Sermon for Pentecost 13, Year A
Based on Rom. 12:1-8
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
"Sharing our Gifts"
If you don't use it, you will lose it. That's one of the Apostle Paul's themes in our second lesson today, concerning the gifts which God gives to each one of us. Paul ~ in the Revised Standard Version it's communicated more clearly than in the New Revised Standard Version ~ exhorts all Christians in this way: "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them."
I know that what the Apostle is saying here is true, and it applies to us today, just as it did to the Christians whom Paul was addressing his words to in Rome. One thing in particular, which a person can lose if they don't use it is the ability to speak a language. When I completed my high school French, I could carry on a conversation in French and even read some French literature. But, after that, unfortunately, I never spoke or read French again. Now I'm no longer able to speak it or understand it. I've talked to many people who, like me, have also lost a language because of their failure to use it.
Paul describes for us some of the gifts of God, he mentions, in particular, seven: prophecy, ministry or service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, compassion or acts of mercy. There are many other gifts too, and I don't think Paul intended us to interpret this as an exhaustive list. Whatever our gifts might be, Paul believes that they are not entrusted to us as trophies for show, but as tools for service. According to Paul, each Christian has a responsibility to use his or her gifts to the glory of God, for the up-building of the Body of Christ.
Someone (I'm unable to track down the source) tells the following story: "An elderly widow restricted in her activities, was eager to serve Christ. After praying about the matter, she decided that although she might not be capable of walking from house to house to invite others to church, she was still able to play the piano. The next day she placed this small ad in the town newspaper: "Pianist will play hymns by phone daily for those who are sick and despondent, the service is free." The notice included the telephone number to call."
"When people called, she would immediately inquire, "What hymn would you like to hear?" Within a few months she had played for several hundred depressed and lonely individuals. Many of the people felt comforted and encouraged by her. Later she said: "That service became the most rewarding thing I ever did in my life." That woman was using the spiritual gifts of "helps" as she exercised her natural talent for music."
Each one of us has special gifts from God. God wants us to use these gifts in order that the whole church might benefit from our gifts. The church now as much as it ever did, needs all of our gifts, in all of their diversity, to function properly; to minister to the ever-pressing needs of a troubled, complex world; to flourish as a healthy, holistic Body of Christ. Whenever we fail to use and share our gifts for the benefit of the whole church, everyone suffers and is worse off on account of it. As the old observation goes: If you take out the letters u and r in the word church, all you're left with is chch. YOU ARE the church! Christ and everyone else in the church needs and wants you, you and your gifts do make a profound difference.
We all need to be constantly open to our God, and receptive to God's will for us. Perhaps a good motto to live by in our life together as the church is: Please be patient, God isn't finished with me yet! We're a work of art in the process of being made more beautiful and complete every day. One of the simple, common-sense gifts, which is absolutely indispensable for the whole church is: our need to be honest with ourselves and know what we can or cannot do. As William Barclay has observed: "An honest assessment of our own capabilities, without conceit and without false modesty, is one of the first essentials of a useful life."
According to Barclay, we need: "to accept ourselves and to use the gift God has given us. We are not to envy someone else's gift and regret that some other gift has not been given to us. We are to accept ourselves as we are, and use the gift we have. The result may be that we have to accept the fact that service for us means some humble sphere and some almost unseen part. The efficiency of the life of the universe depends on the humblest creatures."
Each person and each gift is important, however humble. Whether it's working as janitor, a carpenter, a secretary, a nurse, a farmer, a homemaker, a prime minister or whatever; God gives each person special gifts meant to be shared with the world and the church. Whatever your gifts, remember that they come from God, you didn't earn or deserve them. They are yours only because God gave them as a gift to you. All of us likely know of or may even have met gifted people. Whatever they do seems light-years better than if we were to try and do the same thing. For example, try as I might, I could never compose a piece of music as magisterial as J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ. Bach was given that special gift to compose music to the glory of God, which continues to live on, delight and inspire so many around the world.
When our gifts are employed in loving service of our God, we benefit from it and so do others. It is a tragic thing and a sad thing when people waste their God-given gifts by not using them. Quite often, those people who waste their God-given gifts by not using them are miserable and unhappy. They also have the capacity of making others around them miserable and unhappy too. Think for a moment of all those people who do waste their God-given gifts. If they would only utilize their gifts, how much better the world and the church would indeed be for it. Think of the peace, joy and love they could share with others, if they put as much time and energy into using their gifts as they do losing them.
The commitment to using our gifts as well as recognizing their benefits is underscored in the following story, told by William R. White: "As the Teacher was speaking with a group of children, a soapmaker attempted to embarrass him. "How can you claim that religion is good and valid when there is so much suffering and evil in the world? What good are all the books and sermons that your religion has produced?"
"The Teacher motioned to a small child to move through the crowd. "This is Eric," the Teacher said. "He is three. He is also dirty. I ask you, what good is soap when Eric and hundreds of children like him are dirty. How can you pretend that soap is effective?"
"What a foolish argument," the soapmaker protested. "If soap is to be effective it must be used."
"Precisely," the Teacher answered. "If the teachings of our master are to be effective, they must be used."
So it is that our God-given gifts are of no value and go to waste unless they are employed. God gave us our gifts for a purpose. Let us be diligent in our faith by learning what those gifts are; by using them for the benefit of others; and by being truly thankful to God for them.
Albert Schweitzer once wisely advised that: "If there is something you own that you can't give away, then you don't own it, it owns you." How much do you own? What do you allow to own you? How much are you freely able to give away? Our loving and generous God, in the person of Jesus, gave his all to us and for us ~ holding nothing back. As God's people, we are called to share this love and generosity with everyone.
Today, the Apostle Paul challenges us to take an honest inventory of ourselves. To ask ourselves at least two very essential questions: "What are my God-given gifts? Am I using them or losing them?"
May God's grace be sufficient for each one of us to find the answers to those questions. When we're given the answers, may we also give God alone the glory in all that we think, say and do.
This page has been visited times.