Last Sunday, my sermon text was the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. I placed it within the framework of “playing not to lose.” I noted my heartbreak and horror on Monday night in 2000 when my beloved Miami Dolphins blew a 30-7 4th quarter lead to the New York Jets. By playing not to lose, they did exactly that—lose!
Bruce Epperly at Process and Faith reflects on the parable. He says, “Often, we act as if we live in a ‘closed system’ in which no new energies or possibilities can emerge. Often, we see ourselves in terms of what we lack rather than the surprising and life-changing possibilities residing within our concrete limitations. We have not, because we ask not—and dream not!”
I recently finished Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s classic work, The Divine Milieu. In his afterword, he sounds a similar note. (Please note: this was written in the 1920s!) “Where is the Catholic [or any Christian, in general] as passionately vowed (by conviction and not by convention) to spreading the hopes of the Incarnation as are many humanitarians to spreading the dream of the new city? We persist in saying that we keep vigil in expectation of the Master. But in reality we should have to admit, if we were sincere, that we no longer expect anything.”
Some questions I posed to my hearers—and to myself, definitely—were these: what are some ways in which we play it safe? What are some ways in which we play not to lose? And going beyond that, can we see how that demonstrates fear and mistrust, rather than love and faith?