Second Sunday before Advent
<span style="font-size: 1rem;">Readings for Sunday 15 November: Zephaniah 1.7,12–18, Matthew 25.14–30</span>
Are you a risk taker? Someone who likes to take a chance, who enjoys the thrill of a bit of danger? Are you first in the queue for the rollercoaster? Or are you a bit risk averse? The kind of person who sticks to the speed limit and whose first instinct in the face of danger is to shut the front door, draw the curtains and hide away?
I’ve been thinking a lot about risk lately. In one way or another, I think most of us have, because if coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that life is full of risk. Mostly as we go about day to day we ignore the risks and get on with life. But coronavirus is a constant wake-up call. Life is risky, it says, as we watch the death toll rise, as the government tells us to stay indoors. Life is risky.
Last week, everyone in the vicarage – me, my husband and my younger daughter – received a letter from the government telling us we need to shield again. All three of us have health challenges – challenges which under normal circumstances have little effect on our daily lives. But in these far from normal circumstances we are considered Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and have been asked to take extra precautions. We have to stay indoors except for exercise. No popping out to the shops if we run out of bread or milk. No going to see the rest of our family. No visitors at home. No going to work. Our health issues, which we normally ignore, put us at risk. It’s hard – and it’s making us all quite cross. We really don’t want to shield – we want to be out and about, seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.
But we won’t. However hard it is, we will do our best to follow the rules. And I want everyone to do the same - to follow the guidance about staying safe. I want you all to take as much care of yourselves and the people you love as possible. Look after yourselves, stay safe, wear masks, socially distance. I am certainly not going to tell you to take any risks in relation to coronavirus – quite the opposite.
But I do want us to think about taking more risks in our relationship with God – because that’s what today’s Gospel tells us to do.
In the parable, one of the servants plays it safe. He takes the money his master has given him and buries it, too scared of his master to do anything useful or practical with the money, certainly too scared to take any risks. And as we see from the master’s response, this is not enough.
That’s because being a Christian is not a risk-free endeavour. It is not the safe option. As Christians, we don’t get to draw the curtains and settle down – it’s not enough to be risk-averse and bury our talents. In fact, the work of the Christian is deeply risky – the work of offering love to strangers, showing hospitality, caring, giving, witnessing, speaking out against injustice. The work of loving God and one another is difficult and inherently risky. And so, even as we stay home, wear masks and keep our distance, we need to be ready to risk deepening our relationship with God, to risk showing the love of God to others, to risk using our talents to proclaim the good news.
So my friends – stay safe. But be bold, be brave and take risks for the kingdom of God. Amen.