Let’s use whatever God gives us to bless others

Mary Copping, 15 November 2020

Zephaniah 1: 7, 12–18; 1 Thessalonians 5: 1–11; Matthew 25: 14–30

When I was preparing the reading for the children’s service for today, I decided to omit, ‘As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’. I thought we’d pass over that bit!

So, as we heard the good news that there is a possible vaccine, I read that the Health Secretary said at this news, ‘The discovery of a vaccine will inject hope into millions of arms’. I would rather say that it will inject hope into millions of hearts. Though we cannot be sure about anything these days, the signs of a vaccine being available give a bit of light at the end of what can seem a very dark tunnel.

Scientists have been working tirelessly and quietly, searching for the answer to this Covid-19, and they seem to have found some sort of solution. Scientists with their experience and using their particular gifts are giving us hope for the future. Gifts given to them by God and being used by God for his purposes.

In our gospel reading we have the parable of the talents, where we’re told of a man going away and entrusting his property to his staff, and showing us how differently the people used what he’d given them. Some used it to make more, but one just buried it in the ground and didn’t use it at all. An atheist friend of mine said, ‘Is this a capitalist story, telling people how to make more money?’ No, the interpretation for us is about how we use whatever God gives us, to bless others. It can be gifts, talents, experiences and indeed also money. Are we using all that we have for the good of others?

This parable is one of a number of parables Jesus told near the end of his earthly ministry, before he was crucified and died for us. As we are soon to enter into the season of Advent in which we remember that his Kingdom is coming in glory, we should also take the time to be sure to be ready. God asks us to be his love, his hands, his feet in the world. Each of us has a part to play. Our gifts are given in various measures to perform these tasks. So, this parable tells us to be ready to do whatever God asks of us.

In this parable Jesus is talking about the practices of the day. It was common for the owner of an estate to trust others to manage it. Some were free men and others were slaves. The owner gave orders of what he wanted done and the outcome he wanted. In this case, the master provided his servants with an enormous amount of money. A talent was about 70 pounds of silver or gold. So even the slave who got one talent was given something of great value. The master was testing the slaves to see how much he could trust them and what they would do with what they’d been given.

You will probably have heard of Paul Harvey, a composer from Buxted, in Sussex, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year but has continued to be able to play pieces from memory, as well as create new ones. He recently composed a piece of music which his son filmed him playing, and the film was seen by many on the internet. As they say, it went viral. Eventually he recorded it with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and released a single, with all money raised going to Alzheimer’s charities. This inspired a billionaire to give a million pounds for the charities that Paul Harvey supports. In this wonderful story, we see people using the gifts they’ve been given to help and bless many – Paul Harvey with his gift of music, his son with the gift of technology to get the film out, and the billionaire giving of the money he had to help others. This news story was one that gave light and hope and joy to so many people as they watched it, and to the charities who will benefit from this.

I wonder how we are using the gifts God has given us; and do we even recognise what gifts we have? I remember doing a group activity in which we were all asked to name the gifts that we felt the other people in the group had. We found it much easier to name their gifts than to name our own gifts. In fact, some were surprised at the gifts people said they had. They hadn’t realised they had them. So, with us all, we are more able to see the gifts of others than recognise our own. But we do each have gifts, given by God, which can be used to bring light and hope to many.

Do we even recognise what gifts we have?

As with this service – so many gifts and talents used to bring this service to you and to many people.

As we go through each day in these uncertain and troubled times, we can bring light to those around us with all that God has given us. A kind word here, a card written to someone, a phone call to a person alone, a prayer prayed for those in need. We all can offer something to bless others and, in that, we are also blessed.

God works with us and through the gifts he has given us. He has things for each of us to do, to bring his light and his hope to those around. They’re often simple things, but they mean so much to others. I wonder if each day we could start, whatever situation we are in, in thankfulness for all that God gives us, especially as we look at the natural world and the beauty of God’s creation. Especially as we see what the scientists are doing at this time. Especially as we see what God does each day for us.

We are all in very different situations at this time, some of us in pain and difficulty, some fearful and worried about members of our family and fearful for what lies ahead. But perhaps for all of us, in whatever situation, we can ask God to help us to use our gifts to bring blessing to others. As with Paul Harvey in his situation – God is using him mightily to bring hope and joy to others – and so he does with us.

And verses from the letter of Peter, ‘Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace … If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 4: 10–11).

As we go into another week of lockdown, let us ask God to give us all the strength and help we need to go forward with him. Amen.