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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Church's Got Talents

2017-11-19 Mt 25 14-30 The Church's Got Talents 


Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12 

Matthew 25:14-30 



The Church's Got Talents 


I don't know if you watch America's Got Talent. This year's winner was 12 year-old ventriloquist, Darci Lynne Farmer of Oklahoma City. I know. I heard "12 year-old ventriloquist" and thought, ehhhLemme tell you. Darci Lynne's got talent. Pull up her final performance on YouTube and try to remember what "talent" you thought you had when you were 12. America voted for Darci Lynne and now she's got a million dollars and top billing in a Vegas show. She's got talent. She's got fame. She's got a college fund. Well done, tiny adorable child. 


What are your talents? What are you especially good at? You might be a ventriloquist. Maybe you've got singing talent. Maybe you've got piano-playing talent. Maybe you can play "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" with so much talent it makes young men and women want to stand up and enlist.  


Maybe you've got math talent, science talent, STEM-Y talent. Maybe you've got artistic talent, writing talent, talent at grilling or baking or candlestick-making. Maybe you've got golf talent, football talent, football-coaching talent and if so, the University of Tennessee Athletic Department would like to talk to you. If you've got the talent, they'd give you way more than a million dollars.  


You've got talent. Maybe you were born with a particular talent. Maybe you've developed your talent through grit and determination. Maybe your talent is inspiring other people to develop their talents.  


But it's possible you might not know what talent you've got. Maybe you've reached the age where you used to have talent, you used to be brimming over with talent, but now you're not so sure what's left in your bucket. You may need some help learning new talents, finding new ways to do old talents. 


Few of us are as famously talented as Darci Lynne Farmer. But you've got talent. You've got the potential to discover talents you may not even know you have. Whatever your talent might be or could be, you've got talent. All God's children got talent.  


The question the Bible raises, the question Jesus raises, the question God raises, then, is not so much, "What's your talent?" The question is, "WHERE'S your talent?"  


Where IS all this talent you've got? Where have you put it? What is your talent doing… for God? 


God gives talents. God gives the talent of learning talents. That's God's job. Your job – our job – is to choose – to choose – to make the choice – of where we're going to put the talents we've got. 


You've got talents. We've got talents. Where are they? 




Matthew 25:14 starts out, "For IT is as IF…" And the logical question is, "What is IT?" What is this IT that Jesus is talking about, here? 


Last week, as I was waiting for God to bestow the talent of writing this sermon, I was given the opportunity by Sarah, to hold Baby Robert Morgan. Baby Robert was sleeping. I don't know how Sarah knew that I have this talent, but she recognized can hold a sleeping baby, and sit very still so as not to wake him up. If the baby wakes up and starts screaming, I've got no talent. But sitting still and sleeping? I'm your guy. 


So, I was holding Baby Robert, listening to him make sleeping baby sounds, and I wondered, "What talents will he have?" He's clearly got the genes and the opportunity to develop many, many talents. What will they be? Will he be a ventriloquistAnd win a million dollars? Sarah and Andy would hope so. Will he be a star athlete? A chef? A cowboy? A teacher? Maybe even a preacher, bless his heart? 


That's the big question, the big IT, isn't it? We ask kids, "What do you want to BE when you grow up?" We're asking, "What talents do you want to be known for? What talents do you want to be paid for, rewarded for?" That's IT. 


IT is figuring out what you've GOT. And IT is up to you. That's simple responsibility. That's IT. 


But when Jesus says, "IT is as if…." When Jesus says, "IT," it is not our big, talented IT. IT is not even ours. IT belongs to someone else. Because if you go back to verse 1 of chapter 25, Jesus begins this parable saying, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this." He's not talking talent; he's talking heaven. 


IT is the kingdom of heaven. And the kingdom of heaven is not something you or I can make happen. This is not a parable about our talents. Because they aren't our talents in the first place. They're God's talents. And God knows the talents. The kingdom of heaven isn't about our financial strategies, although sometimes we act like it is. The kingdom of heaven is about where we put the talents, the faith, the soulful life God has given us.  


The Psalm says, "So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.Teach us to count our days. Not, "Teach us to count our money." Not, "Teach us to count our grades." Not, "Teach us to count our accomplishments, our admirers, or even to count our enemies." It's not about counting talents. We gain wise hearts by making our talents count, each day. The kingdom of heaven is not what talents you've got; it's where you've put them, where you're putting them, today. 




Back in Bible times, a talent was a coin. You could physically hold a talent, a coin, in your handWell you couldbut not if you were one of Jesus's followers. Because a talent was special kind of coin. A very valuable coin. One talent was worth about a year's income. You do not want to lose your talent between the cushions. Jesus's followers were not people with talents. Jesus – and his followers - got no talent, at all. 


If you had one coin, say, a talent, one shiny, round coin worth an entire year's income – what would you do with it? Where would you put it?  


Now, remember the parable. This is not your coin. You're a worker, you're a day laborer, you're a cash on the barrelhead, hand-to-mouth, undocument-able kind-of labor. In Jesus's time, you'd be a slave. In our time, you'd be a person without rights, and surely without a bank account, forget about a 401(k). Your boss, your boss-man or your boss-lady, hands you this coin, this talent – as many as five, two, or one of them. Imagine! One year's salary, two years' salary, even five years' salary. In your hand. What would you do with it? Where would you put it? 


Now, remember the parable. Your boss is not a kind person. He is a "harsh man, reaping where [he] did not sow, and gathering where [he] did not scatter seed." If you lose this talent, or these talents, you will be deported. Punished. Sent to a bad place, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. 


What would you do with this coin, these coins? Where would you put it? What do you do with the talent you've got? The talent that is not yours? The question is not how many talents you've got. The question is, where are they? 




When I was little, we'd go visit my Great Aunt Louise and Uncle Doc. Aunt Louise had a Blue Room. The Blue Room was the fancy dining room. No one was allowed to go in the Blue Room. Not even Uncle Doc. And certainly not children.  


The Blue Room was, as the name implied, decorated in blue. It was filled with family heirlooms. "Don't sit in that chair. It's an heirloom." I had no idea what that meant. I thought they were saying, "Air Loom," like it was some kind of special weaving tool. I just knew you didn't sit in one, or touch the porcelain around it. The Blue Room was used for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. And, very likely, for visits from the preacher. But that was it. Did any of your families have a fancy room like that? 


We put our most prized valuables in a safe deposit box. We put the fine silverware in a box inside a box and into a drawer in a china cabinet that is not to be opened. You can drive the car, but you'd better not scratch it. You can use the computer, but only if you log in as Guest and don't change any settings. 


Our most valuable stuff – we protect it, don't we? We guard it. We hide it. We might even bury it like treasure in a hole in the backyard. "Mom, where's the silverware?" "Let me get the map with the big X."  


That's what we do with our valuables, don't we? We hide them, put them in a safe, rope them off. Turn them into a museum piece. So they can be seen and admired. But not. Not used. 


The kingdom of heaven is not a Blue Room. The kingdom of heaven is not a museumOr a trophy. The kingdom of heaven is not an heirloom, or a collector's item, or a coin. The kingdom of heaven is using your talents, using your talent, putting it to use. Not for your benefit. Not for your investment. Not for your fame. But for the One who gave it to you in the first place. 


Your faith is priceless. Valuable beyond measure. Your days are pricelessValuable beyond measure. You haven't earned them. They're a gift. They're a giving. You've been trusted with these talents of faith, these talents of time. You've been loaned them. With very little instruction, we might add. Which is one reason we come to church. To figure out what the heck God wants, and where the heck God wants us to be as we put these gifts to work. 


Every year, in church, we have Stewardship Season. We're Presbyterian, so we keep it pretty low-key. It's not that we don't like asking for money. Actually, that's exactly what it is. We don't want to be crass or sound like we're in sales. 


Jesus used money – talents – as a metaphor for faith. Because not everybody gets faith. But everyone wants money. And in Matthew 6:21, Jesus even says, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." So, yes, the church would very much like you to share some of your annual talent of money with each other. Giving is indeed a talent. We'd appreciate you investing some of your heart and treasure here. 


But Jesus also makes money a metaphor for how we use the faith, the days, the worth we've been loaned by God. God owns all our talents in the first place. God knows what they are. And God is not worried about you losing them. We worry. We're like the guy who hides his talent. We protect them. God forbid they get buried with us. Because we forget. We forget they aren't ours. Let the talents loose. 




One of the fundamental statements that our church makes, one of the Foundational principles of the Presbyterian Church is two-part. 


Part one says, "The Church is the body of Christ." It says, "Christ gives to the Church all the gifts [talents?] necessary to be his body. The Church strives to demonstrate these gifts in its life as a community in the world (1 Cor. 12:27–28)."  


Nothing too surprising, there. But then, perhaps drawing a bit from Matthew 25, part 2 says this. "The Church is to be a community of faith, entrusting itself to God alone, even at the risk of losing its life." (F-1.0301) 


Did you catch that? "Even at the risk of losing its life." 


That's one of the statements that makes me sinfully proud to be a Presbyterian. The church is called to be a community of faith, entrusting ourselves to God alone, even at the risk of losing all its talents, losing its life. 


The church is not a museum of faith. The church is not a fortress to keep the bad people out. The church is not a fancy room where children with sticky fingers aren't allowed. The church is not buried pile of talents, languishing deep in the ground.  


The church is a risky endeavor. The church's got talents. Not our talents. God's talents. 


Where are we going to put these talents? How are we going to put the talents to work? Not for our fame and fortune. But for God?