31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
November 8, 2020
Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
The Parable of the Talents, as this passage from the gospel of Matthew is called, is often thought to be about money. I’d like to tell it to you in a different way.
God has created this entire, big, beautiful world full of abundance, full of blessings. And to one person, God gave these blessings, to another person, God gave these blessings, and to yet another person, God gave these blessings.
Someone looking at these blessings through the eyes of humans, and not God, might think that the first person got more, got better blessings that the last person. That someone might be tempted to rank the “gifts” God gives by saying that apostles are better than teachers or evangelists are better than prophets.
That is not how God sees gifts and blessings. God gives each person what they need to fulfill their calling. No blessing is bigger or more important than any other blessing.
So God entrusts to each person a set of blessings. God trusts each person to be a good steward, caretaker of those blessings. In our story, the first person immediately put their abundance and blessings to work. So, too, did the second person; however the third person was afraid. The third person was afraid to use their blessings, afraid to follow their calling, afraid to be a good caretaker of the abundance that had been entrusted to them.
You might imagine, things do not go well for the person who was afraid, for the person who buried their talents and did not follow their calling. The two who did though, who used their blessings well, God says to them, to us, well done. You have been trustworthy and faithful stewards. Enter into my joy.
On the surface, the parable of the talents is about coins, money; however it is really about blessings. God has given each one of us tremendous gifts, and God has trusted each one of us to be good stewards, good caretakers of those gifts. I am going to pause for a moment and invite you to count on your fingers at least three gifts, talents, blessings that God has entrusted you with.
Was that easy or challenging? Are you still working on it? Some of the members of our community are very good with a sewing machine – making quilts to inspire us in worship, making bears to comfort those going through trying times, sewing masks to keep people healthy and safe. Some of our members are very good with technology, and they have enabled this worship service to be what it now is. Some of our members are creative and said, “Can’t have Harvest Brunch? Let’s pass out apple pies.” Or “Can’t do Meals for Neighbors? Let’s pass out food where people are hungry.” And some of the members of this community have loved ones going through very difficult medical journeys and you are using your blessings to love them, pray for them, asking others to pray for them.
God has given each one of us amazing gifts – way more than three. And God calls us to use those gifts, use those talents, use those blessings to lead a life worthy of God’s trust and abundance. God calls us to faithfully use those gifts to change lives and change the world. I really appreciate The Message’s translation of Paul’s words to the Church in Ephesus:
I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to pack up our blessings, talents, and gifts and follow our callings with purpose. We are called to use our talents “with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring [ourselves] out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
As the living, moving body of Christ, God is always calling us to grow, to journey, to use our gifts to change lives and change the world; however God is not calling us all to the same journey. God blesses us with different abilities, different life experiences, different joys and sorrows, and so of course, we would have different callings.
Paul’s list of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher fit that community in Ephesus. There was a time when those in the FCC Bristol community felt called to committee member, officer, usher and greeter.
Sometimes, though, God calls us to brand new ministries that the church does not have a “committee” for – like the Sunshine Ministry that makes handmade greeting cards to send sunshine into people’s lives. Leave me a note in the electronic friendship pad if you know someone who would really appreciate a bit of sunshine in the mail. And sometimes, our calling from God is so strong and enduring that there is no time limit on how long we feel called to minister with those who are experiencing domestic violence in their lives or those who are food or housing insecure. I am very aware of the many people who have felt called to embrace tragedies in their lives and through Anonymous groups, through survivor groups, through grief groups, they have turned their personal tragedy in blessings for someone else.
God has a calling for your life. Do you know what it is? Can you name it? Do you have more than one? When I was 18 years old, I felt God calling me to ordained ministry within the United Church of Christ, to be a local church pastor, journeying with a community of people through the joys and challenges of their lives. After twenty plus years, I still feel that is my calling and I also know I am called to make the lives of children better which is why I serve with Silver Lake Conference Center, why I volunteer at my son’s school, and also why I use my blessings to keep the school nurse stocked in pants and new underwear for children who need them.
To the world, our callings might look big or small. That doesn’t matter. To God, to the Church, your calling is essential. Without each and every person in this community, using their unique blessings to fulfill their unique calling, this body, this community, the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Bristol, CT would not be able to fulfill our calling to change lives and change the world with Christ’s love.
With each part of this body, using their blessings and fulfilling their callings, we can join together, be knit together and “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Together, I can support your calling by praying for you, providing fabric or coffee cups, school supplies or music tracks. You can support my calling by praying for me, especially next summer when I am at Silver Lake for the week with twenty plus fourth and fifth graders. We can support their ministry by providing meeting space for scout troops and Bristol Hospital during this time of pandemic. Knitting together our gifts, uniting our talents, sharing our blessings, together we change even more lives.
We are pilgrims on a journey. We are followers of Jesus Christ, and even as the world around us changes in significant ways, we are clear about the journey before us. We are blessed and we are called to welcome all, to nurture all, and to change lives and change the world with Christ’s love.
On this Commitment Sunday, I thank you for your commitment, for your faithfulness to the way of Jesus Christ and I thank you for all of the wonderful ways you use your blessings and abundance to change lives and change the world with Christ’s love.