Apparently, some animals are not like that. Hibernating bears can stay in one position without moving for weeks without suffering any long-term problems. When bears come out of hibernation, after weeks of non-activity, they give themselves a little shake, and then wander off looking for food. If I went that long without moving, I would be crippled.
Heinrich suggests that if we could understand how bears hibernate without suffering the problems that human beings experience when we are inactive, we might be able to dramatically slow the ageing process.
I am no biologist, so I have no way of assessing that claim. But the conclusion Heinrich draws makes sense. Human beings need to use our bodies or else suffer the consequences of our inactivity. We use it or lose it.
It is a simple point, but it is important for our well-being, and not just our physical well-being. Use it or lose it applies to our spiritual lives as well. And that is the lesson of our gospel reading this morning.
Jesus tells us, the kingdom of heaven is like a man going on a journey. The man entrusts his property to slaves while he is away. To one, he gives five talents. (That is an enormous sum of money!) To another he gives two talents, and to a third he gives one.
While the man is away, the first two slaves manage to double the money entrusted to them. But the third slave is afraid. The third slave hides his talent.
When the man returns, he rewards the initiative of the first two slaves with still greater responsibility. They enter into the joy of their master.
The third slave is not so lucky. The master takes the talent from him, gives it to the slave with ten talents, and then, in case we miss the point, casts the slave “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
We don’t want to be that guy! Face to face with God, we want to be invited into the joy of our divine master and heavenly Father, not cast into the outer darkness!
So what does the third slave do that is so bad? He refuses to use his God-given talent. He didn’t use his talent, so he loses it.
This is not a parable about maximizing our money, about how we should invest our savings, about whether we should keep our money in the stock market or in a savings account or in our mattress.
This is a parable about how we use the gifts that God gives us.
One possibility is that we use our gifts with courage, that we “trade” vigorously, that I offer my gifts to you and that I receive your gifts in turn, that we share gifts back and forth and somehow generate still more in the process.
We are good at that here at Saint David’s.
Yesterday was our Holiday Bazaar, and a LOT of work went into it. Many people from Saint David’s worked hard to make it happen. Many vendors, not just from Saint David’s, worked hard on the products they offered for sale. Yesterday was a rich display of gifts, gifts that ultimately come from God, gifts of creativity, and organization, and perseverance, and hospitality, and humble service, and no doubt much more.
Our Bazaar was a beautiful example of people putting their gifts to work, sharing gifts back and forth.
Here is another example. Last week I sent out a draft of the Unified Serving Schedule. It is a schedule of who does what on Sunday mornings. It includes readers, and Eucharistic ministers, and ushers, and Sunday School teachers, and the altar guild, and hosts for coffee hour, and people offering healing prayers. (Thankfully others do the hard work of preparing the schedule!) If you throw in musicians, teachers in the nursery, Eucharistic visitors, and office volunteers who help with the bulletin, it comes to well over thirty people. That is a lot of people putting their talents to work so that we can worship together, teach our children, and enjoy Christian fellowship with each other.
One of the really wonderful things about being at Saint David’s is that rich sharing of gifts. We have a lot of people who trade their talents here as best they can, given their circumstances, their callings, and their particular gifts. We have a lot of ten-talent people!
But there is the flip side, too. Most of us also hide talents in the ground at least some of the time. I don’t mean that we are not generous with our time and effort. As best I can tell, virtually everyone works hard, and not just here.
But I suspect that many of us have gifts that we hesitate to acknowledge even to ourselves. It can be scary to try something new, so we don’t do it. That is hiding our talent in the ground.
When I was young, a big one for me was public speaking. I almost decided against becoming a teacher or a priest because I wasn’t sure I could speak in front of people. Thankfully, God helped me to overcome that fear. I hate to think where I would be if God had not.
Now I am working on my singing with the kind and generous Seaburys. I doubt that singing will turn out to be a hidden talent of mine. More likely it is something I should keep in the ground. But who knows? God has worked miracles before.
My serious point is that we should not fear our own giftedness. God has richly blessed all of us with spiritual gifts, and God commands us to share our gifts with the world. We need to put our gifts—whatever they may be—to work, to God’s work. Hiding our gifts away, burying them in the ground, is not an act of humility. It is a denial of God’s work in us.
And here is one last point. In addition to the specific gifts that each of us have, we have some gifts in common, the gifts Paul talks about in his letter to the Thessalonians, the gifts of faith, and hope, and love.
The world can be scary. People can be cruel. There is much to fear, good reason to hide our gifts even if that means losing them.
But in the end, we know that “God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We know that even now, we live with Christ.
Faith, and hope, and love are the foundation for the exercise of all our other gifts. God gives us faith, and hope, and love as a kind of protection against the challenges and hardships of our world. Faith and love are like a breastplate. Hope is like a helmet. Faith, and hope, and love are spiritual gifts that enable us to encourage each other in hard times.
And so this morning I give thanks to God for the many gifts that God has given us, and especially for the gifts of faith, and hope, and love. And I pray that God will help us to use our gifts, all our gifts, in the service of God’s mission.
In the name of Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all. Amen.