Sermon by Canon Adrian Ling CMP, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 15 November 2020
Reading: Matthew 25.14-30
Simon Reeve is one of the best travel presenters on television, but due to the current restrictions his travelling has been rather curtailed of late, and he presently has a short series on Cornwall. You may have seen the first part. There were two lots of people I thought particularly interesting: the Taco Boys and the man who ran the Camborne Foodbank. Both of their stories have a bearing on our gospel reading today, the Parable of the Talents.
The Taco Boys were a group of enterprising young men who had set up their own business selling filled tacos, the tasty Mexican snack, from a converted horse box on the beach during the summer. The pandemic presented many challenges but also opportunities as tourists flocked to the coast. They made sacrifices for the sake of their business: they couldn’t afford to rent accommodation and so lived and slept in their vehicles beside the beach; through hard work, long hours and determination, they have now made enough money to be able to open up a café in Exeter, there being no suitable places in Cornwall. They had a great idea, and were adaptable in making it successful.
We do not know what the men who were given the five and two talents did to create such an impressive return on their master’s investment. They had been given a large amount, the equivalent of thousands of pounds, and they doubled their money. No wonder the master was so pleased with them. However we know exactly what the man given the one talent did: he dug a hole and buried it in the ground; and it made nothing.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown into sharp focus the need to be adaptable and flexible. That may well be the key to businesses thriving or even surviving, as was the case with the Taco Boys. It is the same with life, it rarely turns out how we might like it to be. We can hope that problems will just go away, but they usually won’t. We can wish that someone will wave a magic wand and make everything all right but they don’t. We have to do what we can to face our challenges and make the most of our opportunities, for God helps those who help themselves.
This has been a difficult time for churches such as ours, and the restrictions have meant that our fundraising has been massively reduced and we have not been eligible for any government grants. We have enterprisingly managed some fundraising but we remain dependent on and grateful to those who regularly give to our churches, and continue to do so through the lockdowns.
The other remarkable person in Simon Reeve’s programme on Cornwall was Don Gardner who ran the Camborne food bank. Cornwall is often depicted as an idyllic coastal county, but the prevalence of second homes has pushed locals out of the housing market, and the seasonal nature of employment leaves few opportunities for work in the winter, and there is much poverty. Don Gardner has run the foodbank for 16 years. He set it up with his wife, and it has grown as demand has increased, feeding more than 500 families a month. Don agreed to be interviewed and filmed despite the fact that the funeral of his beloved wife of 53 years was due to take place the next day. He described his motivation in the prayer he offered each day on waking: 'Please Lord help me to make a difference to someone today'.
He had often struggled to raise the £60,000 per year to run the food bank, which must have been a cause of great worry to him. He could have shrugged his shoulders at the poverty around him, he could have been overawed by the immensity of the task, he could have buried his talent in the ground, but he didn’t because he was motivated by the need to make a difference to at least one person a day. And now, his work has been blessed with an abundant return: £160,000 donated by the public in just five days after the programme was broadcast.
As Christians we should not expect swift returns for our labours. ‘The faithful do not reap a quick harvest they have to wait for it to ripen slowly’, one early writer has said. The master of the parable was away a long time. We are each endowed with talents that we can put to use to be of service to God and neighbour. Life is not as we knew it, the pandemic continues to present many challenges, but let us not despair and bury our talent in the ground; instead let us be adaptable and industrious; let us confront our challenges and make the most of our opportunities; let us make it our prayer to make a difference to one person each day. Then we may hear the voice of the Lord say to us ‘well done good and faithful servant come and share your master’s happiness.’