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Tony Brooks: Groundhog Day and Sunday School

Posted: 7/17/17 at 10:30am. Post by Tony Brooks.

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus compares the Kingdom and judgment day to an owner going away on a journey and giving three of his servants/slaves talents to invest based on their abilities.

He gives five to one, two to another, and one to another, and leaves on his journey. The servant who had five produced five more talents. The servant who had two produced two more talents. The servant who had one talent was fearful and hid it in the ground. When the master returned, he rewarded the first two servants and condemned the servant who hid his talent (and took it away).

Some see this passage as a parable on capitalism/stewardship: Invest your money with God and see the gain for God. Some see it as being about abilities/gifts: Use your gifts and abilities for God, or allow fear to hold you back and lose those abilities. If you invest, God will bless you with more talents.

As I read the passage years ago, I searched through the library at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, to see other possibilities. I ran across a book I had not seen before. (It was from Ernesto Cardenal’s book, The Gospel in Solentiname Volume 4.)  It was regarding a group of peasants meeting with a priest to study the Gospels—a transcript of their discussion. What I discovered was enlightenment from another world.

The peasants could not buy into the parable as one about money or talents. They had seen multi-national corporations come in under the philosophy of capitalism and strip away their natural resources. The government received large amounts of money, while the workers received very little for their work. In the end, the natural resources were gone, and the workers received very little.

At the end of the transcript, their interpretation was that the talents were about the capacity to love based on ability. Servants, who had a greater capacity to love and share their love despite the risks, were rewarded with a greater capacity to love. The one servant who was afraid to love lost everything!

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33 NIV)

It was a kingdom moment for me. I compared it to the movie, “Groundhog Day.” In the movie, Bill Murray portrays a television weather man (Phil Conners) for a station in Pittsburgh. He takes the annual pilgrimage to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He is there to see if the groundhog, Phil, will see his shadow or not.

He awakens on Groundhog Day to a radio station and then goes about his work. The only problem is: he is a self-centered individual who lives each day for himself.

After giving a poor prognostication about the weather (and hating every minute of it), he prepares to leave town. The winter storm, however, makes him stay another day. Phil awakens to the same broadcast on the radio as the day before, and he soon discovers it is Groundhog Day all over again. He continues to relive the same day over and over again…leading to depression and attempts at suicide with the same results of reliving the same day.

It is only when Phil begins to think of others and discovers love that he is able to break the curse of reliving the same day. Could we be under the same curse in our classes? Is it possible that we have blinders on and basically find ourselves going through the motions of each Sunday?

There are several thoughts about our relationship with God and Sunday School which would apply, but allow me to share a few:

  1. Do we have the capacity to love/take risks, and are we sensitive to newcomers in our class? I have been in Sunday School classes that should be open to visitors, but they continue to share conversations that are closed. They talk about experiences from 10 years ago or more, instead of focusing on what God is doing now. It is better for this class to be a closed small group than an open Bible study class unless they can be sensitive to others around them who do not have shared experiences.
  2. Are we concerned with the Kingdom of God or just our class? Are we willing to invest in our community needs in sharing God’s love for the long haul, or are we just interested in getting new members? When I hear persons complain that a community investment is not yielding new members for our classes or church membership, I know we are focused on church growth and not kingdom growth.
  3. Are we willing to invest outside the church walls? As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we must get outside the church walls and do ministry and Bible study. If the church is to be the church in the 21st century, we can no longer expect to have Bible study or ministry just on Sundays and Wednesdays. We must leave our comfort zone, open our hearts and capacities to love, or we will repeat Groundhog Day until the church no longer exists.
Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7