The two readings we have heard this morning contain challenges which are highly practical and relevant to every one of us.
The parable of the talents contains two elements:- the first are the gifts and abilities with which we each have been endowed either by nature or by God as gifts. The second is the positive investment which the Master made in each of them (5 talents, 2 talents and one), and without which they could have achieved very little. To their natural abilities the Master added the means to put them to use. And notice the Master’s expectation that they would not be wasted but put to maximum use within a given time-frame. We need to apply this to ourselves and to our church.
So what are our individual gifts that we can maximise and offer to the church and to each other as individuals? God has made a big investment in each of us in terms of gifts and talents. We have to identify ours; develop them; and put them to the best possible use.
In the reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter 12, he identifies 7 by way of examples. Prophecy, service, teaching, encouraging, contributing money, leadership, showing mercy. For this morning, just a sentence or two on each to show the wide range of gifts we share and can contribute, - and to start you thinking!
Prophecy. People tend to think of prophecy as predicting the future. It may include that, but it’s not the word’s basic meaning in the Bible. It means attending to God, and hearing him tell you that he has a special message for a church or perhaps an individual. It may be a word of encouragement – or of warning – or of challenge, and even of judgment. These are messages from God which we very much need to hear – and they can come to any Christian at any time. You don’t have to have any special knowledge, or pass any exam to be a prophet!
If you believe that God is telling you something the church needs to hear – or maybe someone in the church – you have a responsibility to make it known. Go first to Bruce or one of the clergy because it needs to be tested. It has to be tested against scripture and mature Christian judgment, because not all such messages really come from God. But check it out, because God’s Word needs to be heard, and God’s Word can come to any Christian, however humble they may consider themselves – God is no respecter of persons.
Service. Helping people in a practical way is just as much of a gift as the others. Many people have skills and time to share which can be invaluable assets. Think about what yours are, and how you might fit into a church team.
Encouragement. This is a gift which somehow remarkably few people possess naturally, but which can be developed in prayer and with practice. Most people only comment on someone else’s work or contribution to the church when they have something to criticise. Always think about what was good and went well, and tell people. It doesn’t have to be dishonest or ridiculously lavish – we must be honest. But especially if you have a word of implied criticism, make sure you also have praise for what was good. Encouragement is a wonderful gift – use it.
Contributing money (and perhaps goods of one kind and another). If you have a little more than you need, give some away. It will be a blessing to you, and to the person or church that receives. And do it GENEROUSLY. Not the minimum but the maximum. Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. A church and its family needs generosity. God has been so generous with us. If we want to be like him, we will be generous too – if necessary to the point of sacrifice.
Leadership. You may not have been put in an official position of leadership, but many people have the gift of coming up with an initiative and taking a group of people with them. You may well have a gift of leadership which you never imagined until you gave it a try and saw what God can do with you.
Mercy. You are probably unlikely to be dispensing justice in a court of law, but I am going to interpret this word this morning in the sense of Paul’s famous chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13. Thinking the best of people and not the worst. Not keeping a record of past misdoings by someone, which can be produced like winning card to put someone down. Paul says in1 Corinthians 13: 7,8 : Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
These are a sample of the gifts and talents we may possess as gifts from God
and which we can develop and practise – with prayer and if necessary with some
training. Whether we are a five star talent person, a two star or a one star – think
of how this church could be transformed by God into a place of joy, peace and
blessing to us personally, to the church family, and to those who come in from
the outside, if each one of us learns to discern our natural abilities and the gifts
God has given us, and we all put them into full-scale use. It would be amazing –
and it would be absolutely wonderful.
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1. Discuss what prophecy means in biblical terms; whether we might have prophets in St Michael’s; and what difference it might make.
2. Pick out two or three of the gifts mentioned by Paul in Romans 12 and unpack them more than has been possible in this sermon.
3. Add to the list gifts which come to mind and which you feel are both important and relevant. Share and discuss.