Sunday, November 20, 2011

Where's the piccolo?

Last week, our pastor’s sermon addressed Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the wealthy landowner who took a trip, and in his absence entrusted his wealth to his servants. The title of our pastor’s sermon, oddly enough, was “Where’s the piccolo?”

The parable is as follows:

For it [the Kingdom of Heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'

But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

This parable in Matthew has always rather bugged me because I never quite understood it. Why would the wealthy landowner pick on the poor servant who didn’t invest his money but instead merely buried it? Hey, I understand financial restraint.  Frankly that would be my first inclination (bury, not invest). At least the servant didn’t steal the money. He didn’t go drinking or carousing with it. All he did was bury it, keeping it safe and sound for when the master would return. So why was the landowner so ticked off?

Our pastor’s analysis of this parable was so enlightening that I’m copying over portions of his sermon (which I put in italics).

It’s helpful to know that a “talent” was the largest monetary unit of its time. A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer; and a talent was worth 6000 denarii, or about 16 years’ worth of labor. That was a LOT of money.

Clearly the landowner trusted these servants. He obviously trusted them all to be honest, but he didn’t trust each one to the same degree. Instead, he trusted each one “according to his ability.” The servants had different skills.  At the risk of reading too much into the Greek translation of monetary units, the servants each had different talents.

“Let’s face it,” our pastor said. “There are some people who can handle five talents, others only one. There are some people who have great intellectual capabilities and some who do not. There are some who have the ability to articulate their thoughts, some cannot. There are some who have physical prowess and attractive looks, others have neither. The important thing to remember is that each servant was given something. No one was left without. Each had abilities. You may not be a five-talent person, but you have something to offer. We all do.

“And you know something: I believe there are a whole lot more one and two-talent people in this world than there are five-talent people. Oh, there are some people who seem to have it all. I won’t deny that. But most of us are just one or two talent servants.”

Now, understand the servants didn’t know when the landowner would be returning. It’s not like he could keep them abreast of his travels via Twitter. So the servants knew they had to be constantly on their watch for when their boss would get back.

The “good and faithful” servants doubled their master’s money. But the one-talent guy was called “slothful” and “wicked.” Ouch.

As our pastor put it, “Our Lord may be delayed in his return, but, in the meantime, what are you doing with the talent that has been entrusted to you? Let us be clear on one issue: God expects a return. We better not simply bury that which has been given us and return it when he comes. If we don’t sow anything, how can we expect to reap anything?

In other words, we can’t just let our talents lie fallow. We can’t bury them. We have to DO something with them. Our talents are God- given, and He doesn’t like us to waste His gifts. The faithless – those who refuse to use their gifts – will lose even the gifts they were given because they’re too scared, or weak, or lazy, or other unflattering descriptions to cultivate and use those gifts.

Sounds harsh, but I guess God doesn’t like sloth.

So why didn’t the servant invest his talent? He was scared. He played it safe. “I was afraid,” he said. But that’s not a good enough excuse. As our pastor put it, “If Jesus had played it safe, we would not be sitting here [in church] this morning. God loves you as you are, warts and all. Be yourself, be genuine, be authentic.”

Our pastor related the story of an unattractive housewife who forever sighed over the beauty and singing talent of Hollywood actresses. She fell into a depression because she didn’t have similar gifts of beauty and ability. But then she recalled how she used to be able to make people laugh when she was in high school. At the top of her career in the 1960s, Phyllis Diller made over a million dollars a year. She wasn’t pretty, she couldn’t sing, but she was funny. She had found her gift.

“Well, maybe God is saying something like that to us,” said our pastor. “Maybe when we complain that we wish we had more, if only we were like someone other than ourselves, IF ONLY…He says to us: ‘Use the gifts I have given you. Stop crying about what you don’t have and start concentrating on what you do have.’ For me, however, neither of these reasons gets to the heart of the issue. I think the one-talent man did nothing with his talent because he thought to himself: “Well, my one talent won’t make any difference anyway.

Then our pastor finished his sermon with these words: “The celebrated 19th century conductor, Sir Michael Costa, was holding a rehearsal. Scores of instruments were playing and a mighty chorus was wailing away. But one of the musicians, thinking his contribution wouldn’t be missed amid all the commotion, stopped playing. Suddenly the great conductor stopped and yelled: “Where’s the piccolo?

“You see, the sound of that one small instrument was necessary for the proper harmony, and the Master Conductor noticed it immediately. The point: To the Conductor there are no insignificant instruments in an orchestra. Sometimes the smallest and seemingly least important one can make the greatest contribution and, even if it doesn’t seem to make that big a difference to the audience, the conductor knows it right away.

“In the Church, the players and the instruments that make up a congregation are as diverse as the membership – different sizes, shapes, notes, roles to play, talents and willingness to risk oneself. But, like the piccolo player, we often, in our own sovereignty decide that: Our contribution is not significant. I couldn’t possibly make a difference. And so we quit playing. We stop doing that which we have been given to do. We drop out. But what we fail to realize is the Conductor immediately notices. From our perspective, our contribution may be small, but from God’s perspective, it is crucial.”

The other day I was feeling inferior and down-in-the-dumps over my shallow interest in keeping up with NaNoWriMo while others were being saints (and thank you all for your kind words in that regard). But I guess I’m playing my own little tiny piccolo in my own little tiny way. I’m not the celebrated soloist of the performance; but then, that’s not my talent either.

This doesn’t excuse me from helping others with their physical needs, as this saintly woman did.

But it does make me feel better about being a one-talent kind of gal.


  1. This story is as plain of an example of divine serendipity as I've ever heard. It happens so frequently and plainly that often we don't see it or won't believe it.

    Fortunately, you did.

    This pastor's sermon was God's implement to send you this important message. I can't explain it. Who can? But there it is.

    Just Me

  2. Patrice,
    You SO underestimate your multitude of talents!
    You don't have to travel to do a saintly mitzvah to perform your talents! You do them for others every single day, they are found in multitude in every single thought provoking column, or posting you write!
    You touch people from afar every single day!
    You inspire them. You beckon to their values and their core beliefs!
    You give them comfort and in some cases represent their own un-noticed and unspoken concerns and issues, broadcasted openly over a well-respected public venue, when you write columns for WorldNetDaily!

    Some of us don't require physical soup Patrice.
    Some of us need spiritual soup, and that's what you are willing to put in print.
    Parts of yourself, shared experiences, given freely to others to benefit from!

    If they chose, pearls of wisdom, just here for the taking in, sharing, and pondering over.

    Thanks for all you do, and give so freely of Patrice.... Your valuable time, your words, and unselfishly what you share with all of us, parts of yourself!
    I so appreciate ALL your talents!

    God Bless you and yours!


  3. Patrice, this was exactly what I needed to read today! When one is all alone, it is so easy to get in a rut and think your life has no meaning. Thank you for the reminder that God has a master plan and that each of us has a part in it....

  4. My dear Patrice, you might feel like you're not doing nearly enough to help others, and maybe even being a bit selfish with your farm, new barn, etc. BUT, our Heavenly Father knows your heart. He knows you would stop to help someone in distress in an instant! Because you're trying to survive doesn't mean you don't care and aren't doing for others. Anyone who has followed your life for even a month knows that. Your daughters and husband are "others." Your neighbors whom you take in and feed and help in times of need are "others," too!

    It's wonderful what Mary Beth does. Thank God for folks like her! But does she have five mouths to feed, as well as a passel of chickens, cows, dogs and other assorted critters? Does she have hay to bale, gardens to tend to, wood to chop and a tractor that keeps breaking down? I don't know what her living situation is, but I know yours. You're doing plenty to help others. Your blog alone is a welcome place to gather with friends and talk about what's wrong with the world and what we should and shouldn't do about it.

    I'm sure God is very pleased with you and what you do for others, dear. I know my wife and I are! You're very blessed. Be thankful for that. --Fred & Deb

  5. I will echo these other nice people in mentioning that you underestimate the value of the spiritual "soup" that you provide to those of us in need. I'd like to take this moment to thank you for it, too.

    May God richly bless you in this life and the next.

  6. Patrice, I think this article you just wrote should be next Saturdays column in the WorldNetDaily. It was needed and beautiful.
    A grateful reader.

  7. OK - a bit of levity here...Thank you for this post as it reminded me that I need to practice the PICCOLO!!!!

    Seriously though, I do - lol. I have been hired to play with the wonderful US Air Force - Europe band again and I need to get cracking!

    May I repost (or link to) this article on our base's Chapel FB page? I think it would touch a lot of souls...

  8. True, if we don't sow how then can we reap? This is not easy to wrap our minds around, yet me must try to do our best to increase the treasure that has been entrusted in our care ... for me at the moment is the future (our children) in the past I have devoted my life to the future not in military service rather in children. We all get to give what we have been given. *smile* I have had a love for children and therefore have been drawn to them in many different ways, I am thankful for this love for Him and for the children. The thing I want to be certain of is that this call of my heart comes directly from Him. That is the hard part, it's not like we saw the Father put this talent in our hand or something. *small smile/sigh* I wold love to "go into all the world" and in a sence I am by way of the children I have gotten to and get to presently work with. Now to set the best example I can by letting Him live through me. This is a constant approaching the thrown for me, not just in the morning, but ALL THE TIME. God is good and I am exceedingly greatful! Grow in Him and thanks for sharing this thought. It's been a while since I considered this story. Sincerely, Mommy of two little blessings & so much more!

  9. LOL, Katie J -- I used to play piccolo too. Of course you can share this post. BTW I don't know if you ever saw the post I put up with your photos from the cemetery in Liege? The post is here:

    - Patrice

  10. Good morning from NH . I found your site a couple of weeks ago and think its great. Thanks.
    I came across your post on Matthew 25:14-30, from 2011 and thought I would share with you a pastor from Alaska that goes through these passages . the site is.
    and the sermons start at about. Romans study part 172. caution you may get hooked .
    And thanks again for your wonderful blog.

    Victor W.