and span of meteorological events can often be viewed in their entirety as they develop and draw near. Banks of clouds darken the sky and arc higher and higher. Winds rip and tear at the face of the cloud bank, rending ever-shifting patterns into the suspended moisture that is being gathered, sometimes from hundreds of miles away. There, at the leading edge of the front, is a what looks like a curtain hanging low over the ground. All of it is heading toward you, looming impossibly large. In its expanse and with all that motion, storms appear to be like living things, with motive and intent. Storms in that context are evidence that the universe is bigger than our hubris, and more powerful than anything we might build as either ward or barrier to its advance.
We are so very small.
Much of the real, unfiltered holiness of God can be as foreboding as that oncoming storm front. It is, like the storm, raw and untamed energy. Though all grace and love, it is not grace and love as we would like to know them: obtainable on a human scale and timed for a convenient and foreseen interval. No, God's arrival on the stage of human endeavor, at least until the Advent of the Christ, was an occasion more often than not for fear and trembling, and rightly so!
"Be not afraid." That enjoinder is tendered again and again by God's messengers, even by God godself, in scripture. Why? Because there was cause to be afraid. With God's arrival, only truth can prevail, only righteousness. If we can at best only lay claim to either in small portion, then how can we stand before the Almighty and avoid not just condemnation...but also obliteration? Simple answer, we can't.
We can only trust in God's word when we are told to let go of our fears and our trembling. We can only let go of our agendas that would have us run from the oncoming storm, rather than turn into it. One might argue that is a senseless ideal. Like birds in flight running before the cooling winds and first hint of rain, so too our confidence in our own certainties flees before the might of the Glory of God, revealed.
And yet...we are called on by Christ himself to express confidence not only in God's grace, but also in God's mercy and concern (material, direct concern) for us. God gives us gifts in different proportion, and our only job is not to preserve those gifts from loss or erosion but rather to invest them in the world around us and garner a harvest, a windfall, for the greater glory of the kingdom of God.
Jesus said, “It is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 25:14-30In Jesus' parable, a man goes on a journey and invests a portion of his own worth in each slave. Each servant takes what is given and decides on a plan of action in proportion to their own confidence. One takes the little he is given and hides it away, out of fear. He is the only one who faces upbraiding when the master returns. Why? Because he refused the deeper value of the gift given...that it was there to build up, rather than to be hidden away. It was something to risk, even in the face of the oncoming storm, that the grace of the kingdom might further abound.
We get so caught up in the oncoming storms in our lives that we forget that God is imbuing in all that energy and movement a powerful gift. When we realize that we are small in the face of a storm, when we know that compared to God we are indeed like specks....we are also told over and over again that God is particularly invested in us, in a unique and personal way. God gives you a full measure of talents. God gives you great potential, even in the face of the storms you worry about...and in the fullness of time, God is also with you even as the wind and thunder rage while the torrents drench. You are beloved, and your only job is to remember that.
Want to avoid being out there in the embrace of the storm where teeth are gnashed and eyes weep with sorrow? Embrace the reality that God is with us IN that storm...perhaps even more so than when all is quiet and good.
The oncoming storm is just that....a storm. It will pass. God's abiding presence will not, and will be with us even beyond the moment when the very tumults of time and space cease to roil and churn. God will be our rest and refuge. Our task in the meantime? Use those talents. Build up a treasure for our God, our salvation and our hope.