Trustworthiness: More Than Preserving the Past

By Clements, Keith | The Ecumenical Review, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Trustworthiness: More Than Preserving the Past

Clements, Keith, The Ecumenical Review

   His master said to him, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you
   have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of
   many things; enter into the joy of your master" (Matt. 25:21).

Let us go in imagination to London, to the south bank of the river Thames, to the Tate Gallery of Modern Art. We pass through the foyer, into a huge, long, immensely high hall. It is almost totally empty, but we gaze in astonishment and wonder. For at the far end there glows a great image of the sun, golden-red against the darkness, and we see it through misty vapours rising slowly from the sides of the hall. It's as though we're seeing the sun for the first time, rising over an arctic landscape, on the fourth day of creation. By turns we're awed and inspired by this vision, and so are the other people standing around us. We smile and raise our eyebrows at each other, lost for words but knowing that we are together in a special kind of shared experience.

This exhibit, which opened in October 2003, was the work of Danish artist Olafur Ellasson. It's not surprising that it hit the front pages of several British newspapers. But what I find so telling is not merely the image itself but where it is. For the Tate Modern Gallery is not itself a modern building. It is quite an old building, and wasn't built as an art gallery. It is an old power station, and the hall in which Olafur Eliasson has constructed his stunning work is where in former days the turbines hummed and throbbed, generating electricity for London. The old power station eventually outlived its days; the turbines were shut down. But instead of just being preserved as a museum of former industrial technology, it has been transformed into something new. Instead of being a monument to past engineering, it is now providing energy and inspiration of a different kind for contemporary people. Out of an inheritance from the past, a new vision is being created to capture our imagination.

Perhaps that is a parable to set alongside the parable of Jesus in the 25th chapter of Matthew. There, we hear the story of a rich man who takes a somewhat unusual risk. He goes away on a long journey and entrusts his wealth to his three slaves. A "talent" in those clays was a lot of silver, amounting to fifteen years' wages for a labourer. So the one who was handed five talents had 75 years' worth of wages entrusted to him; the one handed two talents had 30 years' worth of silver to look after; and even the slave given one talent could hardly complain about having only 15 years' wages in his hands. The first two slaves go out with their hoard, and do business with it, doubling their amounts by the time their master returns. Like their master himself, they take a risk and venture out with what they've received, for the sake of their master. The third daren't take that risk. He's so scared of losing what he's received that he buries it in the ground for safety and leaves it there. This story is about trustworthiness in God's kingdom. Trustworthy faith dares to look forward in creativity, unlike a pseudo-trustworthiness which hesitates, which wants only to preserve what has been received in the past.

The two really trustworthy servants receive their master's warm approval when he at last returns: "Well done, good and trustworthy servant!" These words have of course often been heard in funeral eulogies to worthy figures, and they also adorn many a Christian gravestone. (I can't forbear to mention the unintended irony of one such epitaph where these words are found, on the grave of a British officer in India in the 19th century, who had been accidentally shot by his houseboy.) "Well done, good and trustworthy ones!" Each of us of course would like to hear these words addressed to us, especially those of us who labour long and hard in the churches and in public life. But as European Christians and churches, where do we actually stand in the story as Jesus tells it? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Trustworthiness: More Than Preserving the Past


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.