JesusChristSermonOnTheMount 1

When You Think You Have Only ‘One’ Talent

TheDiscipleMd

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.”
After the man received favorable reports from the first two servants, he received this report from the third.
“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed…Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have adundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:14-30)

The above parable has been used to illustrate the importance of being prepared, or accountability, or even the value of hard work. But what has always intrigued me about this parable is that the servant who was given the least is the one who ends up being condemned by the master. It’s such an “opposite” example of all the other teachings of the Savior which uplift and exalt the poor, the meek, the humble and lowly. Why is the servant with the “one” talent the loser and not the servant who was given “the most”. It has always made me think, “What is it about the servant with “one” talent that makes him the “unprofitable” one?
So I have examined the three servants “abilities” and only one characteristic is mentioned about the “unprofitable” one. He was “afraid.” So I ask myself, why was he afraid and the other two weren’t? I don’t know the answer for sure, but I can make an educated guess. Perhaps the servant given one talent was afraid because he was given little and felt inferior to the others. Maybe he lacked confidence. Maybe he was envious of the other servants who were given more talents. Maybe he didn’t feel important so he felt ashamed and therefore he didn’t want to venture out into the big world for fear of losing it all. Why is it important to know? Well, for me, it is important to understand this parable because all of us are given different talents and abilities. If we happened to be one of those persons who has been given 5 talents; great! The Lord expects a lot out of us. And if we happen to be in the shoes of the servant who was given one, that’s also great. The “unprofitable” servant wasn’t condemned because he had only one talent. He was condemned because he “buried” it and didn’t use it to advance his master’s kingdom.

If we happen to “think” we are someone who was given less talents than others, we shouldn’t be afraid to use what we have been given to build up the kingdom. There is no need to let fear, or envy stop us from contributing to the cause. In the eyes of the Lord, the important part is that we contribute what we have been given.

Over the years I have known members of the church who have left a lasting impression on my life. One often made me soup when I serving in a priesthood assignment. One always greeted me at church with a smile though they suffered from serious painful heath issues. Another has consistently written me notes of encouragement and praise for years. Still another faithful shows up each Sunday in the pews, alone, year after year after year. Each has been a source of deep inspiration to me. These people may not see in themselves these “inspirational talents,” but they are as real, and have had as much impact on my life as others whose talents are more recognizable.

No matter the talents given, let us use them to further build the “Kingdom of God” here on earth and be profitable servants!

gladys knight

The Rainbow Of Colors So Merry And Bright!

TheDiscipleMD

Several years ago the Saints United Voices Choir directed by Gladys Knight came to our town. The program and testimonies presented were wonderful, but I suspect it was different from what most members are used to hearing. Presented were songs of worship popular in the African-American community like “Amazing Grace” and others; from the Spanish community in a song called “Via Dolorosa,” and even a couple of songs from the Polynesian culture. By combining these song along with a few traditional European Protestant hymns, it truly was a choir that was unified. Gladys Knight and her husband gave testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ which were uplifting, humorous, and spiritual. I wondered how many of our long time members felt uneasy with the music. Certainly most of the numbers were not the type that would be sung in our meetings, but nevertheless were spiritual in nature and could bring a person closer to Christ. Sometimes it is hard for us to think “outside of the box.”

Over twenty years ago I received a phone call from a brother of the church asking if I would address a group of members who were meeting in a small row home in one of the poorer parts of the city of Baltimore.  As I entered into the house on that Sunday for services I was greeted most warmly by a senior missionary couple.  One of the brothers was serving as a “group leader” and he conducted the services. There were about fifteen African-American members in attendance. The seating consisted of a variety of chairs from lawn,  to wicker, to folding metal.  They would come to symbolize for me, the rainbow of seats available at the feast of the King.

The meeting began in the traditional way with an opening hymn, prayer, announcements,  and then the passing of the sacrament. A brother than spoke for about ten minutes and did a fine job. He bore a strong but simple testimony. The words weren’t elegant, but the spirit was rich. Next a white brother, who had been invited from another congregation specifically to perform, stood, and without music,  started to sing one of our hymns. As he ended the first verse and started the second, I noticed that a few members around me started to loudly hum along with the hymn. Occasionally they would even break out and sing a few words,  and then return again to humming. I looked at the soloist and he seemed not to care or mind.  I remember thinking how strange this was, and I glanced at the senior sister missionary who was in attendance. She gave me a big smile. I smiled back. For a moment I felt amused by the whole thing. I mean, I wasn’t used to members of the congregation just…well joining in without invitation. Inside I smiled and listened as, by the third verse,  the once soloist had been joined by the entire congregation in singing the hymn.  They couldn’t contain themselves and had just started singing, spontaneously,  without invitation.  This was new to me. I had never seen a congregation just arbitrarily join in.  But it seemed so natural to the saints in attendance that day. My amusement soon gave way to reverence as I looked around the room at the faces of those singing.  They were smiling and singing the hymn with great vigor and loud accord!  Soon I felt tears well up in my eyes as the spirit of the Lord poured out onto my soul. It was a profoundly moving spiritual experience and one I have never forgotten.

I have since reflected on that experience many times. The poet Lagaya Evans wrote these words in a poem entitled “The Rainbow.”

The rainbow of colors

So merry and bright

Each color has a purpose

Even black and white

A pot of gold is waiting for all men who sincerely love the Lord. The gospel of Jesus Christ has room for all  who worship Him, no matter what sex,  race, color or creed. Its message of hope and inspiration is universal and its saving grace knows no bounds. May we all join hands in becoming true brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord.

kingdom of God

The Half-Wit And The Kingdom Of God

TheDiscipleMD

“A man owned a small farm in Indiana. The Indiana State Wage & Hour Department claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to interview him. “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them,” demanded the agent. “Well,” replied the farmer, “there’s my farm hand who’s been with me for 3 years. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board. The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $150 per week plus free room and board. Then there’s the half-wit who works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night.” “That’s the guy I want to talk to — the half-wit,” said the agent. “That would be me,” replied the farmer. (“The Indiana Farmer”)

The Indiana Farmer, the self-described “half-wit”, knew the order of the farm. He was the owner and the one who worked the hardest and longest with the least amount of pay. Why? Because he “owned” the farm and loved it! He had consecrated his time, talents, and energy to the “building up” of the farm. Does this sound familiar? As members of Christ’s church, we make covenants  to build up the kingdom of God here on earth. So following the example of the Savior, the order of the priesthood is that we should be last or the least. That is, we are the servants of all. It is inherent then, that priesthood callings, be seen for what they are; they are callings to be the lowest of the servants!

Upon hearing the Savior preach of the difficultly of a rich man making it to heaven, Peter lamented his eternal fate when he and others questioned their hearts regarding this matter. The exchange with the Savior is found in the tenth chapter of Mark:

“And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” (Vs. 26-31)

And so, he that puts himself last in this life, shall one day be first in the kingdom of Heaven. By becoming followers of the Savior many people have given up or altered their relationships with friends and family. Others have given up much in time and worldly riches to serve and follow the Lord. But the promise from the Lord to those,  is that “he shall receive a hundredfold” in the world to come, eternal life. I have faith in the promise of the Lord that he that lives a life of “last”, shall be rewarded by our Father and become “first” in the eternities.

 

IMG_2731

A Constant Calm In The Midst Of Storms

TheDiscipleMD

I immediately liked him, even when he was just a name written in a letter to me. That’s how I first heard of him. My baby sister had pledged to me when I left for my church mission to Argentina, that she wouldn’t get married till I returned. But within six months a letter arrived telling me she was dating a guy and that they were getting serious. Not too long afterward she let me know that she was getting married before I would be returning home. I figured that she had to have met a pretty special guy if she was going to break her word to me. When I got back from Argentina in July of 1977, I got to meet the man she had chosen. And he didn’t disappoint! I don’t know exactly why he was naturally likeable. He just was! He seemed to always be smiling, joking, always with warmth.

Over the years he always showed kindness both to me and to my family. And over all these years I can never recall being mad at him. My sister had made a wise choice! He was a great husband and father to their kids. I don’t know why bad things happen to such good people. I know it is part of the plan but somehow, his sudden death years ago still stings!

I was talking with my wife the other night. We talked about life and its meaning; its fragileness! One minute things are going well, and the next, well….. ! I cannot imagine going through life without her by my side. Yet, I know it is a fact that she or I will have to walk that road, alone, someday. I am always in hopes that it will be later than sooner, but it is something I have very little control of. I can only control my response to it! I have great faith that life is eternal, that my marriage, as well as my siblings marriages can also be eternal.

My brother-in-law lived a life of service and devotion to the building up of the kingdom of God, and of loving and supporting his family. He lacked nothing when it came to caring for people! I think it is evident from how people speak of him, that they loved and cared about him. I feel fortunate to have visited him and my sister just a couple of weeks before he died. I spent one evening, late, talking with him and my sister. He spoke positively about his kids, others, and about life in general. He was not much for complaining. My sister and I droned on, talking about childhood memories. Memories that, I’m sure, he has heard over and over and over. He listened and smiled till his eyes became heavy, then his breathing. I looked over at him, peacefully sleeping on the couch. He slept there for some time as my sister and I kept talking. Finally he awoke, smiled at us and excused himself to bed. It’s not that I see that interaction as so “amazing.” It was the consistency of his “demeanor” through the years that was “amazingly” special. He was a constant calm in the midst of the storms of life!

It has been close to a decade since he passed to the other side. I pray his children will always remember that their father was a man of God. It was the belief he held in eternal life, eternal marriage, and eternal families that gave him the calm to weather the storms of this life, even to the end. It is the promises of the Lord that make men of God calm. For they know who is at the helm, and who is guiding their lives toward the great horizon.

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