Proper 28A’23 (Stewardship Sunday)
19 November 2023
Matthew 25.14-30
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Amen. – Isaac Watts


For many years of my life, about this time of year, my mouth would start watering for my Mother’s Cornbread Dressing! She had received the recipe from her mother, who had received it from her mother sometime just after the Civil War. The carefully guarded recipe wasn’t written down she had it all in her head. Everything was made totally from scratch, she would start by making a skillet of cornbread, and by cooking a fresh chicken and collecting the broth. Then she would gather all of her other ingredients, and they would all be folded into a very large baking pan. She then baked it in the oven at a precise temperature for a particular length of time. As it cooked the savory odor started to fill the house! Ah, let us linger for a moment, I can almost smell it…

Well, one year, just a couple of days before Thanksgiving, my mother came down with the flu and was unable to get out of bed, much less make her famous Thanksgiving dressing. What to do? All the daughters in law got together and thought that between themselves they could surely make her dressing without her help, after all, how hard could it be. They gathered all the ingredients they thought they would need and went to work on it. On Thanksgiving Day, it was time for the verdict – the proof would be in the eating. I cautiously took a bite and instantly my tongue recoiled, my mouth puckered, and my eyes watered, and to my credit I managed not to spit it out. Everyone else had a similar experience, my mother included. “What went wrong with the dressing?” asked my uncle who was never at a loss for words. One of the responsible parties spoke up and said “I’m sorry I added everything just like mother, including a bottle of chopped bay leaves!“     My mother spoke up and said, “Oh no my dear, I never use bay leaves (especially not the whole bottle) – I use just a touch of sage!” What a difference the absence of one herb made – the sage! What a talent my mother had – and we all agreed she would make it next year come hell or highwater.

In today’s gospel reading Jesus tells a story known as “the parable of the talents.”

A “talent” back in bible days signified a particular weight of silver. A single talent was equal to about $300 dollars – a large sum of money back in the day. A master before leaving on an extended trip disperses to each steward of his estate talents “according to their ability” for them to manage. One was given $3,000.00 worth of talents, another one was given $1,500.00, and to the last steward one talent – worth $300.00. The first two stewards wisely and put their talents to work by investing them. The third steward buried his in the ground.

The first two stewards were operating in an economy of abundance and seeking to please their master they quickly invested their talents – and they doubled in value! On the other hand, the third steward had a vision problem – he couldn’t see things the way they really were. He saw his master as harsh, he saw the other stewards as his superiors, (after all they had more than he did), and lastly, he saw himself as inferior with so much less to work with, and in an economy of scarcity – so with views like this, he saw his only alternative was to put his talent in a Folger’s can and bury it in the backyard, where at least it would be safe to give back when his master returned.

There are some great life lessons we can draw from Jesus’ parable. First, God gives to everyone according to our abilities. Some get more, some get less, and the good news is that the expectation is adjusted accordingly. God’s expectations are based on the abilities he has given us. Not every college football player can win the Heisman trophy, not everyone can give a million dollars to fight disease or build a new church building. Not everyone can sing or excel in math and science. God knows, we cannot all be equal in achievement but we can all be equal in effort.

The master is well pleased with the first two stewards not because they were superior but for putting their talents to good use. This is the great disappointment of the third steward he failed to use the one talent he did have and he ended up losing it. The parable makes it crystal clear who the master is pleased with, the wise stewards who put their talents to use, and he is clearly not pleased with the last steward who buried his talent.  The master upon his return calls the third steward “wicked and lazy” and he takes the one talent away and gives it to the one that he trusted with ten.

The judgment of the master may seem harsh but it reveals the harsh reality of life and it is this, “If we don’t use what we are given – we end up losing it. Use it – or lose it!” However, the opposite is also true, if we use what we are given it cannot help but to grow, and to develop.  God never expects from us, what we cannot do, but what he knows we can, if we trust him and use what we have. 

It’s really easy to shortchange ourselves by discounting what we have, there always seems to be someone who is better off, they’re in better health, has more physical attractiveness, they’re better off financially, living in a finer home, and there is no end to that list. But apparently God loves the ordinary and the common just as much as he loves the extraordinary and the high born. Abraham Lincoln once said, “God must love the common people, because he has made so many!”

On this stewardship Sunday, let us not shortchange God, or shortchange our neighbors, and let is not shortchange ourselves. Maybe you are the ten talent person – great! Put those talents to use for God’s kingdom! Maybe you have only one talent – Great! Put it to use for Christ’s kingdom!

Said a struggling soul to God, “Dear Lord, I’m counting on you.” Said the Lord to the struggling soul, “And dear Soul, I’m counting on you!”

God is counting on us ordinary and common people to accomplish ordinary tasks with extraordinary love!

Without the sage the dressing was just not the same and without you and the gifts you bring, neither is the Church. So, quit hiding behind all those other spices you think tastes so much better than you, jump down off the spice rack  and join the feast – we could really use your flavor. Amen!