Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on what the Gospel lesson means by “talent”.  The amount of a talent in Jesus day put in today’s dollars will surprise you.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read Matthew 24:14-30.

 

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 11/13/2011The 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 25.14-30.
Stewardship is taking risks using the talents that God has given us for his glory.
Some years ago, we spent all day doing things as a family.  We went hiking at the Dunes in Chesterton, IN.  When we were there we made walking sticks and stopped atop a dune to look out over the colors of the leaves and out over Lake Michigan.  Then we played along the beach.  When that was done, we raced home to go to Burger King  The kids played on the play equipment. Then we went to an end of the year soccer gathering, complete with cake.  On the way home, we drove out of our way to go to rent the movie “The Prince of Egypt” and then we let the kids stay up late watching it.  When it was all over and we were wiped out, and the kids were wiped out, we told our kids that is was time for bed.  One of them said in exasperation, “We never get to do anything fun.”
Maybe it is because a day at the State Park was stretching my mother’s budget with nine children, or, that a single day in Chicago constituted a vacation in the middle of the summer, or that a trip to McDonald’s before they had indoor seating was a once in a six month treat, I try to appreciate at least a little bit of all that God has given me and my family.  Sometimes, when we look around us, we don’t realize that we have as much as we really do.
I think that this parable that Jesus speaks to us this day is innocently deceptive.  To our ears, when a slave owner goes away and leaves “talents” to his stewards, it doesn’t sound like much.    Would it make a difference if we knew that one talent was worth 15 years wages for a day laborer?  So, let’s put this in today’s terms.  When the slave owner went away, he left the first slave with 2.25 million dollars.  The second slave he left with $900,000.  The third slave he left with $450,000.  He gave each slave according to their ability.
This parable is about God and how he gives to us abundantly.  It wasn’t that the master went away leaving his stewards with chump change.  He gave to them abundantly.  He gave them talents that were worth literally millions in today’s dollars.  Think about it, really, you have more than the vast majority of peoples throughout the world.  In fact, some of us have so much that other people in the world would consider it obscene.  All of this is given to us from God.  We are entrusted to use all that we have for his glory.  We are the stewards in this passage.
When we think of “talents,” we think of “America’s Got Talent” or some other ability that others don’t have.  Those of us with faith, think of the gifts and graces given to us by God.  Some people can sing, others can’t.  Some people are good with numbers, others aren’t.  Some can make beautiful banners and art work; others need to be kept away from the sewing box or art closet.  Some are good with their tools, and others need to have their toolbox taken away.  The modern meaning of this word “talent” comes from this passage.  It is grounded in the understanding that God has given to each of us abundantly.
What is it that you do well?  I want you to write that down—on the offering envelope you are going to give at Church this weekend.  When the offering is taken up in your church, not only should you offer up your financial offering, you should offer your talent to God.
When you do that you will be doing the same thing that the first two stewards knew that they needed to do.  When they received the money from their master, they used that money diligently to earn more for their master.  They took that money and stepped out on faith that they would and could make more money for their master.  Don’t you think it took a certain amount of risk and boldness to use the equivalent of $2.5 million that was not yours to make another $2.5 million?  The first two slaves stepped out in faith and trusted that the gifts that were given to them by their master would produce more.
That was the downfall of the last slave.  He was only thinking of his own skin and how to preserve what he had been given.  This would normally be considered a good thing by us.  He protected the valuable assets of his master.  That would be what most of us would want our servants to do while we were away—just don’t lose anything that I have worked so hard to get—would be our attitude.  That is not what it means to be a Christian.
To be a Christian is to be a steward or slave of God in a good way.  We live our lives for him.  We live our lives in full faith and trust of Him.  So, when we have a talent, we should trust his judgment and use it for his glory.
I used to know a woman in one of the Churches we went to named Edna Lizotte who came into the Church every Thursday and cleaned it from top to bottom.  There wasn’t a cob web around because Edna was the cob-web queen.  She did it so that God would be glorified, and did it for no pay.  Every Monday, in that church, a woman named Marion Dukes sharpened the pencils, collected the trash that we left in the pews and put all the hymnals straight.  She did it so that God would be glorified, and for no pay.  There was a man named Charlie Posz who mowed the lawn all summer long so that God would be glorified, and for no pay.
There are children that need to be involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies in your community.  Who will be their leaders?  There are children in your community who need a baseball coach.  Who will coach them? There is a need for Religious Education teachers to teach children about the amazing God we love.  Who will teach them?  Every church I have ever known has paid tremendous lip service to evangelism, but the ministry is usually non-existent.  Who will go invite people to church?  How many people can sing “happy birthday to you”?  If you can, you qualify to sing in the Church Choir, where were you last rehearsal?
You may say to me, “Where are their parents?” I will tell you, they are nowhere to be found.  Buy you care.  God has given you the talent of hoping someone would do something to help the lost children of your community.  That someone is you.
You might say to me, “I don’t feel comfortable evangelizing.” If you have looked around your church at any time in its history and said, “I hope God sends us more people,” then he is calling you to learn how to evangelize in a way that loves his lost children first and then worries about the correctness of their faith later.
You may say to me, “Nice reflection, but you’re not going to get me to do something I don’t feel comfortable doing.” Today’s passage is about taking risks for God with what he has given us.  As much as I would like to tell you that God is about making you comfortable, there is nothing farther from the truth.  God is about using you as an important part of building up his kingdom so that as many people as possible ill not be damned, but will have eternal life.  Stewardship is taking risks using the talents that God has given us for his glory.
One Thursday, 12 years ago, I had come to my Church to ask the choir to help me with a sermon I was going to write.  I brought all my own children who could walk at the time.  On the way, I asked my kids to have a little fun with the choir.  The idea was that we would wait in my study until the choir was in the choir room.  I would open the door and say, “I’ve got a few new members for the choir.” Then my  kids would come into the room and sing a little ditty that my little Peter at the time sang to be funny.  A couple of the kids said they didn’t want to do it because it was embarrassing.  Then my daughter Hannah spoke up, “C’mon guys, these people are just like family.  It will be like singing in front of Mom and Dad.”
Yes.
We did it and everyone laughed and we had fun.  We took a risk at being embarrassed and made the choir laugh and made them feel loved.
My friends, we are all one family in Jesus Christ.  The Father in heaven is our Father.  Whatever we risk, we risk in front of him.  So, let’s not take the talents that God has given us and put them in a hole in the ground.  Let’s use them to build up the kingdom of God.  Let’s be a place where we take a chance with the talent that God has given us and go back to each other if we fail or succeed.  In the end, we will not be judged by how well we maintained our faith as much as how well we lived out our faith.
I invite you to use your faith and talent for God.  Write down your pledge on your offering envelope.  Write down how you are going to use your talent in the family of God to increase his kingdom and when the offering plate comes by, offer that to the Lord.  Amen? Amen.
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