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Plymouth United Church of Christ
Making a more loving world
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2010 Moholt Dr. (Directions)
Eau Claire, WI 54703
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“Spending God’s Talents”
Sermon, Year A, Proper 28, November 16, 2014
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: 1 Thess 5:1-11, Mt 25:14-30

That parable does end on a bit o a nasty note. But, there is still good news in there.

This is a parable that you have probably heard used in stewardship campaigns or sermons before. This often gets brought out to talk about stewardship, especially about giving money to the church, and also time and talents. How we steward what God has given us to support the church. Are we generous, are we sort of generous, or do we hide our treasure in the ground and hold it for ourselves. This parable works very well for that. And we are going to be sending out a stewardship letter soon with the pledge cards for next year. Because the church does require money to run. It is needed, and that money comes from us. Comes from those of us who are in the community, and it requires our time and talents as well as we saw this last week. You all put in a lot of time and talent putting together our Holiday Bazaar. Many hours devoted to setting things up. Many talents offered in baking, working the kitchen to clean dishes or prepare beautiful plates of food, setting the tables and waiting on them, bagging up treasures and working the till, talents at keeping the place beautiful and decorated. Lot of time and talent went into this last week, and I thank you all for that.

To be part of the Church is to be part of something bigger. To be part of the Body of Christ. As it is a part of us, so also part of us goes into creating it.

But, I'm not here to give a stewarship sermon or talk about money. Because I think that parable of talents that we read here is also a parable about what we do with something else that God gives us: the gift of God's story. What do we do with God's story? What do we do with the Good News of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and the Good News of his community of love? That's also one of the talents given to us by God to be good stewards of. What do we do with the story entrusted to us? And with our life in the church?

I think many of us hide it in the ground. I know I did. That was the tradition in the church I grew up in, not to talk about the church much outside the walls. Not to share the story with other people. We tended to keep our religion out of the public sphere. It's certainly a much more comfortable and safe thing to do. But Jesus asked us to share the message. He commanded us to share the message! "Go out and make disciples of the nations!" Spread the Good News. Share it.

As I have worked with my coach this year and mentor and with others in the group that the Conference has put together – the six of us ministers working together on church growth and church vitality and how to be evangelistic – let’s not be afraid of the word, might as well say it; to do evangelism – I’ve gotten better at being invitational. I know that I have hit on that word a lot, being invitatational and showing hospitality. But I do it because it is so important. That also is one of the talents that God has given us: to share the story. Not talent in the sense of, say, a musical talent or a talent for language, but talent in the sense of currency as used in this parable.

I think it is showing fruit among us. It is showing fruit. It’s a slow process, this relearning. It certainly has been for me. I never had in any of my seminary training anything about evangelism or church vitality or growth. None of that. And most of our seminaries in the UCC, and other mainline traditions, have very little on evangelism. Some are better at it. The Evangelistic Churches are, of course, really good at it. This has been a big learning curve for me, and a new thing. To be more willing to share with others and invite them in. It can be kind of scary.

But this process is showing fruit. We’ve had more visitors this year, and because of that invitation. And the visitors that we’ve had this year, most of them have been coming back and coming into the life of this congregation. Whether they become members or not, they’ve become part of the life of this congregation. We have invited them in and welcome them, and that has been wonderful to see. Some even have joined and become members. So this works! We are all in the learning curve of how to do it. I’m learning, and you can do it as well.

It is amazing what happens when we don’t put that talent underground but share it. Share the story. Share the story of God’s love by inviting people in to hear it, but even more to experience it. To be part of the community.

It is amazing what can happen when we share our talents and invest them in others’ lives. That’s what we are about in the church, yes? Changing lives for the better? Letting people know that there is a God who loves them unconditionally. That we can have hope in the face of a world that seems hopeless and frightful, scary, dangerous. That we can live with one another in a community of peace, love, and dignity, despite our differences. That our differences don’t have to divide us. That’s the message of the church, and one of the talents that God has given us to possess, share, and invest.

And so we have this year opened our doors to those who have come in. We have also opened our doors to other groups. I talked about this a few weeks ago, but before Halloween we opened our doors to the high schools’ Gender Sexuality Awareness groups so that they could hold a Halloween party here. I told this story the Sunday after that party, but you might not have heard it. Many of the teens here were gay, lesbian, transgender, though not all. At the end of the party, we sat around in a circle and introduced ourselves and shared some story about who we are. One boy shared a story that he came to the party with his mom who drove him here, and as they pulled into the parking lot they weren’t sure if they were at the right place. They had not been here before, and were nervous that maybe that they were in the wrong place. And he had been a bit hesitant about coming to a church anyway, but as they pulled in they saw the rainbow flag that is in my office window and as the boy told the story, “I saw the rainbow flag in the window and I knew that even if I wasn’t at the right place, I knew that at least I would be safe here.”

Hear that? “At least I would be safe here.” That’s hospitality and Christian living. How awful that some of our LGBT brothers and sisters, and others, would even have to ask the question on the way to a church, “Will I be safe there?” Heartbreaking, but sadly, some churches are not safe for certain people. We opened our doors. That’s hospitality and invitation, to open doors to people.

I am talking this week with some folks who have asked if they can use our building for doing Reiki, a Japanese massage, healing, spiritual thing. At the election bake sale, one of the women working was asked by some people about the church, so she told them about who we are and what we do, gave them a tour of the building, and then offered an invitation to them to come join us for worship. Two of the people she invited joined us last Sunday! Simply because they had been invited. I’ve followed up with them by email. I don’t know where that will go, but we’ll see. We extended an invitation, and a “yes” was the response. That was a good moment, being invitational.

Next week we have some high schoolers I met at the Halloween party who will offer a song for us that is about being thankful that one of them has written.

The first Sunday of December we have another musician, Steve Carlson, who I met through networking. We had coffee together, and during out talk I discovered he is a musician. He gave a CD which is just wonderful. So I asked him to come share his music with us, and he has agreed to do so, and will be here December 7.

The Halloween party that we had I challenged you all to invite someone. I challenged the kids to bring a friend, and the rest of you to bring someone. We had over 40 people here. That’s the biggest Halloween party I think since I’ve been here. And it was because you invited someone to come with you. So thank you!

I’ve been so happy to see you inviting people in, and have been inviting our visitors to come be part of the life of this congregation: to help with our street ministry, to help with the bazaar, to help bake, to help make greeting cards for the bazaar. Thank you for inviting visitors, even though not members, into the fellowship of the church. That’s what sharing our talents – the currency of love that God gives us – looks like. The more we share the more we have. There is great power in invitation and in sharing.

We have that story of God’s love, grace, the power of God’s healing love, to share. To invite people in to experience that love. We double the amount of our talents by sharing them. By investing them in other people.

So I challenge you to double your talents by inviting someone to join you in a church event. Whether it’s a Sunday morning worship, or Thanksgiving Eve. Or to the Community Table on Saturday. Or if you know musicians, invite them and give me their names and contact info and I will invite them. Invite them into quilting. Our Christmas decorating on December 6. Invite someone. Or if you are hesitant to invite them, but know someone who would be a good fit, give me their name and their contact information and I will invite them.

Let us not keep our talents – and remember, talent here is the story that we have been given and the community of love that we have, and the hope that we share as Jesus’ people – let us not keep them hidden but put them to work. Let them shine! Share them with the people around us into this hurting world that needs to hear a good word. People that need to know that they are loved, that they do matter, that they have dignity. Let us keep up that good work and do even more at being invitational, welcoming, and open.

The master came back and the one who was given the five talents said, “Look, I have made five more talents!” and the one who had been given two said, “Look, I have made two more talents!” and the master said, “Well done, good and trustworthy servants, you have done well. Enter into the joy of your master.”

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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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