Archive for November, 2011

Talents and Blessings

November 23, 2011

Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

Sunday’s gospel lesson, the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14-46), was both exciting and harsh.  Exciting in that it encouraged us to risk using our gifts (whatever they are) and know blessedness– reassuring us that in serving those who are overlooked or ignored we are serving Christ.  And harsh, because it warned us against letting our fears that we don’t have enough to give, or don’t have enough skill to give well, to keep us from trying anyway to give. Whatever gifts we’ve been given, we’re called to share them, to reach out and to serve.  Jan Richardson, in her blog, The Painted Prayerbook says:

The parable invites us each to offer our talents for the good of all creation for God is not content to let us hide what we’ve been given and urges us to uncover the treasure that has been placed within us–to show forth the presence of God in the way that only we can.

Each of us has a blessing to give that is uniquely shaped by our lives – by our hands, as Richardson says in the poem Blessing of the Talents:

This blessing
will find its form
only as you
give it away

only as you
release it
into the keeping
of another

only as you
let it
leave you

bearing the shape
the imprint
the grace
it will take

only for having
passed through
your two

In the sermon, I offered the example of Sara — whose blessings bear the imprint of her particular hands. In the Sun City Hiking Club, she is known for designing unique and over-the-top hikes.  She loves being creative, organizing, doing research, then finding things to make her visions come to life.  Like the time she led the club on a “find-a-snake hike”–which is actually relevant in the Hill country of Texas, but when the hikers started down the trail they discovered a large, pink, stuffed boa-constrictor hanging from the branches of a tree and a rubber snake coiled beside the bridge.  Her latest brainchild was a “scat identification hike” and 45 hikers were each given a bandana to help in identifying which animal left which droppings.

She started us off with some trivia: for instance, did you know that wolf poo will often have hair in it?  And several types of animals will “go” in the middle of a trail to mark their territory.  A mother doe will eat the excrement of her fawn to avoid detection by predators. And African elephants excrete about 2-5 pounds of poo each time they go, enough each day to fill the trunk of a car.  Over the next two miles, there were 10 different types of scat that had to be collected, correctly identified and prizes awarded.

We were thrilled to discover the specimens were silicone and not fresh. Ask where she found such things as plastic scat–Sara beamed, answering “Craig’s list.”  Clearly, she’s found her calling and she’s willing to risk ridicule in sharing her “gifts” with others.  The investment she makes is appreciated; her generosity is certainly contagious.  (You can see the group in the attached photo, I’m the “young” one on the front row in a purple TCU hat)

After Sunday’s service, a visitor (a pastor from another area) told me he could never have gotten away with that example in his church–he loved that I could use the word “excrement.”  I told him ELUMC is a rather unique congregation–and most of us like it that way.  At 158 years old, perhaps we’re less concerned with achieving and performing, and more able to risk “raising the level of hope for those who cry out for love and justice.”  Like turning down the large rental income opportunity in September in favor of helping a small educational endeavor get off the ground.

In Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward he talks about the two halves of life (here’s a brief intro video).  The first half’s work is about establishing our identity–climbing, achieving, and performing–to build a strong “container”; the second major task to human life is to “find the contents that the container was meant to hold.”  This later life task is a further journey into integrity, into discovering what we are to do with our “one wild and precious life” (to use the last line of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day).

Many in Sun City are on this journey.  On the hike, I got to know several of the “55+” (the age requirement for Sun City residents) folks.  They are mostly retired-types learning to create identities not based on occupation, but I wouldn’t call them “old” or even senior citizens ’cause they don’t strike me as either walking along in the rain (which is just a sprinkle in this territory plagued by drought).  Some seek to further feather their own nest but others, recognizing the warmth of their homes (both the physical and metaphorical one), seek to help feather others’.  After the meeting of the Social Committee of Hiking Club, ten of us sat around a long thanksgiving table overflowing with blessings (of the food variety and the life-experience kind).  They were not incumbered by the calendar being two weeks prior to the actual Thanksgiving date.  They played along, even seeming grateful for this early opportunity to “give thanks” — to live gratefully–to develop a life that responds to the blessedness we enjoy.  And as they left, they wished each other “Happy Thanksgiving.”  Which is my prayer for you this week.

Faithful stewardship is all about living in response to the blessedness we know.  If you are a member of ELUMC and have not yet pledged your financial commitment to our ministry in 2012, please do so this week.  If you’re not a member but part of the dispersed community which enjoys the “Pinch of Salt” devotional readings or our web-based ministries, and would like to make a contribution, we’d appreciate receiving whatever particular gift you have to give.  (Checks can be sent to the office at 215 Somers Road, East Longmeadow MA 01028 — we’re still working on that online donation option).

May you know the blessedness of your life and find adventure in living it more deeply and fully.


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