The Extraordinary Ordinary Talents of the Visible and Invisible Kinds

 Sermon inspired by Luke 10:38-42

 2nd of three-week series on Stewardship

This is week two of our three-week series on stewardship. I’ve divided this series up using that good ol’ stewardship mantra: time, talent, and treasure. Last week we covered how we are called to be good stewards of our time, and this week we will explore how we are called to be good stewards of our talents, with the overriding principle continuing to be, we are called by God to be good caretakers of all that God has entrusted to us, and that includes our talents. So, let’s start with a working definition of talent, because I think we have a habit of inflating that word more than is helpful. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word talent is a talent show. And for me, being in a talent show sounds like a nightmare! 

If Hell turns out to be a real place and the way I find that out is by going there, I imagine it could very well be an endless talent show that I am in! Because I think what comes to most people’s minds when they hear the word talent are these amazing skills and performing arts that leave us in awe when we see them. But the reality is, God isn’t thinking about America’s Got Talent when God calls us to be good stewards! What God is really talking about is anything that you know how to do, and are pretty good at. Oh sure, for some people that might be something pretty extraordinary, like juggling sticks of dynamite while breathing fire but for most of us, they are talents of the more ordinary kind. 

And it also depends on how each person defines extraordinary, because for me, I am in complete awe of musicians. The fact that I can give Laura Ann a book with a bunch of lines and dots in it and she can sit at that big box of wood and wires and make beautiful music, just blows my mind! To me that is extraordinary. But again, let’s try to move away from the extraordinary, and closer to the ordinary. This congregation is full of talent, but how we define talent makes that hard to see sometimes. However, if we define talent as anything we know how to do and are good at, well that opens up all kinds of possibilities! That opens up all kinds of opportunities! 

That opens up all kinds of responsibilities in how we use them. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because first, we have to name them. And this is a big hurdle for a lot of us! We can be so self-denigrating. I hear people say all the time that they have no talent. Not only is that not true, it’s also kinda disrespectful if you think about it. I imagine God hearing that and thinking, “Really? I gave you no talents, no skills, no abilities, no passion for anything? Really?” We all have them. And the first step in using them is naming them, and, and this is the really hard part, admitting that you’re good at them! Oh, the pains people will go to in order to not have to admit that they are good at something! What is that? Where does that come from? I’ll tell you what it’s not, it’s not humility. 

How many of you remember that old Sunday school song, This Little Light of Mine? We should have sung that today! Many of us have been singing that song since before we started walking. And according to that song, what are we not supposed to do with our light? Hide it! Correct! But then we become adults, and the lyrics somehow change to, this little light of mine, I’m gonna not tell anyone about it because I don’t want to be accused of bragging. What’s that about! We’ve got to get over that silliness! So, I’ll go first, just to prove to you that God will not strike you down for admitting you have a talent and that you’re actually good at it. One of my talents is public speaking. Now, I could have done lots of things with that talent. I didn’t have to use it in the pulpit. 

I could have been a teacher, a politician, gag, or I don’t know, a self-help guru. Any of those would be worthy and equal, equal, uses of that talent. Yes, even being a politician. Now, do I think I’m any good at it? Well, of course I do! Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it! What kind of a narcissist would I be if I stood up here, took your money, week in and week out, and made you sit through bad preaching! I’ll tell you this, that’d be a surefire way to test if Hell is a real place or not! I’m kidding, I’m kidding! So, what are your talents? We mentioned musical talents, there’s a lot of that in this room. How about Lefse making? How about woodworking? How about working with children? Storytelling? Money counting? And I don’t mean in the miserly way. 

Our talents come in all shapes and sizes, but they don’t always come in tangible ways either, which brings us to our short little Bible story that we just read. The first Bible passage that came to mind was this story of Martha and Mary—which had to have been a God thing because I’ve never connected this story to stewardship before. So, Jesus is invited by Martha into her home and she goes and does what any good host would do. She goes and gets a meal ready for their guest. While Martha is busy in the kitchen, Mary is sitting over there on her…floor, and just listening to Jesus! 

Martha gets upset, pleads for Jesus to intervene, and Jesus tells her that she is actually the one in the wrong here. That must have hurt. So, what did Martha do that was so wrong? Clearly, her talent was hosting, cooking, making people feel comfortable. On top of that, she was using those talents on the savior of the world? Where did she go wrong? Before we answer that, Mary is no slouch either. Remember, talents come in all shapes and sizes and tangibilties. And yes, I think I made up a new word there, but you know what I mean. I don’t know what other talents Mary has but I do know she has the talent of listening. And maybe even deeper than that, she knows when to use which talent at any given moment, which is a talent all on its own! 

And here’s another less obvious talent that Mary had, good instincts. She saw something in Jesus that told her that this was someone that she needed to spend time with, to take seriously, to listen to, even at the expense of social expectations. In this story alone, she had just as many talents as her sister Martha, they just weren’t that visible. So, I ask you again, what talents do you have? The talents of listening, like Mary? How about comforting? Welcoming? Empathy? Patience? Organizing? Just to name a few of the many talents that I’ve seen in this place. They just aren’t always that visible. Like the many people who we are remembering on this day. People who have gone before us, people who we miss dearly, who have left such an impression on our lives. 

This week, as you continue to explore your own talents and who you feel God calling you to use them, I encourage you to be mindful of the many talents that have been passed on to you by loved ones who are no longer with you, both the visible talents and the less visible ones. And while you’re at it, consider saying thank you to the people who are still with you in this life, who have also passed on talents to you. We leave too many things unsaid over the course of our lives, and All Saints Sunday not only comforts us in our grief over loss, but can also be that gentle reminder of who we still have in our lives, generating within us, hearts of gratitude. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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