The Ripple Effect:
Doubling Your Talents

June 29, 2008

Arlene Bougher, Lay speaker
Montgomery United Methodist Church


Matthew 25: 14-18

The Parable of the Talents

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.

To one he gave 5 talents of money, to another he gave 2 talents of money and to another he gave 1 talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.



Good morning everyone! The title and theme of our message today is the “Ripple Effect: Doubling your Talents.”


There are two definitions of that word talent. The first we know as a God given ability, something we do well or learn to do well. The second, we think of as biblical definition, a unit of weight which was used in trading in ancient Middle East and ancient Greece. I‘d like you to think of both meanings of the word this morning, as I tell you a few stories about doubling your talents.


In The parable of the talent, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus talks about a master, who before he went on a journey, entrusted his servants with varying amounts of talents. The first servant was given 5 talents. The second was given two talents and the last only one. The Master knew his servants. “No one received more than he could handle.”

The talent mentioned in the parable was not a coin, but a weight; think of a piece of unminted gold for instance. It could be made out of silver, gold, or bronze. William Barclay, the world renowned New Testament interpreter, tells us talents back then, were usually silver. He says a silver talent in those days could be 15 years’ worth of wages. So even one talent lost or not multiplied was serious business.


The servant in the parable, given only one talent, buried it because he could not break through his fear of the strict master, the fear of changing the status quo, the fear of losing everything. He thought only of himself. We find ourselves wishing he could have been just a little more giving, a little more thoughtful of his master.


There’s a story about a widow. Every Sunday, the widow and her family would walk two miles to attend their little village church. They paraded up the steps of the old stucco sided building and entered the vestibule, often in time to pull the long thick rope attached to the large bell hung high up in the steeple. Entering the sanctuary, they would all sit down on faded red cushioned pews. As they waited quietly for the pastor to begin the service, the children often looked around at the familiar pictures of disciples on the ancient stained glass windows.


It was a small church with not a lot of money, so the congregation often had interim pastors or student preachers from an area seminary. This particular year the interim pastor was originally from the Methodist Church in India. His name was Varghese. A wonderful, passionate and kind person, he took special interest in the children and youth of the church.


One project that held his heart was a mission to raise funds for a school in India, specifically geared for young women who had little or no opportunity to earn a secondary education. Bright and willing to work hard, this was their chance to live a dream.


The pastor spoke of this mission often and began to melt the heart of the widow. She didn’t have much after banking the government check for her children, paying the bills, and buying the weekly groceries.


But she thought about her free high school education, so many years ago, and her older brother’s offer to pay her tuition for college, if she wanted it. So, she decided to support one special girl attending that school in far off India.


She gave faithfully every month, until the young girl completed her studies. This woman, a widow, kept the ripple effect of her life going, and doubled her Master’s talents. She was a true servant of God.


In the second story we hear about another servant. His name is Paulo Coelho. He had had a hard life in his native country of Brazil. His family was financially comfortable, and middle class. His father was an engineer who had no use for the creative arts.


When his parents couldn’t suppress Paulo’s passion for writing, which he had discovered during his strict Jesuit education, they thought he was mentally ill, and at seventeen, put him into a mental institution where he suffered greatly.


Then in the late 1960’s, Brazil was ruled by a “repressive military regime”. Now 21 and out on his own, Paulo joined an organization called the Alternative Society which fought for the individual’s right to free expression. Something as simple as “publishing a series of comic strips calling for more freedom” led to his being kidnapped and suffering greatly again.


At the age of 26, Paulo Coelho was finally free and wanted to be, as he said, “normal”. It was only after he was convinced to go on a pilgrimage and had returned to his childhood Catholicism that he began to write seriously. He pressed on, struggling to find publishers, first small ones, than larger houses which brought his writings to the attention of the American market, and were then translated into English. One of his first books, the Alchemist, (you may have heard of it) is about searching for a treasure, and in the end, the author tells us, the treasure is your passion, the God given talent in your heart.


To paraphrase Sydney Smith, a student of divinity at the time of the American Revolutionary War, “What ever you are from God, keep to it; never desert your own line of talent. Be what God intended you for; be anything else and you will suffer.”


Today, Paulo Coelho’s spiritually based books have touched the hearts of people all over the world in many languages. Paolo continues to keep the ripple effect of his life going, and to double his talents for his Master.


Unlike Paulo, some of us don’t always appreciate the work to which our God given or God driven talent leads us. But if we are open to being more Christ-like and open to visualizing how we can double our talents for the Master, we can change our hearts and our attitudes.


Take the story of a woman sitting far back in the congregation of the church, minding her own business, listening to a church wide invitation from the pastor, about a basic lay speaking course. A gentle voice in her head said “Take this course and you will learn.” It did not say “you are the next great disciple, go directly to seminary. She did take the course. She did learn. She learned she had this lovely silver talent in hand, given to her by her Master   …but she questioned, “now what?”


A year or two later, she was asked to be the coordinator of lay speakers in her church and to fill the pulpit with service leaders and preachers during the pastor’s absence each summer. The task seemed daunting, and she would have to sacrifice many summer hours.


But she had met some very special, talented people in her advanced lay speaker’s class and at the school of mission she attended. Most of them lacked the opportunity in their congregations to stand at the pulpit like this one, and share God’s message. Now, with her pastor’s blessings, many of them look forward to sharing God’s message with our congregation each summer. And this lay speaker is joyful to tell you several of these friends were called to the ministry of God, and currently attend seminary.


 Yes, the lay speaker found a way to double her spiritual talents and was happy to watch the ripple effect continue in these vested servants of the Master


We heard about the famous Paulo Coelho, born in Brazil, whose spiritual talents continue to be multiplied in books read around the world.


And we know about the Lay Speaker, not famous at all, who finally found a way to double her talent.


But there is a surprise ending to the story of the widow who attended the little church, and gave more than she thought she could manage, to the pastor with a mission in India.


The years passed; her children were grown and out on their own. The widow had been working in a local bank and decided it was time. She borrowed some money from that bank, contacted a few people, and decided …to fly to India to meet that young girl. The very same girl she had financially supported through her high school education. Her trip was an adventure of a lifetime.


There was the grand wedding invitation from someone she met on the flight over (she went). There were the night mountain tremors that nearly threw her out of bed one night (“very exciting” she said). There was the visit to the Taj Mahal!


 But the most treasured experience for her, was the meeting of that young woman all grown up. I was told that woman went on to dental school and was able to live her dream. I’m sure that student, probably retired by now, has contributed to other young students in her country and created her own magnificent ripple effect.


The three stories linked to The Parable of the Talents in Matthew, have a special connection. This lay speaker was inspired not only by Paulo Coelho’s life, but also by the life of the widow. She was my mother.


So you see, whenever you feel the need to give up or settle or bury your talent, don’t be afraid to change the status quo. Hear the gentle voice of Jesus telling you; God will not give you more than you can handle. Take this road and you will learn.   


Finally, remember, each of us holds varying silver weights in our hands and in our hearts, ready to invest and double for our great and caring Master.


Today, I invite you to throw your God given talent into the waters of your life, explore what is before you. Create your own Ripple Effect… for God, and for yourself. Have a good week!


© 2008 Arlene Bougher