My great grandmother used to sing and play her piano for me when I was a child. She worked so hard to teach me Silent Night. And she would always say that when she was younger she could sing but she hadn’t used her voice in so long and no longer could sing well. But she could still play the piano blind because she practiced each and every day. She let me know that if I had a talent I should use it and share it before I lost it like she did. I never thought much about the lessons she taught me, as a fifth grader. She was a 97 year old woman I just assumed she lost her ability to sing because of her age. She always wanted me to sing for her. I never did because I was so painfully shy and self conscious. I now wish I had shared my voice with her.
Our scriptures for this morning speak about the investment of talents. Talents in the ancient world meant nothing more than a denomination of money. It would be because of this parable that the word talent would come to signify the skills that a person is gifted with. In the ancient world, a single talent would have been made out of pure gold or silver. Depending upon the metal used it would have worth approximately $30,000 today. Jesus told this parable so that people would understand what God expected of those who worshipped him. God is the master and we are the servants. God has given to each of us; God has invested all that he has in us. But at the end of the day, it is up to us to use what has been given to us to build one another up, to reach out and help those who are in need.
So I know someone who has had a rough couple of years. The way she handles it is to make a list of everything that is bad that has happened in the past year. I think that such lists can make life really difficult to handle. Instead I have challenged her to make a list of everything she has been blessed with when she has the urge to list out things to focus on in life. So this morning, let’s take a moment and list out our blessings, our talents, our gifts. What types of things would keep someone from fully using those gifts? What Christ is saying with his parable is that we should be living our lives as Erma Bombeck seeks to live hers when she shared, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
God gives to each of us special gifts and capabilities. But he never intended for us to keep those gifts to ourselves. We are intended to live together in community. We are intended to be God’s hands in this world. We are intended to be the way that God communicates to humanity. But when we let worries, concerns, and our own pessimism get in the way then God can’t do his work and others do suffer because of it.
Just think about what could be possible if we worried more about the well being of others than about missing that favorite television show, if we worried more about the well-being of others than about if we are somehow going to be ripped off. What if we put that act of caring first in our lives instead of worrying about where we are going to find the time and then just do. Sometimes we think too much. We plan too much. We worry about possible outcomes too much. These worries prevent action and we become like the servant who buried the talent, too afraid, too nervous to do what needs to be done.
I am a worrier. I am a nervous person. I have been since I was a child. For me, it takes some doing to push beyond that. But when I do, I get to experience God in a way that transcends all my earthly woes and cares and I get to build up my faith in God as I am reaching out and touching the life of another. I find that doing God’s work in the world is as much about me and my spiritual needs as it is about helping other people and that’s perfectly ok.
Those skills and gifts we have are given to us for a reason. It’s not just random. They need to be used. They are intended to be used. If they lay fallow for too long they will soon become unusable and they will begin to fade. Christ calls us to be like the first servant who took the talents and used them in the world. He calls us to use the gifts we have to better the world around us, to help someone in need, to remind the world that God is present, and in the process we gain as we discover new depths of spiritual connectedness. So go out use your talents, use the investment God has made in you, and make someone else’s life better, connect with one another, and do as the Apostle Paul asked of the Thessalonians, “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”. If you sing share your voice, if you sew help cloth those in need, if you are caring listen to someone who is lonely, if you can cook feed God’s children. There are so many ways to share of your talents. It is time to do so.
 Erma Bombeck, 20th century.
 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11, RSV.
(Based on Matthew 25: 14-30 and 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11)