Commitments of Faith: Time and Talents

Commitments of Faith:  Time and Talents

Recently I have been helping people with writing their CVs.  When it comes to work experience or qualifications we are good at putting them on paper.  These are quantifiable and understandable.  The hardest question to answer though is what are they good at or interested in, whether it is the family or the person writing the CV.  How do we define what our talents are?  For some people there can be fairly straightforward answers – perhaps Audrey would put down music for example.  Ask the BBs etc what they would put down on their CV that they are good at…football, sports, playing the X-box. God gave all of us gifts to use.  Whether it is being a good baker or a financial whizz kid or understanding the latest technology – these are all gifts from God.  Maybe you are good at listening or making time for others.  Maybe you can’t walk past a pile of dirty dishes without having to do them or perhaps you can iron a straight line in a pair of trousers.  Yet for our gifts or talents to blossom and grow we need to use them. When I first came to Forth I was learning sign language through in Edinburgh.  I completed the first model and even have a certificate in it as I passed my first exam.  There is no way now though that I could pass that exam because sadly I have forgotten most of what I learnt.  Nor can I converse in German though I can still tell you to close the door in gaelic – dun an doris or that I am tired – Hami ski.  I pick up language easily but I forget it just as easily. Gifts or talents that are not used are worthless.  They either gather dust or fade away to nothing.  Yet God promises that each of us have something special to contribute to the Christian family.  And when we put these gifts or talents together we can achieve so much more than we think possible.  The strange thing is we often use these gifts and talents in our work places, our schools, even in our community to benefit ourselves but when it comes to church life we become very shy about them.  We place the burden of gifts on the minister and perhaps a small group of people and leave them to do the hard work of us all.  Is that fair?  The National Church talks about the ministry of whole people of God – not just one or two individuals.  In reality the Church historically has a lot to answer for in that regard.  Often we have placed the burden of gifts on the minister or priest and demanded high expectations of any who would dare come close to that hallowed position.  Now in times of financial crisis the Church is back to seriously talking about the whole people of God – of elders sharing the burdens of church leadership spiritually as well as care for property, finance and pastoral care.  Let’s have a wee think about the story we heard presented today.  What lessons can we learn from it?  It is from Matthew 20:1-16 on page 1127. 

Let us start with the workers – we are the workers. The story is about a vineyard owner which is a common image Jesus uses for church community.We all have gifts given by God for use in his family, in his church.  For some of us we refuse to acknowledge our gifts out of some sense of false humility.  Some recognise their gifts but are reluctant to use them in case they are wrong or seen as taking over in some way.  Some believe that God hasn’t included them in the gift sharing and all they got was a piece of coal rather than a present.  And some know they have gifts but are not allowed to use them because the powers that be – whether it is the minister or the kirk session or even 121 – don’t allow it or others intimidate.  For example often within the church we don’t appreciate the gifts of children or young people because they haven’t reached a certain age or level of maturity.  Or we ignore our older generations through some misguided notion that old age means an inability to contribute to the family.  And older people become convinced that they have done their time and are no longer able or wanted.  So imagine that all these individuals standing by the roadside not working and along comes Jesus.  These were the people that society had rejected – in our case that the church had rejected or not encouraged to contribute.  As the day wore the people who were left were really the bottom of the pile.  In church circles that is the children, young people and fragile elderly or housebound.  God does not discriminate – human beings do.  By the end of the day everyone was working in the vineyard and the work that was required was being done by all.  Within the church we have the opportunity to include everyone in the work of the Lord whether practical, pastoral, community, or spiritual.  Yet this burden should not lie with the people who start out at the beginning of the day.  In the story the man who owned the vineyard went out again and again to look for workers.  It was too big a task for those who began at the start of the day.  It took everyone to work the vineyard, just as it takes everyone to work for God together in the Church. A vineyard left to its own devices will not grow good crops – for a time the vines will cope without someone looking after them.  But eventually they grow wild, entangling and the worth of the vineyard is lost.  The church cannot afford to neglect itself – if the church is left to its own devices, it will become worthless.  And some would argue strongly that the Church as whole is already worthless – irrelevant.    If you were to write a church CV what would you put on it? 

Imagine for a moment if when you reached heaven you had to hand in your church/faith cv – what would you put on it?

Activities         Training                     Employment                          Gifts

Imagine if we actually put our talents, our gifts together and worked together, instead of finding cause to complain and cause division.  No one puts on their CV – I am good at moaning and criticising.  I am good at giving the cold shoulder when I don’t agree with the decisions being made.  I am good at being negative about change and cope badly with it.  What about the time element referred to in the story?  Everyone regardless of the hours of work were paid the same.  Some people can obviously put on longer dates – can even put longer dates for membership here in Forth St Paul’s than I can.  And perhaps that makes you feel that you have more rights than me or those younger than me whether in age or in faith to dictate the future of this church. 

But our story today reminds us that our time and our talents are to be used for God’s glory and not for our benefit.  In worldly terms those who work the hardest, achieve the most etc are the ones who are most richly rewarded.  They are the ones with the status, the wealth and often the ones rewarded with titles – Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Elton John.  We look to them and think that is who we want to be.  This afternoon we have our heroes party and some people may come dressed as their hero.  Jesus calls us to lay down our lives, pick up our cross and follow him.  Not for a pile of gold or for status symbols or for some pedestal to be put upon, but for heavenly riches.  A place where rust and moth cannot destroy.  The reward we receive is exactly the same whether we work five minutes or fifty years for the Lord.  And that is fair. 

To put it simply – we won’t care when we receive that heavenly reward whether it is fair because we won’t feel competitive or selfish.  These “worldly” attitudes will have disappeared.  The challenge is to live that heavenly attitude here on earth. We are not to work for the Lord to receive earthly credits but to receive heavenly rewards.  This is not the way the world works.  Often we feel we deserve recognition for all of our hard work.  And when something threatens that we can become single minded and focussed on protecting what is ours.  Let’s try and work for our heavenly rewards and include everyone – from the very very old to the very very young.  Let’s break down the barriers we easily erect and give everyone a place.  Imagine if we could become the place where all were given permission to work for the Lord – a place where everyone could be accepted for who they are and for what God gave them.  And heavenly rewards are not kept back by the Lord – he continually blesses us and through us working together his glory will shine out and we will make a difference.  Divided we fall, united we stand. 

  • There is a place for the Boys Brigade and Girls Association in this church family but they desperately need workers. 
  • There is a place for the Sunday School children but they need to know that Church is for them and will include them at all levels including worship and sacraments. 
  • There is a place for our fragile elderly and housebound because they are still a part of our family. 
  • There is a place for families with noisy children and for quiet individuals. 
  • There is a place for the homeless, the housebound, the sinner and the saint, the healthy and the sick, the wealthy and the poor, the employed and the unemployed. 

Everyone has something important to contribute from prayer to compassion, money and expertise, education and innocence, reality and vision, direction and purpose.  The gifts of God for the people of God.  All are welcomed and have a purpose in God’s church.  Praise the Lord that he trusts us that much. Will you put God first and everything second – your time, your talents, your participation in his family? 

What does God say about your church CV or your CV of faith? 

Leave a Reply