St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us


November 15th Advent 2,  2020      Pam Martin

I don`t know about you, but I bump up against some of these parables. I`ve been told that, biblically speaking, I`m a literalist, so perhaps that`s the problem. Somehow they just don`t seem fair, they just don`t seem right. As I hear them, I identify with the little guy, the one at the wedding feast who didn`t get the memo about the dress code, or the one who`s late…especially the one who`s late!

You know, the one who ends up thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping etc.

And it seems like the ones of questionable character get away with it, even get preferential treatment. Like the steward who cheats his boss, or those organized-but-selfish bridesmaids in last week`s gospel who wouldn`t share.

And then there`s today`s parable of the talents - I mean, I can be risk-averse myself, and the master did get his money back-

The kingdom of heaven is like that? Seriously?!

In fact, I’m not alone in my reaction. Learned clerics and preachers and commentaries have been struggling with these parables pretty much since they were first written down from the oral traditions of Jesus, trying to discover, or perhaps to impose, moral and spiritual lessons to edify the faithful - the versions in children’s bible storybooks; the subjects of much ‘religious’ art.

Now it has been said of parables that they are like musical scores, capable of many different “performances”, all equally valid, from the same sheet of paper. While I basically agree, I can’t help reflecting that the Romans wouldn’t have executed someone who taught that we should follow the law and pay our taxes. No one got crucified for preaching that diligence and hard work will bring rewards. Something else is going on here.

Jesus’s parables were emended in everyday life. Baking bread, planting crops, wedding receptions, family squabbles. And looking for work, making money and being in debt. Characters include poor widow, rich fathers and scheming servants. Familiar settings, familiar characters draw us into the story… and then something shifts, the perspective changes, the unexpected happens and our assumptions and expectations are suddenly called into question. New possibilities - deeper, bigger questions - emerge from the cracks appearing in the crust of ‘normal’.

With that as our context, I invite us to look again at Matthew’s ‘Parable of the Talents’. Come with me on an adventure in parabolic deconstruction…

Let’s look more closely at some details:

Nothing in the narrative has changed. But our perspective has. We see with new eyes, hear with new ears.

Is the third slave ‘wicked and lazy’ as described by the master? Or engaging in as act of non-violent resistance, courageous and creative, refusing to collude with exploitation (the master makes no abjection to being called out for reaping where he did not sow and harvesting where he did scatter seed)? Or perhaps he’s just fed up?

Everyone knows that’s just how it is … that’s just how it works around here.

Does he make a difference? Does anything change?

Like prophetic voices and actions through history, he pays a price. From being a trusted staff member in a wealthy household with prospects for advancement he could end up with the ‘expendables’ on the margins of society, a truly grim prospect. There was no ‘social safety net’ in those days.

A couple of recent examples, bearing in mind that real life is always more complex, less clear-cut, than fiction:

“The US Justice Department’s top election crimes prosecutor resigned last week in protest after Attorney General William Barr told federal prosecutors that they should examine allegations of voting irregularities before states move to certify results in the coming weeks. Richard Pilger, director of the elections crimes branch in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity ?Section, told colleagues in an email that the attorney general was issuing “ am important new policy abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference Policy for ballot fraud investigations.”

“Last year the Canadian Prime Minister demoted the Attorney General and Justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who subsequently resigned from cabinet and was expelled from the Liberal caucus and now sits as an Independent in Parliament for refusing to ‘cut a deal’ to avoid prosecuting SNC Lavalin over charges relating to contracts in Libya.”

Did they make a difference? Did anything change?

Every knows that’s just how it is … that’s just how it works around here. Just go along. Don’t worry too much about it. You’ll do well.

Except our eyes have been opened.

Once your eyes are opened it’s hard to pretend you don’t see.

Once your eyes begin to  open you see … and then you see more.

Does it make a difference? Does anything change?

A small but hopeful story …

At the synagogue yesterday, a man pointed out that all the rabbis who were women were call ‘Rabbi (1st name)’ while the men were ‘Rabbi (surname)’ and suggested that they should all follow the same practice. Silence reigned in Zoomland, and then people began to nod…

Did it make a difference? Will anything change?

Actually, yes.

My friends, it’s Advent. A season to hope. To dream of possibilities.

Keep awake!