Sunday, November 16, 2008

Well done, good and trustworthy slave...

(Image: "Jewish Ghetto" by Carrie Mae Weems)

“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” (From Matthew 25: this morning’s Gospel reading)

My Worth: From the Outer Dark

Where the weeping, where the gnashing?

Cast into the outer dark,

silence greets me, a silken silence

without the grip and grasp

and drumbeaten brow, silence

slipsliding down

a sleek hole,

unforetold dimensions

of silence, pussyfooting

gods and masters long

past, immunity

from all past crimes.

My one talent?

I planted it to grow,

to breathe in earth:


seeded flower, yes,

I can stand the voice &

breath of god,

but I can’t stand

the weariness of

capital gain &

crumbling property.

I am a simple

man: call me worthless

if you must,

if it makes you feel better,

if it stacks the deck

in favor of

the master’s vanity,

his wealth,

& the groveling servants.
Then you ought to have

invested my money with

the bankers, he sez:

that’s an outer dark I’d

rather not.



Blogger anno said...

Ah, yes, the parable of the talents and the two stewards. That one has always stayed with me, and not always in good ways, as you've so wonderfully expressed here.

The book of Matthew always seems problematic to me, and its placement first among the gospels more a political decision than a judgment on its spiritual value. It's been a while, but this makes me want to re-read Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels. Maybe after I finish Tuchman (which for now looks like it's going to take forever).

3:27 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

anno: I get, at least I think I get, the notion of not hiding our talents away, but aside from the hilarious contextual gaffe of Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, what took hold of me was the worthless slave's fate. What if his fear was real, what if he (or she) indeed had a different experience of the master?

5:21 AM  
Blogger jsd said...

awesome post - my EFM group was quite divided on this reading. Two people saw this reading as using and squandering gifts - the rest of us did not...and it felt like there was all this pressure to see the reading in their vain (at least that was how I felt). So when I heard my local pastor preach - (1) it was his best sermon I've heard (2) I felt vindicated.

My local pastor quoted a chunk of text from a NT scholar (can't remember who now) that spoke of his experience leading a bible study with Religion major and maximum prison inmates. One of the inmates got to the passage being about exploitation, about the third man being the hero. The NT scholar mentions that the master in this reading is not God.

7:59 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

jsd: Any chance of a link to that sermon? Robert took the traditional "not hiding our talents" route and gave a good sermon from that angle, but I did a pretty bad job of stifling my guffaws during the gospel reading itself. It's the violence of the reaction to the third "slave" (and my new theory - it hit me as I was answering anno - is that the third slave is a woman) that makes me think something's just ain't right about this story. It was much more a visceral, than a cerebral, reaction on my part.

On a completely different note, congratulations on living in the CDC's "Healthiest City in the US."

10:05 AM  
Blogger bass said...

The parable, I believe, is a simple call to responsibility and obligation. All three servants- though unequally talented(in skill) and thus unequally talented(the name of the Roman coin) in money - were all equally responsible and obligated to their master to make use of, to the best of their ability, their potential. As their own profit grows so does their master's, and for his sake, not their own, are they responsible. Such, it says, is the kingdom of heaven. At least servant #3 returned the money intact, not loosing it all buying short a hedge fund or a sub-prime mortgage. The common man does not think himself master to the broker(because he makes so much more money than himself) but he is. Woe unto the market manager, and Whoa! unto the market.

1:56 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Bass: I like the way you lined up them horses.

3:29 PM  
Blogger jsd said...

I'll ask him if I can have a copy of his sermon - the church's website is whoa-full.

6:54 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

jsd: I would love to have a copy of the sermon, or even just a pointer to the NT writer he was quoting.

Stay warm, and love to all of you.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Tammie Lee said...

Sir Murat11,
Your writing touches me, deep inside. If this is a simple man, may all men be simple.

2:47 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Thank you, Tammie. I appreciate the eyes and ears and heart you bring to your visits here.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Getting to this kind of late, Paschal, sorry. I like Bass's interpretation. But even that can be a scary program when you think your talents are naught or not appreciated. I understand the 3rd servant's fears very well, but I don't think I see his master as God. My God image is a more loving and forgiving image which counteracts many of my images of authority much better than a stern and strict God would. Mind you, that loving God isn't always the one I run to for comfort, but I think that is why he put such loving friends in my life, because he knew me so well. So I just try to keep him tied to my thoughts and the center as much as possible, and, hopefully, his work on me and my work for him causes his/my talents to grow.

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

6:36 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Lee: I agree with you that the master is not God, but I do think that interpretations that tend to lop off the "unseemly" third slave and focus on the other two "investors" inadvertently throw the master back into the God-role. I keep having the sneaking suspicion that Jesus was pointing to the third not as a cipher for irresponsibility, but as a cipher for an entirely different way of seeing and being, a portal to the kingdom outside Jack in the Box.

7:51 AM  

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