Proper 28 Sermon, Year A " A New Parable of the Talents"

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Rev. Peter Faass, Rector

St. John the Baptist, Sanbornville

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18, Ps. 90; I Thess. 5:1-10; Matt. 25:14-15,19-29

The CEO of the Manhattan investment firm came into the meeting room. He was tall and trim from regular workouts at the gym, and his graying hair displayed an expensive haircut. Dressed in a custom tailored Brooks Brothers suit, button down shirt, Italian silk tie, and black Prada shoes, he looked in command and very masterful!

In front of him, seated around an oval mahogany table, were his company's three newest apprentices, all recent graduates recruited from top business schools.

The three young men were also neatly dressed in suits. But as the CEO gave them the once over, he noticed they were not nearly the quality of his own outfit. This guy could tell an off-the rack item from a mile away. But never mind, he weren't there to talk about fashion - he was there to talk about his favorite topic: money and making lots of it!

In reviewing the resumes and references of the three new apprentices, the CEO had pegged one of them as a very competitive achiever. The second with great potential to become so. And the third as someone who could either make it big or not: it could go either way. Not coincidently, he noted, this third kid had graduated from the least prestigious of the schools, and didn't have the best of family pedigree or up-bringing. He had good grades and all, but he also seemed a little soft edged: didn't seem as aggressive or as hungry as the other two.

But, what the heck, the CEO thought, his company was working hard to portray a better image in its hiring policy, especially after the FTC investigation scandal, and this apprentice just might fit the bill.

This morning the CEO was going to give each of the apprentices an initial sum of money, and give them six months to invest it any way they wanted. The CEO wasn't very concerned about their methodology or ethics - FTC investigations or not. This was going to be a trial run to see just how shrewd these kids were in making profits for his business empire.

"Gentlemen" the CEO began, "Welcome to the firm. As you know each of you will be given a sum of money to invest any way you see fit over the next six months. The goal is to increase that sum to the highest amount you possibly can - and I want you to be ruthless in attaining that goal. Your level of success will be commensurately rewarded with more money. Oh, and the winner gets a night out on the town, in a chauffeur driven limo, with a pretty girl from one of my casinos, as a date."

And so to the first apprentice he gave $500, 000. And to the second apprentice he gave $200,000. And to third apprentice he gave $100,000.

Now after six months had elapsed, the CEO of the firm came back to the meeting room with the big oval mahogany table to settle the accounts with his apprentices.

And the one who had received the $500,000 came forward bringing $500,000 more, and said, " Mr. CEO, you gave me $500,000; here I have $500,000 more."

The CEO said, "Well, done shrewd and ruthless apprentice. You have been resourceful in making much money, I will set you over much, much, more. Enter into the joy of my business empire."

And the one who had the $200,000 came forward, saying, "Mr. CEO, you gave me $200,000; here I have made $200,000 more."

The CEO said, " Well done, shrewd and conniving apprentice; you have been resourceful in making a lot of money. I will give you much, much more; enter into the joy of my business empire."

And then the apprentice who had received the $100,000 came forward saying, "Mr. CEO, when I left here six months ago I heard of an organization that was making interest free home mortgage loans to people looking to improve their lives. They were short of cash at the time, so I leant them the $100,000 to them as a bridge loan. It helped a number of people lift themselves out of poverty and get decent housing. Since then the organization has paid me back the initial amount. Here is your $100,000 back."

"I was afraid to do this because I know you are an assertive and aggressive man, who wanted us to make as much money as possible. I also know that I didn't play by the rules, but I felt this was a better use of the money and that you would understand my motives."

But the CEO answered him, " You dumb and slothful apprentice! You knew that I was ruthless and aggressive and wanted to make a lot of money? Well, then you at least you could have put the $100,000 in the bank into a six month CD were it could have earned 3.5% interest. At least then I would have realized some profit from all of this. But no, you had to go and be altruistic. I suspected that you were soft-hearted and couldn't cut it in the real world when I read your resume."

Turning to his aides the CEO said, "take the $100,000 from him and give it to the apprentice with the $1,000,000!

Looking at the first two apprentices he said, "Just remember one thing: In the world of The Firm, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And no one is going to defy that ethos."

And turning to the third apprentice he shouted, "Your fired!"

Later that day, the CEO was riding on his private elevator down to his chauffeur driven limousine. Suddenly the elevator stopped at the 33rd floor. The doors slid open and a man dressed in a long wheat colored robe and sandals, with a dark complexion, brown beard and long hair got on. He had gentle eyes. The CEO starred at this odd character, and wondered just how with everyone so alert to terrorists, that this Middle Eastern looking man had ever gotten past the building security, never mind gained access to his elevator? He was about to ring the alarm bell when, suddenly it dawned on him who this man was. His jaw dropped. "Jesus", he said in a small, surprised voice? The gentle eyed man looked at him kindly and nodded his head. "Oh, my God", said the CEO, "I can't believe that I am seeing you!"

"Oh, but we have seen each other before," Jesus replied.

"We have?" the CEO said septically.

"Yes", said Jesus, " earlier this morning."

"I saw you?" the CEO replied. " I don't remember seeing you. Lord, when was it that I saw YOU? I haven't been to church in . . .well, let's see . . . never mind. Let's just say the last time I saw anyone resembling you was in that pretty mosaic at church."

"No, not in the mosaic at church. You saw me in the meeting room this morning. I was sitting at the mahogany table with two other fellows. I told you I had taken that $100,000 you gave me six months ago, and loaned it to an organization helping poor people with no interest mortgages. You told me I was fired."

"That was YOU?" the CEO said in amazement, as his face reddened with shame. A long silence filled the elevator. Jesus just stared at him with those gentle eyes. Finally the CEO, found his voice and said, Well, Lord, if I had known that was YOU, I would have given YOU the $100,000 and much more. I would certainly have taken care of YOU and given YOU what you wanted. And I would definitely not have fired YOU. Besides having you on staff would have been great P.R."

And Jesus replied, "Just as you have not done it to the person who you consider to be the least worthy in your life, so you have not done it to me."

The elevator stopped and the doors sung open, and before the stunned CEO had a change to utter a word, the doors slide back closed, and Jesus was gone.

As the elevator continued its descent, the CEO was left to ponder Jesus' words in his heart.

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