Some of you may know that I co-teach a middle school (mostly 8th grade) Sunday School Class. The curriculum we follow is called Journey to Adulthood (J2A) and is built around a two year cycle, so I'll be with "my" kids through summer 2012. The curriculum is roughly divided into quarters, and we're wrapping up our first quarter (Self-discovery) this month. One of the things I've loved about this quarter is how much I needed a little self-discovery myself this fall. And, kids really do say the darndest things! I love coming into class with my own pre-conceived notions about where the lesson is going to go, and then have it completely upended by a 13-year-olds observations. I'm really stretching and growing as a result! Today's lesson really struck me and, together with an well-timed sermon, prompted a lot of personal reflection.
So the lesson was based on the Parable of the Talents. For those who don't remember, the short version goes like this. Man goes out of town for an extended period of time. Before he leaves, he hands out money (talents) to three of his servants. Two of them take the money, invest wisely, and double the principle. The third buries his in the ground and returns the exact same money to the man upon his return. Man is thrilled with the first two and offers them better jobs. Man calls the third lazy and worthless (and in my mind, does the Donald Trump "Apprentice" version of "You're Fired!").
So there are a couple of ways to think about this parable. On the first reading, obviously the money part stands out. And for someone as risk-averse as me, it is pretty startling to think about that trait as a bad thing. But, as we plan our budget for 2011, it certainly prompts us to think more wisely about how we spend and use the money we do have.
The second way to read the parable is to use the other definition for talent--the skills that we each have within us as gifts from God. This is where it tied into today's sermon, which asked what gifts we have given, and talked a bit about how giving of ourselves brings us closer to God. (That was a serious paraphrase, with my apologies to Fr. Rob, and I'll link to the podcast of it later so you can listen for yourself if you're so inclined...).
So, combining my thoughts, a bit of the class discussion, and the sermon, here's what I've come up with as the take-away--like the man who gave his servants something of value with the hope that they would cultivate the gift, we too are given talents that are to be cultivated. And it's not just the obvious things like Peyton Manning's great arm or Chef Duff's eye for cake design. Fr. Rob pointed out that everyone, even the bed-bound parishoner can pray for others. So we all have talents that we should cultivate (not that we have to, mind you--we believe in a God who gives us free will--we choose to cultivate our talents by sharing them with others).
So who cares how many letters are behind my name or how large my paycheck is? The better question, for me, is "How are you, JE, sharing your talents with others?" As long as I'm not burying myself in the ground, keeping my talents from everyone (even myself), I'm ahead of the third servant in the parable, right? Yes, there is risk involved, but if stepping outside my comfort zone to share/love/give something of myself brings me closer to sharing/loving/giving and receiving in communion with God, then it has to be worth the risk.
Here's to figuring out what my talents are and finding ways to share them with others! What are your talents? How do you share them?