Taking a risk with a mustard seed

I don’t often get releases like this one, so I thought I’d share it:

11 Trinity Youth Transform $1,100 into More Than $60,000

In Just 90 Days, through the Kingdom Assignment, Students Raise Money to Further the Kingdom of God

Thursday, February 9, 2012, Columbia, SC Trinity Cathedral’s Episcopal Youth Community (EYC) is making a big impact in their parish and in our community. In November of 2011, Canon Brian Silldorff challenged 11 members of EYC to participate in the Kingdom Assignment. The result? More than $60,000 to fund an array of projects, both sacred and secular.

The Kingdom Assignment is an international project dedicated to stewardship of God’s Kingdom that started some ten years ago in Lake City, California. You can read more about the Kingdom Assignment on their website, www.kingdomassignment.org.

After teaching a Sunday school lesson about the Parable of the Talents, Silldorff challenged eleven youth to participate in the Kingdom Assignment and entrusted them with $1,100 and offered just three rules: 1. The money belongs to God and is entrusted to you. 2. You have 90 days to further the kingdom of God with your talent and treasure. 3. You must report back in 90 days about your project and its success.

It’s now 90 days later and the Kingdom Assignment project will culminate during Youth Sunday School on Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 10:15am in the Workshop. Students, adults, and those impacted by the project will be present along with parishioners and the media to celebrate the impact and reach of more than $60,000.

You are invited to join in the celebration and share in the success. Please email Brian Silldorff if you plan to attend as space is the Workshop is limited. The Worskshop is located on the ground floor of the Trinity Center for Mission and Ministry located at 1123 Marion Street, Columbia, SC 29201.

Way to go, kids! I’m proud of you. Even though you’re not Roman. At least you’re catholic. You know, my cousin is one of y’all’s priests.

This reminds me of the best sermon I ever heard from my own pastor, Msgr. Lehocky. It was so long ago, he probably doesn’t remember it, but I do — the main points, anyway.

I’d always had trouble with that parable — you know, the Capitalist Parable:

14`The kingdom of heaven will be like the time a man went to a country far away. He called his servants and put them in charge of his money.

15He gave five bags of money to one servant. He gave two bags of money to another servant. He gave one bag of money to another servant. He gave to each one what he was able to be in charge of. Then he went away.

16`Right away the servant who had five bags of money began to buy and sell things with it. He made five bags of money more than he had at first.

17`The servant who had two bags of money did the same thing as the one who had five bags. He also made two bags of money more than he had at first.

18But the man who had only one bag of money dug a hole in the ground. And he hid his master’s money in the ground.

19`After a long time, the master of those servants came home. He asked what they had done with his money.

20The servant who had been given five bags of money brought five bags more to his master. He said, “Sir, you gave me five bags of money. See, I have made five bags more money.”

21`His master said, “You have done well. You are a good servant. I can trust you. You have taken good care of a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come, have a good time with your master.”

22`The servant who had been given two bags of money came and said to his master, “Sir, you gave me two bags of money. I have made two bags more money.”

23His master said, “You have done well. You are a good servant. I can trust you. You have taken good care of a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come, have a good time with your master.”

24`The servant who had been given one bag of money came and said, “Sir, I knew that you were a hard man. You cut grain where you did not plant. You pick fruit where you put nothing in.

25I was afraid. So I went and hid your money in the ground. Here is your money.”

26`His master answered him, “You are a bad and lazy servant. You knew that I cut grain where I did not plant. You knew that I pick fruit where I put nothing in.

27You should have put my money in the bank. Then when I came home, I would have had my money with interest on it.

28So take the money away from him. Give it to the one who has ten bags.

29Anyone who has some will get more, and he will have plenty. But he who does not get anything, even the little that he has will be taken away from him.

30Take this good-for-nothing servant! Put him out in the dark place outside. People there will cry and make a noise with their teeth.” ‘

Not that I have anything against capitalism; I don’t. I just didn’t like it that Jesus was suggesting that the third servant had done something wrong. I mean, if someone else asks you to hold his property, shouldn’t you take every precaution to preserve it and have it ready to give back to him? Doesn’t basic honesty require that? Capitalism is a fine thing, with your own money. But do you have the right to take a risk with someone else’s, without specific (preferably written) authorization?

The risk part was what got me; that’s what seemed wrong. It was too easy to fail.

Father Lehocky urged us to look at it in a whole new way. He said people who play it safe are wasting the talents or other gifts they are entrusted with. OK, I sort of got that, but what if they fail? What if they do?, he said. Failing is part of life. You can fail big-time, and by doing so advance the cause of God. Look at Jesus himself. Was there ever a bigger failure? Look at the way he died. Charged as a criminal, whipped nearly to death, stripped naked and nailed up on a gibbet like an animal for the unfeeling community to watch his death-agonies. Abandoned by his friends, who ran like scalded dogs before the bully boys and denied even knowing him. Not a word he’d said had ever even been written down. All over, all done with, all for nothing. He’d taken a risk, and failed spectacularly, by every standard the world had for judging such things.

Except that he hadn’t, as it turned out. He’d really started something. The risk he’d taken had paid off in a way no ordinary mortal would have predicted.

That sermon made me think differently about my life and how it should be lived. It made me look at failure in a new way. Not that I’ve always lived up to that new way of looking at life. But it made me think. And now that I’m writing this, I’m thinking about it again…

23 thoughts on “Taking a risk with a mustard seed

  1. Brad

    Yeah, and let’s not encourage them to do good things. Let’s just mock them for trying. After all, they’re kids; it’s not like you can hurt their feelings or anything.

    And to think, people say newspapermen are cynical…

  2. `Kathryn Fenner

    Not mocking–you projected that. Just saying. If they don’t know they’re rich kids yet–most go to Heathwood–they are not as smart as one would have thought. Rich kids can do a whole lot more than poor kids–the biggest predictor of success if what your father did. Of course it’s good they did it. Let’s hope they will continue to do good by doing well.

  3. Brad

    It took me a second to get what Burl was referring to. This is one of those modern translations…

    I should have gone with the King James, which is more poetic: “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    The Catholic translation is like unto it: “And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

    I guess it makes a noise. Fortunately, my endodontist gave me a molded plastic mouthpiece to wear at night to prevent that.

  4. Steven Davis II

    Maybe Kathryn can do an experiment and give a group of poor kids $1100 and see what they come back with in 90 days.

  5. Tim

    Many of the parables, when you look at them closely, are pretty weird. Who made this unprofitable servant, knowing full well what would happen? Essentially, the meek and timid must die. I really dislike those involving seeds and agriculture, particularly the parable of the sower. It’s awful. Somehow its the seeds fault for where the sower carelessly throws them. An argument for elitism and predestination.

  6. Herb Brasher

    The parable is actually about the attitude of the servant to the Master. There are a lot of people who fault God and holler how bad He is, if He exists at all. The parable turns it around–deep down, in our heart of hearts is the knowledge that for all our blaming God, and for all of our complaints about what a lousy job He’s doing, we know we are really making Him the scapegoat for our own inaction.

    The parable ‘entlarvt’ — I like that German word–‘breaks open the casing and shows the real worm inside’ — of our flimsy excuses. ‘I was afraid of you!’ No he wasn’t, because if he had been, he would have done something. Fear is a bad motivation, but it is at least the base motivation.

    The real human problem is laziness. We don’t want transformation; we like staying egoists. Being fruitful costs too much investment in being made usable so God can use us.

    Just listening to Mary Johnson’s book on her experience with the Missionaries of Charity. It was rough training; most couldn’t make it. I don’t blame them; I wouldn’t make it in a monastery, either. Glad I’m Protestant. But it’s an illustration of what it costs to really become humble sevants, not the fake stuff that often passes for the real thing.

    Thus endeth my sermon. And it was free of charge.

  7. Herb Brasher

    Somehow its the seeds fault for where the sower carelessly throws them.

    Huh? ‘The Seed is the Word.’ The fault is not in the seed, the fault is in the ground it falls on. Actually, it is pretty generous of God to send His Son (the ultimate Word) out among all kinds of people so that they can mistreat Him and blame Him for all that’s wrong with us.

    Blame the ground the seed falls on, not the seed. Nothing wrong with the seed.

    Implied in the parable of the sower though seems to be the possibility of being transformed. The disciples got the message, but that was because they went, asked, sought, wanted to find out what it meant. They invested their whole lives in becoming ground that could be receptive–were willing to be broken up.

    Rocks are rocks, whether visible above ground, or just below the surface where nobody can see them, but the ground is hard, nonetheless. And thorns are thorns.

    But change is possible. I just don’t think we should blame God for our own obtuseness.

  8. SusanG

    Tim, I don’t thing the seeds represent people — they’re the words of the gospel that are spread out everywhere on the ground. The people are the ground the seed lands on and so the seed either grows or doesn’t, depending on what the ground does with it.

  9. tim

    Seeds are people/seeds are the Word. What’s the difference? Who made the rocks, the barren ground, the birds, etc, then threw seeds into the useless, destructive places, knowing full well nothing would grow? This never felt like the God I understood. It felt like a saying added by self-congratulatory people telling each other that they were the chosen ones, that only they ‘got it’.

  10. `Kathryn Fenner

    I think Rowland Alston would say that it’s the quality of the seeds, the quality of the soil (send in a soil sample!), the weather conditions….

    kind of what I was saying….rich kids have the fertile soil conditions to make a much more profitable harvest than poor ones, but plenty of stuff grows in poor soil, and plenty of seeds fail to thrive on fertile soil–that’s why I pretty much buy seedlings!

  11. `Kathryn Fenner

    A Clemson alumnus was trying to raise chickens. He bought chicks and planted them head down. When they didn’t come up, he bought more chicks and planted them feet first. Same result. Giving up, he contacted his local Clemson Extension Office and asked their advice.
    They replied, “Send a soil sample!”

  12. Brad

    If you don’t watch out, this will degenerate into a discussion of soil conditions, and Mark Sanford will jump in.

    Which would be fine with me; I haven’t heard from Mark in awhile. But I’m just letting you know that, at the end of the day…

  13. Brad

    Rowland Alston fascinates me, and for the most superficial of reasons. That accent!

    It amazes me, and also sort of charms me, that after we’ve all been watching TV for 50-60 years, people still have super-local accents like that. I don’t see how they avoid homogenization.

    I’d like Burl’s thoughts on this. As a fellow brat, he’s probably as bemused by local speech patterns as I am.

    Burl, to see what I’m talking about, here’s a video of Mr. Alston.

  14. Brad

    Doug, I don’t know what they did. Or what they’re going to spend the money on. This is what happens when a clergyman does his own release, rather than hiring a professional to do it. Ahem.

  15. `Kathryn Fenner

    I think some people just acquire an accent and keep it, while others are more mutable. We’ve all known families where some members seem to acquire the local accent and others don’t.

    I also think some accents are particularly sticky–the upstate one, a Texas one, and some vocations are more conducive to keeping a regional one– agricultural guru is one (Amanda McNulty is also a trip), and airline pilot is apparently another. Time spent alone or with others similarly accented, maybe?

    Trinity has PR persons on staff, btws. They don’t need to *hire* it out. Really! They do their own flowers–and far more beautifully than the local florists seem to do for other churches….the in-house catering is amazing. Maybe I should have seen if Trinity would do Columbia Rotary?

  16. Brad


    Kathryn, I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. I had just gathered that the youth minister had done it himself, since his name was at the top of the release.

    I now see that there’s another name at the bottom…

  17. `Kathryn Fenner

    He probably did do it himself. Doak Wolfe is the head staff PR guy, and he can’t be everywhere. I was kidding. Trinity is the church equivalent of Downton Abbey, though. The scene where Lady Mary is wondering how they will furnish the new home, sine people like her don’t *buy* furniture and pictures is a lot like Trinity. Can you imagine Downton Abbey having a BYOB party, or a potluck? One doesn’t ask Lady Grantham (who is not Lady Cora, btws) if one can bring something!


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