March 03, 2008
At Federated Church, United Church of Christ, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, we brought a biblical parable to life this past fall. We lived out the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. There, a master lends three servants varying amounts of money. Two of them invest their money and double it. One simply buries it and makes nothing. The master is thrilled with the investment of the first two and commends them for it.
We lent everyone in the church $50 and invited them to invest that money in some way and to make more with it. Someone bought hens and sold eggs. Another person offered rides on his Harley-Davidson and asked for donations. Still another recorded a song she’d written and sold CDs of it.
For us, the parable became an opportunity to encourage the various gifts with which we’ve all been blessed. Not everyone is LeBron James or Beyonce. We’ve all been endowed with particular gifts and abilities, though, and we’ve been invited to use those gifts to make a difference in the world.
One of the things that struck me as our project went on was the number of people who had never made the connection that what they loved to do was a gift that God had given them, and that that gift could be a healing force someplace where there’s need. Many of us have grown up thinking that service is something deadly that we’re obligated to do: we have our fun activities, and we have the chores we have to do, and never the twain shall meet. What many people in our church learned was that service is something that can grow out of our deepest loves. The minister and writer Frederick Buechner once wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
If your deep gladness is making jewelry or riding a motorcycle, those talents can be vessels of compassion. They can be part of the remaking of the world. One woman in her seventies said to me as we wrapped up our project with the talents, “No one had ever affirmed the jewelry I make before. And people here were buying it! I never thought of what I did as a talent before. And I never knew it could make a difference for someone else.” When people at Federated Church adorned flip-flops and prepared chicken paprikash and wrote and sold a song about a father’s death, they discovered the magic of expressing their gifts and giving themselves to others—all at the same time! What could be better.
After the loans had been repaid, we had proceeds of over $40,000. We decided to give some of that money to the Grameen Foundation. Because Grameen Foundation lends money in order to empower people to make their own money, it seemed an ideal fit for the money we had made. We’re thrilled to be able to help extend Grameen’s mission in our own small way. May their gifts keep on giving.
Hamilton Throckmorton is a Senior Minister at Federated Chuch, UCC in Chagrin Falls, OH. His congregation's microbusiness project has garnered national media attention including this AP story.