Sermon

10-28-18

Giving of time and talent

Luke 6:38

I Cor. 12:4-7

 

Luke 6:38 Common English Bible (CEB)

38  Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”

 

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Common English Bible (CEB)

There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.

 

When I was a teenager I wasn’t interested in giving my time or talent, especially when it came to chores. I reluctantly mowed the lawn and emptied the garbage. And sometimes I would argue with my brothers over who’s turn it was. I had more important things to do. I had no real concept of generosity in the sense that we think of it as Christians.  It was just work that had to be done before I could take off and do something fun.

            I didn’t like using my time and talents to mow the lawn, but I really liked doing the fun stuff. I got that. Never mind my parents who were working long hours trying to support family life with six kids. I was a kid who’s thoughts centered around himself and it wasn’t until I became an adult, out on my own that I could appreciate all they had done for me and my siblings. No they weren’t Christians, but that’s what I had as my example of sacrifice for others. Many of you can remember those days too. You were probably better children than I was. You probably just loved doing chores and thought of other people’s needs!

[Joke] “Hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?”

I wasn’t a bad kid, I just didn’t spend much time thinking about others. I was not well socialized and didn’t fit in very well. So time and talents back them would have translated into what I thought of as “work.” And work was almost never a voluntary thing for me. I did it out of obligation or for pay. Reminds us of a thought, “I like work. It fascinates me. I sit and look at it for hours.”

Time and talents sounds a lot like work and obligation. Of course you would not think of it like that, right? When someone asks if you’d like to be on a church committee, you jump at the chance, right? You don’t even hesitate to say yes!

            Obviously I am using sarcasm to make a point. And I don’t like using sarcasm because it smacks of insincerity. It may be more true that when you hear such a request, you think of work and obligation. And then, it becomes hard to overcome the resistance we often feel inside, resistance to do something that isn’t fun or enjoyable. After all, who thinks of an ad council meeting as fun?

And that’s part of what I want to talk about today, how we think about time and talents. How do we think about our obligations to church life and ministry? So when you look at the first question on the back of the bulletin, will you think about all the “work” you have done? Or will you be thinking about all the fun you have had? “Hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?”

            We can look at the first Corinthians again to help us see more clearly how we should think of time and talents.

There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.

 

As we read we notice something. Difference verses similarity. We are each different having specific gifts distinct from those of others. And here we have the element of individuality. I’m an individual and thus I am separate from others, giving me choice, giving me a sense of my uniqueness. It’s the part of the verse that gives me freedom to consider my involvement as a voluntary choice. And thus it also allows me to consider my involvement as work.

            That makes sense. It makes sense because when I was a kid not wanting to mow the lawn, it was clear that I was acting out of my individuality and choice. In order to have this mindset, I had to see myself as an individual, apart from the family. Now let’s read the verse again and focus on the second part.

There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; 

 

            Is a light going on here as you hear the distinction between different and same? There are different spiritual gifts but the same spirit. In this verse we see a paradox. How can we be different but also the same? The answer is exciting. The answer is illuminating! The answer is liberating.

            In our sameness we find our uniqueness. In our sameness we see mowing the lawn not as work or obligation but as connection. We see ourselves and our obligations in terms of our spiritual connection. And what was work becomes play.

What was obligation, becomes a joy exuberant volunteerism. There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; the same spirit, the same Lord.

            Going back to the idea of volunteering as a form of work, makes me think about why we work. We work to make a living. We are performing a service for pay. We get a reward, money.

Then we can spend or play. We work for 30-plus years so we can put away enough moolah so we can retire and do the things we want to do. That’s a common view of work and career life. We divide our time between work and leisure. We treasure our leisure time because many of us don’t have enough of it. If you are retired, leisure time is your reality.

The reward system we are talking about here isn’t like that. 

We can understand what scripture means by going to the text from Luke. 38  Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”

            Now we have the word “give” as a comparative to the word “service.” We serve, we give. Thus we receive. Service is intimately linked to the reward. We are receiving as we give.

            Let’s look at it from Jesus point of view. What was his wage? How did he measure what he did? Did he put in an eight hour day and then take the rest of the day off? Was he saving up for retirement? How about the disciples? Did they work a 40-hour week?  How did they measure their success? Did they all take off for the pub after a hard day’s work?

            Well this kind of thinking and comparing may make you wonder where I’m going with this.  I make this comparison to help us understand service, giving, receiving and believing.

I don’t recall anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus tells his disciples if they follow him they will have full benefits, excellent healthcare and a 40-hour work week. Not to mention six weeks of paid vacation. I don’t recall this scripture because it’s not there. Jesus tells them to not look at what they do as work and not think about what reward they would get. In their giving, they were receiving. What they put out, they got back.

            When God came to Marge Schotten in a dream and told her she needed to do something, she didn’t respond by saying, how much work is involved or what she would get out of it. She just responded to his call.  She acted because it was in her heart to do so.

            The teenage boys were sitting down for a meal before their mid-week Bible study, one of them over heard another teen say to his brother, “We’d better eat as much as we can because, we don’t know if we will get breakfast tomorrow.” The listening teen later told his mother about what he heard and she, in turn told other church members.

They didn’t say, “Well, that’s too bad, but that’s their problem.” They didn’t say,  I feel sorry for them and hope they can get help.” They didn’t say, “There must be something wrong with them if they can’t make enough to buy food.”

They responded to this need because it was on their hearts to do so.  When they awakened to a need in their community and formulated a response. As a result, the church opened a community food pantry where those in need could go for groceries.  

The Five Loaves Pantry is in its fifth year of operation. Families in need from the area have food on the table because if this ministry. Children have two meals a day and can function at school because of this ministry.

You see when we act on the spirit’s guidance, we enter into service effortlessly. We join in a collective effort to serve, without ever thinking of what we are doing as work.

What are your time and talents for serving? And when that moment comes when God brings someone with a need your way, do you say yes, I’ll help? Or do you say, what’s it going to cost me? Do you enter into an activity of blessing, or do you avoid more work? Amen