Investing in a Time of Fear

A Christian Perspective

FEAR
Investing in a Time of Fear
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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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You might be surprised to know that Christians think and talk about money. The teachings of Jesus direct us to, even if we didn’t want to anyway.

I have addressed this topic before in sermons:
I looked back to my notes from November of 2008, when we were only a month into a global financial meltdown.

Bryan Hayday was then chair of our stewardship campaign — not the easiest time to be raising funds. I asked what he would like me to stress in my sermon.

“People are worried about finances, but we are a community with so much abundance….and we are building a church and supporting a community in Maple Grove that matters. Please ask us to risk our “talents” on our present and our future church.”

I looked back to my notes from 2011, when we were in the midst of the Wall St. and Bay St. Occupy movement.

‘In this time of financial insecurity, the message is clear: be brave; don’t make decisions on the basis of fear; and remember whose resources you are working with: God’s! What we have – our money, our time, the things we excel at, our possessions, you name it – all of it belongs to God first.’

Here we are today.
At this very moment, the stock market is at its highest. If you owned all of Apple, you could sell it and purchase the whole Russian stock market. Yet still we are beset by fears.

And Jesus’ story about investing is as relevant and pointed today as it has been in the near and distant past. Matthew 25.14-30

Jesus told a story of a wealthy landowner who was preparing for a long journey. He called his three servants and divided his money between them, each according to their ability. To one servant he gave five talents to a second two, and to a third one.

The landowner went on his journey. When he returned he called together his three servants and asked them to give an account. It seems that the five talent man had invested his talent and was able to return an additional five talents, a 100% return. So, too the two talent man doubled his money. “Well, done good and faithful servant.”

But what about the one talent man? He stepped forward and said: Sir, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, so I dug a hole and buried the money. He returned what he had originally received. The landowner, incensed, uses words such as “slothful” and “wicked.” Angrily he took the talent back and gave it to the servant who now had ten.

What is a talent and why did the third guy choose to do nothing with what had been given to him?

Silver Coin

Roman denarius featuring the head of Apollo

What is a talent?
about an inch thick, 30 inches long, 15 wide,
rectangular but with handles on each corner so that it can be carried by more than one person.
It weighs about 75 lb — the weight of a person back then. And it also represented the salary of one person for a lifetime.

While a denarius — the coin that has appeared this fall in two of Jesus’ stories — is worth a day’s wage, a talent is worth a life’s wage: about a million dollars in today’s terms. A lot of money.

Why did the third servant bury his talents?

Fear.

Richard Rohr writes in his book Radical Grace,

“The greatest enemy of faith is not doubt; the greatest enemy of faith isfear. Most of the world is controlled by fear, petty and big. Petty fears control people; great fears control nations.”

Jesus challenged the third servant’s fear.

“I WAS AFRAID. . .”
by Andrew King  from “A Poetic Kind of Place”

It could be me, standing there with the spade,
the crate of money beside me on the ground,
thoughts as bleak as the late-day twilight’s fade,
house lamps all lit but the darkness around

growing within, where fists clench my soul
and I know by the claws the cold-boned fear
that scrapes from my heart’s slender soil a hole
of its own, and leaves there, hidden but near,

shadows of despair. It’s fear of defeat
brings the shovel here, the fear of failure
that digs traps for faith on so many streets,
causes the loss of so much that is treasure.

Faith that fears loss and fails to try, can’t see
that such fear, not loss, is the enemy. And
this too I know: sometimes that has been me.
But maybe the story does not have to end

there – the one with dirt still on his fingers
standing alone in the darkness, the only
thing left to him regret, raw, lingering . . .
What if there’s One who pities the lonely,

the lost, the defeated; who, loving the failed,
the fallen ones, the ones who are broken,
allowed himself to know darkness; was nailed
to the cross; and who rose again, token

of a new day? In the shine of his light
we see all our sad failures overcome;
treasure – a buried soul – redeemed . . . and life,
once again, and not death, will have won.

“And this too I know: sometimes that has been me.”

I remember a time when the church had bonds held by members so that we wouldn’t be in debt to the bank. And one of our members died, and the first thing that his wife did was to cash in her bonds. The bonds were giving 9 or 10% at a time when the interest rate had fallen to half that. It was fear that caused her to make that decision, fear that she wouldn’t have enough, when God (and her husband) had already provided for her.

And I understood that fear — knew that I too would have been looking, in my grief, to gather in all the bits of money I had out there to fill the hole that loomed before me.

What is the reason we don’t give away enough? Fear that something may happen that will leave us with too little.

What the scripture challenges us to do is to try, despite the fear, even if we fail.

a-worn-out-baseballIn 1915 Ty Cobb set the record for stolen bases, 96. Seven years later, Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates became second best with 51 stolen bases. Does this mean that Cobb was twice as good as Carey?

Let’s see:

  • Cobb made 134 attempts, Carey, 53.
  • Cobb failed 38 times; Carey only failed twice.
  • Cobb succeeded 96 times, Carey only 51 times.
  • Cobb’s average was only 71 percent. Carey’s average was 96 percent.

Carey’s average was much better than Cobb’s.
But Cobb tried 81 more times than Carey. And here is the key: His 81 additional tries produced 44 more stolen bases. Cobb risked failure 81 more times in one season than his closest rival and Cobb is remembered. Why? Because he tried.

The faithful servant is the one who does the best he or she possibly can with what has been given: the one who tries. And the result is pleasing, perhaps even surprisingly pleasing, to God.

“It’s scary to stand up to something that’s bigger than you are,” says Jennifer Lawrence of her role in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

But that’s just what God asks of us.

This parable from Matthew uses the image of money for what is powerful in the kingdom.

But it is only powerful in standing up against the evils of the world, when we stand up and put our money where our mission is.

It is also a way of talking about the Spirit or at least about the life of God within us. It has to do with how we allow the life of God to flow through us – because it is powerful – like money!

Communities of faith have budgets. If you belong to a faith community that budget is now your budget, just as or maybe more than Oakville’s or Burlington’s or Mississauga’s or Ontario’s or Canada’s budget is your budget. It relies on you, who have chosen to be a creative part of a community of faith.

When you are planning your budget, remember the work of God that you have chosen to do through your community, and it is only as strong as your ability to try despite your fears.

What if there’s One who pities the lonely,
the lost, the defeated; who, loving the failed,

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