So we just finished a set of studies about finances in our regular church service. At the end, one of our pastors, Ray Armstrong, gave a dollar coin to each person to decide between us and God what it meant. Jon gave me his to look after and I put them both in my hand bag after feeling both valued and responsible to do something with these – even if they remain a symbol of something more.
Fast-forward to this morning – almost a month later. My study this morning was from Luke 19:11-28. The parable of the ten minas.
11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Luke 19:11-28 New International Version (NIV)
I thought back to the two coins and got them out of my handbag – from being put away wrapped in cloth. Hmm – didn’t look so good for me then! What is the point of keeping them even as a symbol if I never even see them? I got them out and looked at them.
They each have a picture of a past president of the USA on them. One is James Madison – the “Father of the Constitution,” who did amazing things for the country as a founding father. The other is John Tyler, whose most significant act appears to be that he became President because another President, William Henry Harrison died. Two very different stories but both Presidents and both with their picture on a coin. We all have a story to tell regardless of how “important” it may seem. I’ll get back to that later. On the back of each coin is the same picture: the Statue of Liberty. In Christ, we all have freedom and it is Christ who is most significant. I don’t want to go too far with this picture as it’s Christ I choose to serve, not money!
We have been entrusted with the kingdom of God through Jesus and our responsibility is to tell others about him. IF what he did is so radical and so important how can I stay quiet about it? I thought about the coins and how I could use them for God’s Kingdom – thinking about earlier texts in the book of Luke which talk about using money as a servant for the Kingdom of God rather than having money as your master – because you cannot have two masters. I thought about seeing how many tracts I could buy for two dollars and discounted this idea because I have tracts and rarely if ever give them out – most are so cheesy and I think people respond better to personal testimony. I thought about giving the money away to someone begging in the streets but thought that was too easy and wondered what the Kingdom value of that is. Two bucks won’t buy much for a person who has no access to a kitchen to prepare food. I could give it away when I go have a coffee with a friend, but then I seem nice without actually having put in any effort myself and I should use other money for that. I thought about a micro-business (super-micro); what if I invest in two dollars’ worth of something and sell it for a profit and channel that back into the church for missions – using the money as a servant for the kingdom? That is not something I have time to invest in right now though. I could just do what the timid and lazy man was told he could have done and put it on deposit – ie put it back into the collection at church. But I don’t want to be a bare-minimum Christian. These coins were entrusted to us and they are to me symbolic of the deposit Jesus has given to us. He has chosen to partner with me for some reason in the important work of the Kingdom and even invests in me by leaving his Holy Spirit until he returns. This got me thinking about a picture I believe God gave me some years ago at an event called Spring Harvest.
I was “on team” that year dancing in the worship team and leading workshops in liturgical dance. There was a speaker called Joyce Huggett that was going to be teaching at our evening venue that night. I had heard great things about this author and had been told by friends over the years that I should read her books, but had never gotten around to it. She was going to be speaking about the feeding of the five thousand, focusing on the little that the boy with the five loaves and two fishes brought to Jesus and how He turned that small offering into something much greater.
I had some time off before I was due to be at the final pre-meeting meeting so I went to the beach. Spring in England is rarely warm and the English coast where we were in Minehead, Devon, is very windy. I walked to the edge of the sea and stared out. The wind was in my hair and buffeting my very existence it seemed. I could smell the salt in the air and looked down at the sand and stones and the surf. I picked up five small stones. I liked to do this when I was away to show my family and myself that I was thinking of them five – one each for me, Jon and the two boys and one for God who holds us together. I prayed for them as they were at home doing the mundane stuff of life while I was here on this adventure of being on a worship team at Spring Harvest. Then I looked out to the ocean again. I could hardly hear anything as the wind was strong. I’m not a great singer but I sang out to Jesus at the top of my voice directly facing into the wind, confident that He was the only one that could hear me. It was one of those moments where I felt so completely safe and cared for in God’s arms. Time however creeps on by and I had to turn around and go back and prepare for the evening. I thought about how awesome it had been to be by the sea; about how great if everybody could have had this experience; about the five little stones… At the pre-meeting I shared some of my thoughts about this and was asked by Joyce to share them concisely to the congregation before her talk. This is roughly how it went:
“I went to the beach this afternoon. I want you to know about the beach – it’s so great. There is the ever-moving sea, and the wind, and the Minehead-brown sand, and little stones and big rocks, and the seaweed, and so much sky! I picked up these.” I held up the little stones. “There are hundreds more of these at the beach. By themselves they don’t tell you what the beach is like. They are just five small seemingly insignificant stones. I could have brought you seaweed but again, while it’s something you’ll find at the beach, it wouldn’t give you an experience of the beach. But what if my showing you these stones and telling you that there is so much more than this would encourage you to go and see for yourself? These five small stones don’t seem so insignificant now do they? It’s like that with our story – if we are willing to share even the seemingly little things we have in Jesus with others, it might lead them to want to meet Him for themselves.”
Then Joyce Huggett got up and spoke far more eloquently.
What if these two coins are meant to encourage me to do that very thing? Take the little I have and share it. Whether it’s five small stones, two dollar coins, five loaves and two fishes, the opportunity to influence a constitution (James Madison), or just using the circumstances that fall in my lap (John Tyler). That is why I’m blogging this. I need to share my story, not someone else’s meme – although they can be useful and fun. I could just search for other stories about Jesus and well-worded allegories and share these on social media. But I want to do more than that. No one else can tell the details of what Jesus has done for me than me. Just like no-one else can offer my worship to Jesus for me.
Why not spend some time with Him today and find out for yourself? The parable of the feeding of the five thousand can be found in John 6:1-14.