Stewardship of Talent
“Stewardship of Talent”
A Sermon on Romans 12:4-18
Preached at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Independence, Missouri
October 20, 2019 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Everyone in this church has God-given talents. All of us. Even better, our talents are different because a big world needs varied gifts. God calls all kinds of people to serve all kinds of people, and so today I hope you will reflect with me on what gifts you have to offer to a needy world in service of our Lord Jesus Christ.
During this beautiful fall harvest season, let’s think about our talents like a cluster of grapes. You never see a grape stem with just one or two grapes – a single stem produces an abundance. It’s the same with the many talents God has given us. None of us are good at just one thing. I have seen all of you display talent in multiple ways. You don’t have just one skill, you have many. Now, some of your skills may be complimentary. People who are good at gardening may also have talents for other kinds of outdoor work, or perhaps cooking with local produce, or other jobs that take regular tending and nurturing. Or your gifts may be all over the map – you may be a great gardener and note writer and cross-country runner, but have little skill for mowing grass or making phone calls or sprinting. Your combination of gifts is unique to you – God made only you exactly the way you are made.
A single cluster of grapes may ripen at different rates, making them appear multicolored. By the time they get to our grocery stores they tend to be either all green or red or black, but if you visit a vineyard you’ll find that on the vine, they actually often display all colors until they are fully ripe. Your talents are the same. Some are fully developed, but some are still green and just starting to come to full fruit. I suspect all of you can name at least one talent you have that is fully ripened - it could be teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, organization, hospitality, music, accounting, listening, cleaning, meditating, peacemaking – any number of things. I hope you already know a talent that you’ve been given and that’s been developed. But new talents can develop at any age, at any time in our lives. I wonder if you might think what talent you have that is still green. What gift has God given you that might simply need a little more time to ripen? If you’re not sure, you might listen for the tug of the Holy Spirit enticing you to try something you haven’t done before – that may very well be fruit that needs to grow.
Another thing about grapes is that they can grow in the wild, but most of them grow tended by farmers. Your talents are the same. Some of you were born with an innate, wild ability - perhaps to care, to be welcoming, to entertain, or to organize. Marie Kondo, world famous organizer and tidying expert, talked in one interview about loving to organize her classroom books even as a tiny child. Some talents just appear and grow without much help at all. But most talents, like grapes, need to be tended. Marie Kondo is famous, in part, because of her book and TV show helping people learn the talent for tidying. Most of our talents need to be encouraged and refined, if not downright taught. For instance, it’s hard to be a good cook without someone to teach you how to boil water. You become a better musician if you learn about things like intonation and rhythm. You become a better writer by reading other good writers – and someone has to teach you the alphabet to begin with. Many of our talents take tending, just like grapes need to be fed and watered by a gardener. God will do some of the talent tending for us, and we can also help each other. So if your talents are taking time to fully grow, the good news is that’s the normal way of things.
You know, I’m sure, the grapes come in different varieties. Not just colors – there are different breeds of grapes that simply taste and function differently. Some are meant to be sweet, others to be tart. Some are for eating, and others are for drinking. Grapes come in different sizes, grow better in different parts of the world, and are harvested at different seasons. You would not, for instance, try to make Welch’s Concord Grape Jelly out of tart green grapes – you’d get something totally different, and probably not at all tasty. Your talents, likewise, are not meant to be like everyone else’s. I say this specifically because I hear people compare their talents to others and let themselves believe they are not good enough. Comparison is the thief of joy, my friends, and we don’t ask fish to climb trees any more than we ask squirrels to swim. Your gifts have been given to you for their own purpose, not any other. So please don’t look at someone with great organizational skills and say “Oh, I am not good enough for that.” Beloved, those of us who are good at organizing are often terrible at dealing with emergency situations as they arise – but you might be great at it. We need both talents in our world. Grapes come in different varieties. So do people. That just makes the world more colorful and sweet – it is nothing but good.
Finally, grape clusters don’t grow by themselves; they grow on vines. Grapes that are growing and living are inherently connected to each other. So are people and our talents. We have been grafted onto the vine of Christ and made the church. And the body of Christ is simply not what it is without each of us and our many gifts. In Romans, Paul describes a church that has genuine love, rejoices with one another, lives in harmony, and behaves peaceably. That is not possible on our own – we can only do that if we work together. Our talents are not meant to be picked off one by one – they are meant to be a part of a living whole. On the other hand, there is no such thing as a grape vine without individual grapes. There is also no such thing as the church without each of you individually. We are the church, and the church is us.
You have all been given wonderful, diverse, and meaningful talents. Some of our talents are flashy, others are very much behind the scenes. No matter what your talents are, you have been given them by God to love and serve the world. As we think about Stewardship this fall, I invite you to think about the gifts you are already using for the church, and what talents you might offer in the future. When you discover your gifts, use your gifts, and offer your gifts to God, you are doing the will of God for your life. All of our talents come from God, and so it is a deep privilege to offer those gifts back to the Lord’s service. Amen.