This has been a heartbreaking week…
The charges made inState Collegeare horrifying enough,
But what has rocked the nation is that
Not just one person, not just two people,
But many, many people chose not to take responsibility
for what was happening in front of them.
They chose to avoid risk.
Avoid risk to the reputation of a football program.
Avoid risk to the reputation of a fine school.
Avoid risk of losing financial support.
They chose to avoid risk to everything…
except to the ones who were most vulnerable – the children.
Somehow, tragically, and not for the first time in recent years,
the risk to an institution
overshadowed the risk to children.
Let’s take a moment of silent prayer
for these children,
and all children whose lives have been damaged by abuse.
None of us knows for sure how we would have acted
If confronted with a similar situation.
But I think all of us hope and pray that we would have done something differently.
That we would have spoken out and followed through.
That we would have taken a risk.
That is what Jesus’ parable is about today.
Taking a risk – and the consequences of choosing not to take that risk.
Jesus tells of the master who entrusts his property to three slaves.
He gives them ‘talents.’
A talent is a measure of weight – roughly 53 kg.
One talent’s worth of silver was about 20 years’ salary.
The first slave received 5 talents – or about 100 years’ salary.
The second slave received 2 talents – or about 40 years’ salary.
The third slave received 1 talent – or about 20 years’ salary.
The first and second slaves used their talents,
And when the master came back, they had doubled his return.
But then there was that third slave.
The third slave was filled with fear;
The stakes were high;
He was too afraid of what might happen –
so he buried his one talent; he stuffed it away – all to avoid risk.
And we all know what Jesus says happened to the third slave.
In most areas of life,
We’re encouraged to minimize risk.
– to wear seatbelts and bike helmets
– to get our screening mammograms and colonoscopies
– to buy life insurance and fire insurance
But this parable – and the events unfolding this week in the news —
outline the perils of playing it too safe;
the tragedy that can result from not taking a risk.
Taking a risk and speaking up for the sake of others isn’t only a good thing to do;
it is part of our vows at baptism.
This morning, Sarah Reilly will be baptized.
Sarah’s in third grade.
As I went through the service with her,
There was one word that she didn’t know – and it is an important word for our discussion this week.
The word is ‘renounce.’
In the beginning of the service,
Sarah will be asked three questions:
Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God?
Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God?
Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from God?
And in response, Sarah is to say three times, “I renounce them.”
We talked about the meaning of the word, “Renounce.”
The best we came up with was, “Say ‘no’ to.”
Sarah will promise to say “no” to all three of those questions.
She will promise to say “no” to sin.
She will promise to say “no” the things in our world which not part of God.
She will promise to say “no” to the devil and powers of evil which defy God.
InState College, for many years,
Sin, forces rebelling against God, the devil, and powers of evil were raging.
And no one renounced them.
No one said ‘no.’
Like the 3rd slave, they buried what they knew, hid it, or ignored it – to avoid risk.
And children took the hit.
Children disproportionately take the hit for our silent acceptance of innumerable evils.
It’s time to renounce them.
Children are our nation’s poorest age group –
one in five children is poor,[i]
It’s time to renounce the systems which create poverty.
Every year, 6 million children die before their fifth birthday.
because of hunger and malnutrition.[ii]
It’s time to renounce the scourge of hunger.
134 million children between the ages of 7 and 18
have never been to school.[iii]
It’s time to renounce the burden of illiteracy.
And I could go on and on with statistics
about children and war;
children and prison;
children and diseases such as malaria and polio.
The folks up atState Collegeare not the only ones
who have been passively accepting evil.
We have been too.
Our failure to keep our baptismal vows;
Our failure to take a risk and speak up for the sake of others,
is harmful for the world’s children.
We deserve the weeping and gnashing of teeth…
…But God has a different plan for us.
Immediately after Sarah makes her promises
to renounce evil – to say ‘no’ to evil,
she will confess her faith in a loving and forgiving God.
A God who loved the world and all that is in it,
so much that he gave his only son.
A God who calls Sarah and each of us his children
and weeps with us whenever children are hurt.
A God who mourns for a broken world
and longs for its healing.
Lament the silence of those in authority inState College.
Lament our own times of silence.
But then allow yourself to be comforted in God’s ultimate promise to us at baptism –
we are his – marked by the cross of Christ — forever.