Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Risky Business

Do you love to ride on a roller coaster?  Are you a fan of ferris wheels?  Do you love to take off on a jet and go high in the sky looking down at the clouds below?  Will you walk into a room of strangers with a smile on your face and begin introducing yourself to everyone in the room?  If you said yes to these and other questions, then you may be a risk taker.  That is not a bad thing in itself, although there are some who take foolish risks and pay for them with bad health or even death, but taking risks in themselves is a good thing.  It means that you are willing to make yourself vulnerable in order to obtain a higher good or pleasure. 

John Hershey in Creating Contagious Leadership lists five reasons why you should take risks.  He says that risk taking "improves self-confidence and fosters, self-esteem...lessens mental anguish...promotes growth...teaches us what works...and promotes happiness."  He expands on each of those characteristics but the overall theme is that we as humans learn by taking risks and our learning makes us to be inquisitive and courageous people.  We take risks as soon as we are able to negotiate our environment.  First, we learn to crawl and see where we can go by that method.  Then, we begin to walk and take steps that often lead to falling down.  Then, we may decide to ride a bike or a skateboard and end up with some bruises or scrapes.  We learn from those experiences, however, and often become wiser and better at what we do because we were willing to risk doing them. 

Many people do not believe this about me but I am basically a very shy person.  I was so shy as a child that I would not talk to my friends if I saw them in public outside of school.  I definitely would not talk to strangers and would hide if I saw someone coming that I did not know.  I was very shy until I was in high school and then I made myself do something that shy people shudder if they have to do.  I took public speaking as a class in high school where I had to write speeches and stand up before a group and give the speeches.  Shy people faint or run away at the very thought of public speaking but I forced myself to do it and today people try to shut me up instead.  That led me to join the drama club at school and I actually became an actor in plays and worked behind the scenes to produce them. 

Risk taking is something we as humans do so that we can learn about ourselves and our environment.  Risk taking is something we do in the Church because we want to see it grow and expand to include everyone possible.  There is a parable in Matthew that we will study this Sunday during worship.  It is a very old parable of Jesus about 3 servants who were given three amounts of money by their master when he went on a journey.  He gave one servant 5 talents (1 talent was a sum of money worth 15 years wages), and another servant 2 talents, and another servant 1 talent.  He said they should keep the money and return it to him when he returned from his journey.  Two servants invested the money and doubled it so that when he came back they returned 10 talents and 4 talents to him and they were praised.  The servant with only 1 talent, though, dug a hole and hid it and returned it to the master.  That servant was criticized for hiding the money and giving back only what he had been given instead of investing it.

The parable is a bit harsh to the outward appearance.  After all, the servant with 1 talent did not lose the money he had been given and gave it all back, but the master wanted the interest that he could make off his money and he was pleased with the creativeness of the other two servants.  What the parable says to us today is that we all possess lot of things that could be invested in the Kingdom of God--time, talent, treasure OR prayers, presence, gifts, and service (two ways of saying the same thing).  We often hoard or hide or keep for ourselves what we have instead of sharing it, lest we lose what we have.  We are often afraid to take a risk and give of ourselves because we are not sure of what the future may bring.  The master praised the two servants because they were willing to risk what they were stewards of in order to gain more to return to the master.  They took a huge risk and it paid off.  The other servant was so afraid of what could happen that he was paralyzed with fear and took no action.  That is what he was scolded for.

Many times we do nothing because we are unsure of the result.  We may not ask someone for a date because they could say no.  We may not join a club because we do not know its members.  We may not ask for a raise because the boss could say no.  We may not begin a new hobby because we could fail at it.  There are so many possibilities in the world but if we never try, we will never know if we can do them or not.  I think the parable is saying to us--"Go out on a limb...that is where the fruit is."  (That is an old saying, I really did not make it up.)  When we invest ourselves in God's Kingdom, we will find that the Kingdom of God expands to bring in all whom we may reach out to embrace.  God's Kingdom includes and envelopes all and we are the ambassadors whose arms reach out in love and service to be sure that such good news is spread everywhere.

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