This 2014 sermon by the awesome Reverend Ed Bacon popped up on my feed last week...
Rev. Ed Bacon is now retired from All Saints Pasadena. While he was still serving at this church, he went on Oprah to declare that "Being gay was a gift from God."
I started to go to his church because of that statement. I was baptized by Rev. Bacon in my 30s.
Now, he may have drawn in people like me, people who believe that God loves ALL, however it also drew a lot of hate mail AND an IRS audit.
Yes, that's right...an IRS audit...
However, that's not what I'm here to talk about today.
I want to talk about this sermon.
I love it because it's all about NOT playing it safe.
We have this one life, and it's important that you shine your God given talents into this world.
In this sermon, Rev. Bacon references Matthew 25:14-28, which is the Parable of the Talents, and I LOVE the Parable of the Talents, and I use it in my teachings, especially when I encounter someone who believes that God doesn't want us to be rich or that money is the root of all evil.
What this Bible verse teaches us is this...money isn't the issue.
The issue is...what is your purpose in this life, and how can you reach your highest potential with the talents that God gave you?
If you're someone who would rather read, below are some highlights:
00:21 it is said that eleanor roosevelt wrote: do something that scares you every day
00:31 another writer mary schmitch actually is the one who put it that way: do one thing every day that scares you
00:39 but the former first lady actually did say you must do the thing you think you cannot do
00:48 and the transcendentalist ralph waldo emerson wrote in 1841 always do what you're afraid to do
01:56 my point is that all these people and many others are in agreement with the central point of the parable assigned for you and me to savor today and that is when you and i live our lives based in fear we simply cannot live a life that flourishes, that grows and evolves, that was intended for us to live.
03:00 ...one of the things that the whole bible agrees on is that there is a certain kind of fear that is the enemy of human life in the bible the commandment do not fear appears 365 times
03:20 do not fear or do not be afraid or some kind of caution about fear
03:33 now in this morning's parable of the talents or six thousand to thirty thousand silver silver coins were distributed to three different people
03:46 talents in jesus' time were a form of measuring out gold or silver and also in our parlance it is a metaphor for referring to all sorts of personality and skill gifts and propensities
04:06 and fear is the dynamic that keeps
04:10 the one out of the three persons who was given some talents and in his case he was given one talent the six thousand silver coins
04:20 fear kept this person from trading and cultivating the talent he was given and then when he has to give an accounting of what he did with the one talent he was given he said the following "i was afraid i dug a hole and hid it"
04:42 this behavior of hiding the talent to protect it from theft seems to you and me like a kind of a safe thing to do right but jesus's parable treats it as a bad thing, which is a reversal of the listener's expectation
05:02 apparently one of the rules of life for jesus is not to play it safe. one of jesus's rules of life is that fear leads to hiding, fear leads to playing it safe, rather than risking and increasing the value and vitality of our lives
06:48 when you're afraid you hide yourself
06:54 when you're afraid you hide your talents
06:59 and because i don't ever want to ignore neuroscience, when you fear you hide your prefrontal cortex, which is this innovative part of your brain
07:14 here you hide blood flow from it, when you are afraid, the blood flow leaves
07:29 our mammalian brain is where we have the functions of being able to play and exercise compassion and care for our young, as other mammals do but the blood not only leaves our mammalian brain, it leaves our prefrontal cortex where the human abilities reside for creativity and problem solving and innovation and the blood all goes down to our primitive brain down here or our reptilian brain where the only functions we have are not thinking but choosing fight, flight or freeze
08:24 gordon cosby the founder of the washington dc church of the savior wrote besides distorting our perspective fear is not a very comfortable place to live. when i reflect deeply on my life and what i really want it's not to be afraid, when i'm afraid i'm miserable cosby said. i play it safe i restrict myself i hide the talent of me in the ground i'm not deeply alive the depths of me are not being expressed
i commend to you all the writings of john o'donoghue
09:05 the irish poet who wrote several transformative books like anam kara and to bless the space between us, a book of blessings
09:14 in that latter book o donahue expresses at many moments throughout the book the importance of dealing with fear by living a life of courage and living a life of risk
09:56 he has a prayer for the morning called a morning offering
10:02 he prays
10:05 may my mind come alive today to the invisible geography that invites me to new frontiers
to break the dead shell of yesterday's
to risk being disturbed and changed
may i have the courage today
to live the life that i would love
to postpone my dream no longer
but do at last what i came here for
and waste my heart on fear no more
waste my heart on fear no more
11:01 o'donahue has a prayer for the end of the day which is really an examination of all the things that we did or didn't do that day and one of the questions he suggests we ask about the day that is passing is where could i have exposed myself to the risk of something different
11:26 the paragraph that i think summarizes so much of what o'donoghue was about i wonder if this is not his central passion paragraph is this:
11:41 it remains the dream of every life to realize itself
to reach out and lift oneself up to greater heights
a life that continues to remain on the safe side
of its own habits and repetitions that
life that never engages with the risk of
its own possibility
that remains an unlived life
there is within each heart, a hidden voice that calls out for freedom and creativity
we often linger for years
in spaces that are too small and
too shabby for the grandeur of our spirit
yet experience always remains faithful
to us if lived truthfully and generously
experience will always guide us toward the real pastures
12:46 and so i close with excerpts from another one of his prayers blessings - "poems called for courage"
12:58 he begins by noting that when your whole heart is raven dark what a poetic way to describe depression and fear; when your whole heart is raven dark because fear has turned your body cold as a stone inside, then to pick up his poetry, steady yourself and see that it is your own thinking that darkens your world
of all the mental illnesses that afflict americans, anxiety is the biggest and that doesn't even touch all the rest of us just all the rest of us who are just everyday common worriers
14:34 but this article talked about how oftentimes we're born with a propensity to fear and that depends on what kind of community you live in whether or not you can get a leg up on your fear
15:46 john o'donoghue says here's one thing we have to do search your life and you will find a diamond thought of light, know that you are not alone and the darkness you are experiencing has a purpose and gradually the darkness will school your eyes to find the one gift your life requires hidden within this night corner you're experiencing.
invoke the learning of every suffering you have ever suffered close your eyes, gather all the kindling about your heart to create one spark -- that's all you need to nourish the flame that will cleanse the dark of its weight of festered fear a new confidence will come alive in you to urge you toward higher ground where your imagination will learn to engage difficulty as its most rewarding threshold.
16:50 imagine your imagination retraining your life so that every time you have difficulty you engage it as your life's most rewarding threshold to something new and grand and grandeur
jesus is asking us in this morning's parable to learn to engage difficulty as our most rewarding threshold to see what others might see as fear producing as not fear producing but a great moment knocking on the door of our heart and our life. jesus is calling us to redefine fear not as a call to dig a hole and hide but as a motivator we can retrain ourselves with a new story
18:11 to say there is an occasion that is tempting me to be afraid and to hide but god with your help o divine love with your help, i'm going to roll up my sleeves and see the grace and glory waiting to be realized in this very scary issue.
you see my friends fear is not our true self.
18:39 our true self is fear's opposite love
18:42 and when you and i have an experience along our journey to realize that love itself is living in us and through us we were made by love we were made through love we have love existing within us that's exactly how we plug into a much larger mind and heart beyond our own and we begin to find solutions and innovations not just for our own selfish separate self but for the whole human community.
19:17 may i have the courage today to live the life that i would love, to postpone my dream no longer but do at last what i came here for and waste my heart on fear no more