Sermon – November 17, 2002 – Gifts and Talents

November 17, 2002

All Saints

Gifts and Talents

One Christmas it was my turn to buy a gift for my brother. We
exchanged names in our family and I got my older brother’s name, so I set out
to buy him his gift. I went to the store and bought him a shirt. I was
very excited about this shirt. I thought I had really landed on the
perfect gift for my brother, so I eagerly wrapped it up and put it under
the Christmas tree. And when we opened the presents on Christmas Eve,
you should have seen the look on his face when he pulled that shirt out
of the box. I knew right away that I had made a big mistake. I took a
good look at that shirt as my brother held it up and beheld its full,
garish glory and I thought, “Oh my gosh! What have I done.”

But you know what. I bought that gift for my brother because I thought
it was cool and I wanted him to know that I thought that he was cool.
I wanted him to know that no plain old plaid shirt would do. I made a
real bad choice. But my brother recognized my intent and he received
that gift graciously and he quietly exchanged it for something less
garish. He received that gift in a loving way from me, in the spirit that
I had given it. That is the nature of sharing such things.

Gifts given convey something, love or respect or acknowledgment. Gifts
express something that has much to do with relationships. Even gifts
given to strangers, those random acts of kindness and senseless acts of
mercy express the desire of one toward another for their comfort or
consolation or well being. No authentic gift is ever given without a
purposes, and no gift graciously received fails to recognize that.

Receiving gifts is something of an art. When we do it well, we do so
gratefully and thankfully. Sometimes we’re surprised, even moved.
Sometimes it’s the wrong gift, but gifts graciously received recognize some
motive, some sentiment. Like when a lover gives a gift it is often to
express their heart and in the best circumstances, that is how it
received. And the relationship is enhanced. Something meaningful is
communicated.

So, what about the gifts God has given us? What do we make of them?
First, we recognize that we have all been given certain gifts by God.
All of us. They might not be self-evident or publically apparent. It
might be necessary to discern these gifts. The community can be helpful
there, trial and error, prayer and reflection, seeking these gifts. It
may be those skills and arts that we possess that we use in another
context that can be used for the kingdom, leadership, motivation, passions
for prayer. They may be self-evident, the beautiful voice or musical
talent, the teaching skills. All of us have them.

Knowing that, it is important to understand that all of them are given
for a purpose. These gifts convey God’s love and acknowledgment of us.
Convey to us God’s recognition of our uniqueness and our usefulness.
These gifts are filled with the message of God’s love and passion for
humanity, for the kingdom. For the sake of the kingdom they are given,
for the sake of compassion, for the sake of wholeness, for the sake of
forgiveness and healing and hope. God gives us these gifts
purposefully. They are meant to be used and shared, because in doing so, God’s
purposes are put forward; the building for the kingdom, the
establishment of justice, the care of the poor and needy, the spreading of the
gospel. God’s purposes are forwarded in the gifts that he bears in love
into our lives.

And in the sharing, the essence of these gifts, God’s love, is then
brought into another life, another circle.

Let’s not make the mistake that our gifts, even if small or not so
publicly apparent, are not meaningful to the kingdom. For each bears in
it the full measure of God’s love and purposes.
Some might have the heart and discipline and passion for prayer. . . we
cannot exist as a community without that. I know that there are people
in this church who pray for me and for the ministries of the
congregation . . . you can’t know the power and consolation I feel from that.
I’ve mentioned others, leadership, teaching, material resources,
evangelism wisdom. All of these things are gifts to be shared which convey
God’s love and purpose.

I would like you to pick up on your way out a spiritual gifts
inventory. Each of us should fill one of these out. This is a tool that helps
to discern and define your gifts, so that the passion that you have,
the skills and arts and interests you have are revealed. This tool is
used for the sake of matching people’s passions with the ministries of
the church. So, on your way out take one from the ushers, fill it out
and return next week.

It’s important that we use our gifts. There is a cost for
complacency. We have some pretty tough texts this morning. The Old Testament
prophet Zephaniah was beside himself at the people because they were
ignoring the gifts of God. The covenant people, those freed from slavery
in Egypt, led through the desert, given the land and the law, and the
promises of God’s abiding love, were squandering the gifts, no, even
worse. They were ignoring them, dismissing them. That’s where Zephaniah
expresses the Lord’s frustration in wrathful terms. He knows that the
cost of complacency is meaninglessness and purposelessness and
Zephaniah tries to put that frustration into words and it sounds like raging.
God, through the prophet, is saying I do not want you to live lives of
meaninglessness and purposelessness, separated from me. That is not
your destiny. That is not why I have called you. That’s why I have
blessed you.

Same understanding in the parable of the talents. Much is given. The
expectation is that it would be used. It would further the master’s
purposes. The anger of the master is kindled when he discovers that the
one slave, misunderstanding the master, fearing the master, buries the
talent and produces nothing.

Gifts are given for God’s purposes and we are blessed to be vessels of
them and blessed to stewards of them. They define for us our destiny
as God’s people.

St. Paul really nails it for us today. He writes, “God has not
destined us for wrath, but for obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ
who died for us.” God has destined us for salvation, for this
realtionship, for these purposes. God has not destined us for separation
from him, from meaninglessness and purposelessness, for being the object
of frustration. Rather we’re the object of love. That is our destiny,
says Paul. God has given us the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ,
who died that we might be saved, that we might be ever close to God.
A gift full of the love and purposes of God so that we may be vessels
and our lives would be blessed, and stewards so that God’s purposes
would be forwarded and celebrated. That God’s love would be made know to
all.

Through Christ, God has blessed each of us, made us vessels of his love
and hope and healing. God’s gift of love in Jesus is looking for a way
to be expressed in your life, by your talents, by your special wisdom,
by your passion, by your love. To know these gifts is to know who it
is that we are and how it is that we may live in this world. How are
you going to celebrate and use that gift, knowing, as Paul reminds us
that that is your destiny?

Amen

Copyright (c) 2002 by Pastor Robert J. Rasmus