One of the gentlemen in our local congregation gave an excellent sermon yesterday on the parable of the talents  and on some of its many implications. Among the more intriguing things he said was that commentators of the Bible have pointed to a couple of reasons why Jesus spoke in parables. The reason given in the Bible is that He wanted to speak in a way that would confuse and disguise his message for the people, meaning that people would have to ask if they wanted to know. Few people asked, and few people ask today when they see a message they don’t understand. They just assume that people are boring and talking over their heads, and lack the curiosity to find out more. Another reason given was that Jesus was under intense scrutiny and couched his daring and controversial thoughts in a way that would be less immediately offensive than laying them openly before his audience. This is a motive I can definitely understand.
As it happens, I had spoken with this gentleman at considerable length at the Tacoma Weekend while the dance was going on about the subject of this sermon. We both come from backgrounds that are similar in at least one respect, and that is that we are heirs of those who came to the knowledge of God’s ways and grew up having learned and practiced those ways ourselves. There is a difference in perspective between those who encounter the truth and see the dramatic change in their lives it makes, who make drastic sacrifices as a result of having seen a precious gift of salvation and understanding, and the generations that follow after them and who grow up in the knowledge of God’s ways, and not infrequently in the earnest desire to obey from one’s youth. Growing up in a faith as unusual as that I have lived in my life, one tends to feel as if one lives under intense scrutiny among the outside world, that one is marked as different and as an outsider, and thus consigned to misunderstanding and a great deal of hostility. Likewise, when one knows that the blessings that come from understanding and obedience have not been earned, but have been passed on as a legacy, there is a feeling that one is under a great burden to live worthy of the gifts that one has been given, since those gifts were by no means given by merit.
Church services were fairly busy, but in an ordinary way that hardly attracts much in the way of reflection. I arrived at church in time for our choir practice and sound check and got to chat a good bit with some people, make some jokes and generally enjoy myself. After that I set up for the ensemble and chatted a bit more. I got to talk to one of my friends and relative neighbors with whom I do not get to chat as often as I would wish. We discussed feast plans, hers and mine, and I commented some on the way that certain people are friendly in private but not friendly at all in public because it is admittedly not cool in certain circles to be seen as being friendly with me. She said, rather sensibly, that in light of the experiences I have had that it is my cross to bear. Or at least one of them. After that it was time to perform, to make note of the tendency of one of my close friends and sermonette speakers to reference country songs in his sermonettes, something I teased him about gently during dinner, and then sing in choir. The performance was not perfect–and one part was certainly a bit rough–but overall it went well. Our guest tenor was generally well appreciated as well .
After church I snacked a bit, chatted a bit, and found other people generally surprised that I was not going to the barn dance. I helped look for someone’s lost cell phone that had been lost under the clutter near them, and then it was time to head to dinner. I was wondering if anyone would ask me why I didn’t go to the barn dance, but although some people seemed to have assumed that I would go, I did not feel as if I was invited or considered welcome by the host. As it happens, I had conversed at some length with the host of the barn dance last Sabbath, and when the dance was being referred to, the audience was spoken of as they and not you. I tend to be more than usually sensitive to the choice of words by other people, and as the audience was assumed to be a third person audience, I felt as if my presence around the young folk of the area, some of whom came far and wide to go to the dance, was not particularly welcome, even if there are at least a few people I may have danced with had I gone. I have frequently felt beleaguered by the pressure and scrutiny I face as an awkward single man with few good prospects for dating, much less marriage, that I can see around me. Sometimes it is better to not intentionally increase the stress of a life that has more than enough already.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: