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You May Have More
November 9, 1980

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

MATTHEW 25:14-30

Martha Berry once asked Henry Ford for a donation to her school, a school for poor children in northwest Georgia. Henry Ford gave her 10 cents. Undaunted, she took that 10 cents and planted peanuts. Eventually with the proceeds, she purchased a piano. When she reported this to Henry Ford, he was so impressed with what she had done with that investment that today at the Berry School in Georgia, you will see several magnificent Gothic buildings that cost many millions of dollars, and titled The Ford Quadrangle. This is a modern story to illustrate Jesus’ story which we heard in the New Testament lesson about the wise investors—two people to whom the owner entrusted property and talents (we’re not sure how much a talent was), while he went into another country. The two wise investors doubled the investment. And when the owner returned, he said, “Well done, good and faithful servants. You have been faithful in little things, I will give you much. Enter into my joy.” 

But, the third servant was afraid. He buried the talent in the ground, and when the owner came, he gave it back to him just as it had been received. The owner, as you heard in the story, was very angry with the servant. He banished the servant to the place where they weep and gnash teeth. He took away what the servant had been given, and gave it to the others. And that's the point of the story. 

God has entrusted to you possessions, property and things that belong to God. When used wisely, you will have more and enter into the joy of the Lord. If it is used unwisely, it will be taken away from you, and given to those who have. The Lord has entrusted to each one of you the earth, the message, the resources. The Lord has given you your life. The Lord has given to each of you your own special gifts and abilities, your own unique talents. We are not all equal in the sense of what we all have been given. We are equal in opportunity, but we are not equal in what we have been given. Some of you have been given artistic ability. Some of you are athletic, some of you are great leaders, some of you are great mathematicians, some of you are the worker bees, some of you are the supervisors. To each of you, God has entrusted specific, unique abilities, gifts and graces. And God has given you your resources, your wealth. God has given you your family. God has entrusted all this to you for care, for the purpose of doing God's investment, God's work. As the owner entrusted talents to those servants to carry on the work, so God has entrusted to you and me God's resources that the work may be accomplished. 

God's task on this earth, as I read the Bible, is to bring the whole world back to himself in redemption, that every man, woman and child may know the salvation and the love of Jesus Christ, may have the gift of eternal life, may be brought back into union in fellowship with God. God's task on this earth is to alleviate human suffering. Wherever there is injustice, God is at work. Wherever there is oppression, God is at work. Wherever people are hungry and starving, God is at work. Wherever there is oppression, wherever there is injustice, God is at work. Wherever people hurt, God is at work, and God has entrusted to you and to me the resources to carry on this work. 

But the one servant, the servant who incidentally had received the least, proved to be the faithless one. That servant went and took the talent, took the investment, took the gifts and graces, hid them in a hole and buried them. He told the master, “I was afraid. I was afraid I might lose it.” And the servant said to the Master, “I really don't have faith or confidence in you as a leader and in your ability to manage your affairs. You reap where you haven't sown. You engage in very risky ventures for your investment policies. I was afraid for you. And so I took your talent, I took your property, I took your investment, and I buried it.” 

This is similar to the mood of our nation today. The elections certainly showed us that we lack faith in our leaders. Not only was the President evicted, but leaders of Congress for many years were evicted. Seemingly, as one analyst said, the country voted as much against as it voted for, out of a sense of frustration with the economy and our role in the world, out of a sense of fear, out of a sense of anger. The nation seems to be in this kind of a mood. The swing to conservatism may be a very healthy thing for our country, but I worry about the extreme movements of conservatism.  I worry about the extreme far right movement in Christianity. I worry about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi movement. Have you seen on television how some of them are wearing military uniforms, carrying weapons and engaging in training? It's such a frightening prospect for our nation. 

It seems that we have a fear, an anxiety, a dissatisfaction with the establishment, dissatisfaction with our leaders. And sometimes in the church, there is a dissatisfaction with what's going on. The servant handled these feelings by withdrawing, by hiding, by hoarding, by trying to keep that which he had been given—to hang on to it. Our days are very hectic and pressurized. Many people have to work two jobs, many spouses have to work. The tension and pressures on marriages and homes are very difficult these days. And some people just quit everything. They get to the point where they can't cope. They withdraw, pull out and let the marriage fail as if they were taking themselves, digging a hole, burying themselves and pulling over the dirt. Well, that's one response—to pull out, to withdraw, to hoard. 

But notice the result of this response. First, the owner was very angry. He said the least thing you could do is put it in the bank. As if that was the poorest form of investment he could think of—the least you could do is put it in the bank. And then secondly, he took away what the servant had been given. The servant in his desire to keep, to hoard, to withdraw, lost everything he had. If we're worried about our dollars in this day and age and we hide them in our shoe or under the bed or in the pillow, we're going to lose everything because with inflation that dollar shrinks, purchasing power shrinks. Trying to hang on to what we have, we lose it all. If you don't use a muscle in your body for a period of months or years, you will lose that muscle. It will shrivel up and be lost. If you don't work at your marriage, if you don't work at communication and supporting each other, if you don't work to keep the romance alive in the marriage, if you don't work as hard at marriages as other enterprises, you may lose the whole thing. Those who have not, from them will be taken away even what they have. That's the judgment. 

On the other hand, the wise investors gained more than they ever had and were received into the joy of the master. May you decide to be a wise investor with what God has given you—all your resources, all your talents, all your abilities—and respond to God with a life of stewardship. May you decide to be a faithful partner with God in the use and care of all that God has given you. If you do, you will get more, and you will enter into the joy of Christ. That’s the promise. That's where the joy is. May these days in which we live be not days or occasions to retrieve, withdraw and give up. May you take advantage of the situation in which we're living and prioritize. With all the pressures upon us, the day still has 24 hours, the clock has not shrunk. So may you use this as an opportunity to prioritize and decide what you're going to do each day. Take control of your time that God has given you, your day to use for God's glory. Take advantage and prioritize your talents, your abilities and your energy. Look at what you're doing with your time and with your abilities. What causes, what groups are you belonging to? Where is your time and energy going? Are you fulfilling your responsibility to God through it? Are you doing the ministry of God through everything that you do? If not, prioritize and decide what you will do to be a faithful steward of all that God has given you. Certainly, we are in economic times of distress. But none of us here are poor. We all eat. You all have nice clothes. God has blessed you with abundant resources. And when the penny pinches, prioritize, decide where your money goes, take charge of where your money goes realizing it is God's money given to you, entrusted to your care and to your keeping. 

As you work out your responsibility to Christ, as you work out your partnership with Christ, today especially may I remind you and urge you to remember the church in that relationship. I believe that our church right here, St. Paul's Church, is a means by which you can work out your relationship with Christ, a means by which you can be a faithful steward, a means by which you can do your ministry. God has given you a ministry to do and has given you the talents to do it. And I believe you can do a large part of that through the church. When you give, you are not giving to the church, you are giving through the church to do your ministry. The church is not a dead end where it stops there. When you give and when you serve, you are giving through the church to do your ministry. You are serving through the church to do what God has called you to do. 

For example, are you concerned about children and youth, about their future? Are you concerned about their training and their rearing? If you're concerned, consider ministry through this church. Your time and your talents can be well used in Sunday School and youth groups. Look at the ministry that our church is doing with children and youth. Over 100 were in Sunday School this morning. I didn't look at the attendance, but usually there's over 100 in Sunday school receiving love and nurture. There are over 75 in the choir programs.  A few years ago, we had none and now we have 75 in the choir program, which is an opportunity for the children and youth to serve God where they are not just recipients but where they can offer something back to God through their choir. We had over 200 in Bible School and many of them from the community. Through the ministry of this church, we reach out to children and Haven of Peace to provide lodging, care and food. We provide clothing to children and youth through Nearly New at a very reasonable cost. It’s a great ministry. 

Through the apportionments that our church sends to our conference and General Conference, we have built preschools all over the world. We've built hospitals all over the world. We have schools, like in Japan where I taught school. We have a place for emotionally disturbed youth in Oakland. We provide food and care for orphans, refugee children and youth. All this is accomplished by you through the church. If you care about children and youth, look at all you can do in your ministry through the church. 

Do you have a concern about world hunger? You may express that concern through the church, through our apportionments and special offerings. A great emphasis is being given to world hunger. In 1960, 10% of the federal budget went to economic assistance for third world nations. In 1980, less than 1% of the federal budget went to economic assistance. Our nation has chosen to go the route of providing military help and not economic. 

But the church still cares. The church still reaches out through refugee relief, responding to famine and crises around the world and working to improve food production as when we raised money for the drilling of wells in Bolivia to improve farming. And the church is concerned about analyzing the root causes of hunger. A major emphasis of our church these next four years is on hunger. 

Are you concerned about the race problem and racial tension? Consider ministry through the church. The major emphasis of the United Methodist Church in the next four years is the ethnic minority church, reaching out, establishing new congregations and strengthening ministry of our church to Hispanic Americans, black Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans. This is an emphasis of our church the next four years. 

Are you concerned about the scriptures, the Bible? Through our apportionments, the American Bible Society translates and distributes scriptures throughout the world. 

Whatever your concern, wherever you feel God is calling you to work, consider the church. The church tries to respond to human need wherever we find it in the world, the community or in our own membership and family. We started a 20-30s group for young singles and couples to respond to that need for ministry. We've had two meetings so far of recently bereaved persons who have lost their spouses this last year and who are lonely and feel isolated. We felt that need and have responded by starting a group where they can support and encourage each other as they work through the grief process. 

St. Paul's is you. St. Paul’s is your church and I pray that you will see it as your ministry, as a way for you to respond to God's call and a way for you to exercise your stewardship in the wise use of all that God has given you. The promise is there for the wise steward. You may have more and you enter into the joy of Jesus Christ.

© 1980 Douglas I. Norris