November 2, 2014
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Talent: Use It or Lose It!”
Here we are in the last quarter of this year! Where has the time gone you may ask? Fall is of course that time when the seasons change, northern trees turn various colors and leaves drop from the trees. And of course it is often referred to as: ‘the time of the Harvest’. Surely as we enter into November and Thanksgiving we are reminded about the celebration that surrounded ‘the time of harvest’ of which the early settlers shared with their neighbors. Yes indeed, in only a few weeks we will enter into that Thanksgiving celebration that ultimately leads quickly into Advent and then Christmas itself! But, let’s slow down a bit here and be sure we have gleaned everything we can from the harvest at hand!
Most of us are aware that at the time of the harvest, farmers go out and pick and reap the fruit, the vegetables and such that were planted in the springtime, or the time of planting. We have talked a lot about this in recent weeks. So I will not take us too deeply into this metaphor. What I do want us to visualize is the harvest. It can be a good harvest if the farmer has cultivated and weeded it correctly and diligently. Just visualize a bushel basket filled to overflowing with ripe fresh tomatoes, shiny red apples or a basketful of oranges or grapefruit; or a truck full of potatoes or water melons. Yet, if it was done poorly, the crop may contain a lot of weeds and plants may be undernourished and many may not have made it to the time of the harvest. (The image here is of empty baskets and the trucks with nothing to cart to the marketplace.) With these two images in mind we can turn to our scripture lesson and begin to understand the illustration that these two verses of scripture offer to us.
This letter to the Hebrews, the author of which is unclear, this letter is issuing a warning to those receiving, thus reading or hearing this letter. The warning is to those who are deemed to be falling away. Again, we must assume from the laborious and difficult writings preceding and following these precious verses is that these early Christians are being warned that they must repent from their undernourished efforts at carrying on the Christian faith in their community. Thus the contrasting reference to a useful crop and a worthless one! Raising up that only the crop that is useful will receive a blessing from God; whereas the cursed crop will, in the end, simply be burned.
The writer is clearly trying to put forth an analogy in the sense that – the warning is to fellow Christians that have done a poor job of cultivating the faith and shall not receive the blessing of God. A harsh warning indeed! Warning them that: if they do not reassert themselves and again begin properly sharing their faith, and begin aptly and suitably nourishing their own faith, by diligently utilizing the tools of the faith given them in their baptism, they shall fall away from the grace and blessing that God offers to the faithful.
So how do we put this lesson into words and actions that we can grasp in the context of the all too real Twenty-First Century realities we live in today? That is the over- riding issue that we must now grapple with. This point is far more pressing then debating the depth and breadth that is the extent and scope, of this wordy and thought provoking book of scripture. Perhaps we shall one day get back to reexamine this historic document at a later time, but for today let us lift up what we have gleaned and distribute it fully so that we shall be able to count the extra bushels of the harvest from today’s learnings.
I want to put forth to you that if we look to this passage as an illustration about the gifts we are given by God, such as rain that nourishes the ground, as we look to these illustrations from our scripture and begin to look to how well we nourish and cultivate these gifts, that we have been given by God, we can put this passage into words that will take on strong and clear meaning. Let us take this one step further, and refer to our God given gifts as the talents that we each have as individuals and as a community; the talents that come together to make us the faith community we are today. When we do this we shall begin to clearly see how vital each one of our talents is in the harvest of this fellowship we call: The Riviera United Church of Christ!
The crop that we as a fellowship shall harvest therefore shall equal the coming together of all of the cultivated talent that we each are given; and ultimately we use to nourish all those that God sends to us to work with; and the culmination of all the good deeds and works that come forth from the efforts of this faith community. It is that simple – it is not all that easy however! To fully grasp the enormity of the potential harvest of this community we must first assess the value of the individual talents we bring to the table. Let me assure you that once we have counted the gifts that God has already placed amongst us, and let me add, that a great deal of these talents are evident here today! Once we have taken an inventory we shall realize that we have been blessed by God! We shall also begin to realize we have yet to tape the full potential of this community! There are so many gifts / talents that are being utilized in this sanctuary today; there are however a great many that have yet to be sampled and put to good use.
Let us be clear: Talent wasted is the same as a wasted crop! Unused talent is like leaving tomatoes on the vine to spoil! Or letting the wild animals eat through the lettuce and the rabbits strip the carrots from the garden. In the same manner: a crop harvested and shared is a blessed crop! Talent that is nurtured and blossoms and used for the glory of God shall be blessed by God!
So what kind of gifts, what type of talent are we speaking of? This morning I tried to illustrate a few to our children, such as the gift of a preacher to say a ‘few’ words. Or a worship leader to offer up a prayer; and a musician that can both sing as well as lead us in song while directing a choir or a vocal group, and still be able to play a piano at the same time! Let us carry this forward to be sure we all get the full scope of what can be considered God given talents and gifts.
As we take a look at the talent in this church community, it is easy to pick out the gifts of those that are actively using them, nourishing what God has given them as they put back into this community some of which they have received. It is a true blessing to witness. We could spend the next ten minutes speaking to all of these various gifts. Yet, one cannot help but wonder, how much of the talent of this church or within this church is hidden and yet to be discovered. Surely, we are much like folks who get on the show ‘America’s Got Talent’ and there is a lot of talent that has yet to be tapped. Thankfully, we have an event coming up that can help us discover some of these previously hidden talents. The Rummage sale.
I have served in a number of churches over the past twenty years and I have been a witness to a great many rummage sales. Big ones little ones and everything in-between. They all seem to have raised money for their communities, yet many have trouble raising the needed talent to help these events run smoothly, without burning out some of the major contributors.
It pushes the imagination to wonder what could have been if only; if only she had offered to make a batch of fudge; if only he had donated his expertise in electronics; if only they had worked together using the gifts of tolerance and compassion; if only she had offered to organize a cookie sale or a pie contest. If only.
So what has this got to do with your hidden talents? A lot!
Many folks lack the confidence to believe what they have is of value. Others lack the courage to try. Still others have, well how can we say this, others have lost or never had the willingness to share for fear they will not have enough left for themselves. The Rummage sale is like having the opportunity to stand before the judges on the show ‘America’s Got Talent’ and simply go for it! Volunteer for something you have a notion you can handle, even if it is the first time you have tested that specific skill. Perhaps you need to prove yourself by taking a risk. What is that old saying ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’?
We, you and I, we are the vessels upon which the heavens have nourished with an abundance of talent a vast array of gifts; it is up to us to produce good works and deeds. It is up to us to properly put to use that which God has given us. If we do not make the effort we will never know what could have been. Surely God will bless us if we at least make the effort. Let us not wait till the end of time to find out what happens to those who do not even try!
Hear now these ancient words surrounding: A Warning regarding the ‘Peril of Falling Away;’ recorded in the New Testament within the Letter to the Hebrews: Chapter Six, Verses Seven and Eight.
7 Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.
“May God Bless those who hear and respond to these Holy Words.”