Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Mike Turgeon The art of living: “Christ the King” 11/20/11
‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You should have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So he took the talent from him, and give it to the one with the five talents, and he said to the guards, “Throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:14-31
The Art of Living
Two months ago, this same text from Matthew appeared as our Gospel lesson, this one in which three slaves are entrusted with talents, meaning money and lots of it. It’s important to note that these were not random people but the actual one’s responsible for managing the owner’s land, ones with which the owner already had a relationship.
When a text appears more than once in a short period of time, it usually means there’s more than one important theme. This parable came up during our stewardship drive, when the main topic was our relationships to God and money; which one will we serve?
This time, the main topic is all the other riches and blessings God grants us besides our financial ones, what do we do with those?
Two of these slaves put the master’s gifts to good use. They got double out of what they were given and this pleased the master greatly.
"Well done, good and faithful slave! You’ve been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come share your master's happiness!"
The third slave did not fare as well. Yes, he was given less talent and fewer gifts but he acted irresponsibly with them according to the master. "You wicked, lazy servant! You ignored the meaning of my message, didn’t you? You let fear take over, knowing I wouldn’t be happy. What’s up with that?
What’s our take away this morning? When we leave here after worship and the coffee hour, after the membership class, what will we do, who will we be because we gathered here together?
This is a well-layered passage. I see two lessons beyond the one about our relationship to God and money. The first lesson is in using God’s gifts. The second lesson is about God’s multiplier effect.
Regarding the first lesson, using the gifts God gave us, we hear this in Romans 12:
"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Romans 12:4-6
In these verses, God is saying through Paul, each of you has different gifts, use them for God’s purpose.
There was a study entitled "Cradles of Eminence" by Victor Goertzel.
The family backgrounds of 300 highly successful people were put under the microscope. Roosevelt, Churchill, Helen Keller, Albert Schweitzer, Gandhi, Freud, Einstein and many others, all brilliant in their fields, and all of them had overcome enormous obstacles. This is a very encouraging study.
For example: "Three-quarters of these people as children were troubled by poverty, or were rejected, or came from a broken home, or had domineering parents. "74 of the 85 writers and 16 of the 20 poets studied came from homes where, as children, they witnessed intense psychological drama played out by their parents.
Physical handicaps such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs made up over one-quarter of the sample. What made the difference? Compensating for their weaknesses let them excel in other areas.
One said this: "What influenced my life more than any other thing was my stammer. If I did not stammer I would have gone to Cambridge as my brothers did, perhaps to every now and then publish a dreary book."
The man was Somerset Maugham, at age 86. World-renowned author of more than 20 books, 30 plays, and scores of essays and short stories.
It's not what we have or don't have that matters, but what we do with what we have. God expects us to use what we have to the best of our abilities in the accomplishment of God’s purposes.
There is an addendum to this first point about using your God-given gifts. There is a reward but it may not look like a reward at first. When you do exercise your talents, God is just waiting to give you more to do.
The Art of Living
A man was involved in a tragic accident. He lost both legs and his left arm. Only a finger and thumb remained on the right hand. But he still possessed a brilliant mind. He was fortunate to have received a good education and had traveled the world before this. At first, he thought there was nothing he could do but helplessly suffer. Then he had a thought. It was nice to receive letters, he had certainly received many in his life, particularly in light of his current condition. But why not write some letters?
He could still use his right hand with some difficulty. But to whom could he write? Was there anyone who could be encouraged by his letters?
He thought of prisoners. Dark as their lives might be, they did have hope of release, whereas he would never be released from the loss of his legs and his arm. He wrote to a Christian group about prison ministry. They said his letters could not be answered, it was against the rules. So he started writing one-sided correspondence. He wrote twice a week and it taxed his strength to the limit.
Into those letters he put his soul, his experience, his faith, his wit, and his Christian optimism. It was hard writing, often in pain, and especially with no reply, no feedback. Frequently, he felt discouraged and was tempted to quit. But in his mind, it was his one shot at being useful, so he resolved to continue.
At last he got a letter on prison stationery, written by the man who censored the mail. It said, "Please write on the best paper you can afford. Your letters are passed from cell to cell till they literally fall to pieces."
Church, Jesus does not count on our ability or inability, Jesus counts on our availability.
Why do people fail to carry out God’s mission in Jesus Christ?
Some say they are not aware of what the needs are.
Some fail to try like the third slave who incurs the owner’s wrath.
Some are lazy, some are busy, which amounts to the same thing, really.
When will we, when will I, when will you, step up to the plate and say ‘yes’ to Christ’s calling?
The second lesson our text teaches today is God’s great multiplier effect.
Dr. Frank Mayfield was touring the Tewksbury Institute when he collided with an elderly floor maid. To cover the awkward moment he asked, "How long have you worked here?" "Almost since the place opened," the maid replied. "What can you tell me about this place?" he asked. "I’ll show you if you have a minute," she said.
“Well, of course,” replied Mayfield.
She led him to the basement and pointed to some small prison cells, their bars rusted with age. She said, "That's where they kept Annie."
"Who's Annie?" he asked.
"Annie was a young girl brought here because she was incorrigible. Nobody could do anything with her. She'd bite and scream and throw her food at anyone who got near her. The doctors and nurses couldn't even examine her to try to help. I'd see them trying, with her spitting and scratching. I was only a few years younger than Annie, and I used to think, 'I sure would hate to be locked up in a cage.'
I wanted to help her, but what could I do?" If the doctors and nurses couldn't help her, what could someone like me do? I didn't know what else to do, so I baked her some brownies. I walked carefully to her cage and said, 'Annie I baked brownies just for you. I'll put them here and you can come get them if you want.' Then I got out of there as fast as I could.
I was afraid she might throw them at me. But she took the brownies and ate them. After that, she was nice to me when I was around. Sometimes I'd talk to her. Once, I got her laughing. A nurse noticed and told the doctor. They asked me if I'd help them with Annie. I said I would if I could.
So every time they wanted to see her or examine her, I went into the cage and calmed her down and held her hand. They discovered Annie was almost blind." After they worked with her a year, Perkins Institute for the Blind opened. They were able to help her and she went on to study and become a teacher. Annie came back here to Tewksbury to visit, and see what she could do to help.
The Director of the Institute had just received a letter from a man who had written to him about his daughter. She was unruly, almost like an animal. She was blind and deaf as well as 'deranged.’ He didn't want to put her in an asylum, so he wrote to ask if we knew a teacher who would come and work with his daughter."
That is how Annie Sullivan became the lifelong companion of Helen Keller.
To finish this true story, when Helen Keller received the Nobel Prize, she was asked who had the greatest impact on her life.
She said, "Annie Sullivan." But Annie, standing right next to her, said, "No Helen. The woman with the greatest influence on both our lives was a floor maid at the Tewksbury Institute."
The Art of Living
God multiplies our efforts, though we don’t always learn the final product. Let’s make sure we have that clear. We, imperfect and limited as all get out, are the talent, God is the multiplier. We often get it backwards.
Yesterday, you, the church, hosted a Thanksgiving Community Dinner. It takes a lot to open our doors every Sunday to the world; and we’ve been do ing it for the last 158 years. To say we will also open our doors on a Saturday so our community can come together to enjoy a meal sends a message to the community and the world. The message is: somebody cares enough in this fractured world to try to bring people together, if only for an hour. Someone cares about you, about the community, about the common welfare of the world in general.
We have to open at least once every 7 days or we can’t really call ourselves a church, can we? But we go beyond, and when we do, we multiply, not in ways we can count but certainly in ways that count with Jesus, the one who calls us forward in his name, to minister with his people.