From the February 2015 Cathedral Connection
For several months last fall, I had wanted to attend Bibles and Beer, a relatively new All Souls ministry that meets Thursday evenings at Appalachian Vintners on Biltmore Avenue. It seemed like a good opportunity to get to know some parishioners while sipping a brew and discussing God’s word. But as best intentions can and frequently do falter, I hadn’t fit the event into my schedule. It remained on my spiritual to-do list.
Serendipitously, I had the occasion to finally make it to Bibles and Beer on a chilly evening in November when I met Steve Van Allen there to interview him for a Connections feature about Hope to Home. I met Steve ½ hour before Bibles and Beer began, and then I stayed to partake in a brew and the discussion. Well, it was more enriching and inspiring than I had anticipated, and it instilled in me the notion that many opportunities for involvement in All Souls ministries may be passed over because congregants don’t receive enough information about what they entail. Notices in the Epistle and church bulletin just provide the where/when information, and you don’t really get a feel for the ministry. For instance, joining the choir is probably something you’d never consider if you’re not a singer, yet if you query anyone in choir, they’d tell you that singing is just part of the joy of involvement. They’d praise the camaraderie of the group, Kyle Ritter’s outstanding leadership and sense of humor, and their unique vantage point in church, to name just a few benefits. But back to Bibles and Beer: The intent of the group is to preview and discuss the upcoming Sunday’s bible readings. Great idea! I can’t count the times I’ve wanted to delve deeper into the gospel. It just so happened that the gospel reading we discussed on November 13 was Matthew 25: 14 to 30. This is one of those passages that I’d filed into the confusion column. I’d chalked it up to God not wanting me to understand. I have to say that I’ve felt “unchosen” at times when stumped by a parable. If only I were more spiritual, I’ve thought, maybe I’d get the meaning. But try as I may, there are a few passages that have always left me scratching my head and wondering if my lack of knowledge of biblical times was part of the problem. Were the values of 2,000 years ago so very different than present day? And how much money is a “talent,” anyway? Matthew 25 relates the tale of a man leaving on a trip who summons his slaves and doles out money to them “according to their abilities.” One slave invests and doubles his five talents. Another slave invests and doubles his two talents. But the slave who received one talent from his master buries the money to keep it safe. When the master returns from his trip, he praises the first two slaves and promises to put them in charge of many things. The third slave doesn’t fare so well. He returns to his master the one talent he has safeguarded, and the master is not pleased. He admonishes the slave with these words, “You wicked and lazy slave!” Then, he orders the slave to be “thrown into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Remind me never to stash money in a mattress for safekeeping because I’m thinking that’s pretty harsh punishment for someone who was just trying to return to his master what he’d been given. It almost sounds like the master set the poor slave up. The lesson to this parable is: “To all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Uh-huh. And I’m supposed to take what from that? Well, the somewhat surprising news is that no one else at Bibles and Beer had the answer, either, which might lead one to think that the discussion had an unsatisfactory resolution. Au contraire. The fact that we were all confused by the parable encouraged us as a group of believers to dig deeper, and brought home to me the value of bible discussion. I’m currently in Florida for the winter, but when I return to Asheville in April, I’m making Bibles and Beer a priority. Won’t you join me?