Boundless: “America’s Got Talent and So Do You”
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Rev. Louis Timberlake
Now, I want to get one thing out of the way from the start. The title of this sermon is, “America’s Got Talent and So Do You.” And, I have to be honest that I’ve never seen an episode of America’s Got Talent. Seriously. I’m a millennial and we don’t watch TV in the same way. For me, TV is a mixture of Netflix and YouTube. The only television I watch in realtime is sports and even that is through an app half of the time. So, I’ve seen clips of America’s Got Talent, like the girl with the ukulele. Grace VanderWaal? She was amazing. Like a young Taylor Swift back when Taylor Swift was good. I mean seriously, the new stuff is just not good.
Anyways, I’m losing some of you and I’m only two minutes in. Y’all aren’t here to hear my thoughts on Taylor Swift’s latest album and that’s not what I want to get out of the way. Here it is. Some of you hear the title of the sermon and are thinking, “Great, not only is the church asking me to give more, it’s asking me to do more.” If there’s anything harder than budgeting our finances, it’s budgeting our time, right?
I’m in an honest mood this morning, so let’s just keep going. Pastors and church staff know this as well as anyone. This is an awesome church with so many wonderful ministries. But ministry and mission on this scale requires hundreds upon hundreds of people who aren’t on the payroll. Who give of their time and talents to impact the lives of people inside and outside of these walls. But, churches feel a tension today that they haven’t felt in the past. People just don’t seem to have as much discretionary time as they used to have. We’re just all so busy. And, it’s not just an age and stage thing. Even people who are retired (and we have a lot of them) are increasingly busy.
So, if there’s one topic that might put people on the defensive more than talking about their money, it’s talking about their time. We just don’t have enough to go around. And I get it, because I feel the same way.
For most of us, time is a more precious commodity than money. Dan Ariely, who is a behavioral economist and professor at the renowned Duke University (so you know he’s good), tells a great story about a locksmith he met. Early in his career, the locksmith was still developing his skills, so jobs took him longer and he often made mistakes. But, people were still glad to pay his fee and would even give him a tip. However, as he became more proficient, he got faster and made less mistakes. He made it look easy. But, a funny thing happened. People started complaining about his fee and they stopped tipping. He was helping them get into their house or their car more quickly, which you’d think would be more valuable. But, as the time and effort required decreased, people began to value his skills less. (1)
Time is a commodity for us and we never feel like we have enough. I can almost guarantee that if I polled the people in my life closest to me whether they felt too busy, 90% would respond “absolutely.” And, it’s a Catch-22, because the busier we are, the more important we feel. The more valuable we feel. We are conditioned to measure worth on how much we are doing. When I was in college, you’d hear these conversations all of the time.
“Ugh, I have three papers to write this week! I’m so busy!”
“Three papers, that’s nothing! I have two papers, a major project, and a midterm! I’m beyond busy!”
“That does sound like a lot. But, I forgot. One of those three papers is a 30 page term paper and I also have a group presentation the same day!”
It’s like it’s a competition! I’m busy, thus I’m important. When you stop and consider it for a moment, it’s a pretty self-destructive narrative that we create for ourselves.
So what does that have to do with talents? Paul talks about gifts. Spiritual gifts. And, what he means by that is that they are gifts from God. Gifts that, in some mysterious way, the Holy Spirit helps to bring forth in our lives. It’s a process of becoming, of living into who God created us to be. But, here’s the tension. It we spend all of our time focused on doing, are we truly becoming? If we are living busy, are we really living well?
Paul is reminding the people here that they are all gifted by the Holy Spirit to contribute in an important and life giving way to the work of God in the world. We are all gifted in different ways, but each brings meaning and joy to our lives, when we give ourselves to the unfolding of that giftedness.
Now, when we think about how to manage our busyness, we often talk about time management. Time management isn’t a bad thing, but often it focuses on the wrong things. Often, time management is about maximizing your ability to do, not about cultivating the joy or meaning you experience in what you do.You’ve had days where you manage your time extremely well, but you still feel worn out at the end of the day. And, it's not the good tired of finding joy in your accomplishments, but the bad tired of being burnt out.
There was a study done a little over ten years ago that claimed and supported the claims that the real issue is not management of time, it’s management of energy. I read a great article in the Harvard Business Review on the results of this study and they found that, by helping employees engage in habits around the management of their energy, they saw not only better results in their work, but improvements in stress, satisfaction, and general wellbeing.(2)
Now, I don’t have enough to go into depth on the study, but the article will be linked in the sermon manuscript on the website next week. But, they focused on four types of energy management: physical (exercising, eating well, sleeping, resting), emotional (cultivating positive emotions by expressing gratitude and choosing to have a positive outlook on situations), mental (developing disciplines that help you to focus well and embracing the natural rhythms of our mental energy), and spiritual (connecting your activities with your values, passions, and talents, consciously devoting time to those things that are of the greatest importance, and connecting what you do with something greater than yourself.)
And, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t matter how well we manage our schedules, if we spend most of that time running on fumes.
Last week, Pastor Morris talked about techniques that help us to live more generously with our resources. And, those practices are important, because it’s hard to even imagine giving generously to impact others if you feel like your finances are in disarray.
It’s the same way with our time and talents. How could we possibly imagine giving of our time when the narrative that we tell ourselves is, “I’m so busy and overwhelmed.” It’s funny, other studies have shown that we’re not actually busier than previous generations, but that the 24-7 access we have to an infinite information, along with the societal pressure to “do it all” makes us feel like we are never caught up. (3)
We don’t actually have less discretionary time, we’ve just convinced ourselves that we do. We don’t have a time deficit. We have an energy deficit. And, because we have an energy deficit, we aren’t realizing our giftedness, we aren’t becoming who God has created us to be.
I believe that each one of us is an incredibly gifted person. We have gifts that allow us to create beauty, to demonstrate grace, to inspire, to comfort, to offer guidance, to discern wisely. We have different gifts, but each gift is essential to the work of God in the world. Each gift is intended to bring joy to us and to the lives of others. Each gift is intended impact this world in a way that it becomes a little bit more like the world God envisions.
That, ultimately, is the church at it’s best. A community of people discovering and cultivating their unique gifts in order to create a world that is characterized by the love, the justice, and the peace of God.
But we can’t do it if we’re running on fumes.
So, what needs to change for you to renew your energy--physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual?
What needs to change in order for you to discover and become who God has created you to be?
And how will you use your giftedness to contribute to the work of God in the world?