A few years ago, the leader of our supervisors and internship retreat divided us into two groups – supervisors and interns and gave each group what looked like an oversized deck of cards called ZOOM. She told us that our job was to hang the cards on the wall in order so that they told a story – and that we couldn’t just make up a story – the cards themselves were definitely connected one to another like a puzzle - expect without the interlocking nodes of puzzle pieces. She also told us that there was a “right way” in which they were connected. … and then… she said “GO.”
Now, when the pastors and interns got together, usually everyone was on their best behavior, trying to lift up the other. Oh… you go first.. no you…and so on. But with that little word, “GO” -- suddenly a fierce and aggressive competition began.
My team jumped right in, noticing connections right away. There was boy with an envelope that he was about to mail. Someone found the next card that zoomed in on the stamp of the envelope to show…a cowboy on a farm. The next picture zoomed in even closer to show the farmyard. We kept zooming in. The next picture was a rooster… and then the comb on top of the roosters head… We didn’t think we could zoom in any more. But we weren’t done. We had half the cards left.
Then we realized that we also had to “zoom out”. Working together, we discovered the boy with the envelope was on the cover of a magazine…which was sitting beside a pilot in an airplane.. that was circling the earth… which was then shown as a small dot in the universe..
There were actually more cards than this - but you get the idea. We were being asked to take a look at our own perspective. Did we need to zoom in… and take a closer look at the details? Or, did we need to zoom out… to look at the bigger picture? In both cases, there were connections to be made and we noticed how inter-related all of the pictures were.
Both groups got the sequence right. But, interestingly, we put it in reverse orders. They zoomed in…. and we zoomed out. Again, it shows perspective.
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians is inviting the congregation to zoom out to see that “We are all ONE in Christ.” We are all ONE BODY. BUT we are not the same… and that is good! Just as God made parts of the human body differently to serve different functions – eyes to see and ears to hear and feet to walk and lips and tongue to talk – in the same way, God gave people different gifts. These are all gifts to be celebrated.
In the previous chapter in Corinthians, Paul “Zooms in” - to recognize that not everyone has the same gift. And this is by design. All of the gifts that people have been given by God are valued – and indeed necessary. Further, just as a body works best with both eyes and ears, so the body of Christ is best served by people with different abilities working together. We need people who serve as teachers and plumbers and people who drive dinners to people who can’t cook themselves and people who make chili to eat…. and people who sing… and on and on…God has given many gifts to God’s people.
Luther calls this our vocation. We often use the word “Vocation” to mean your job or employment. But Luther calls “vocation” the things that you do because of your passion and your God given gifts – such as singing in the church choir. Although I know there are churches who do, we don’t pay our choir to sing. (Don’t get any ideas! It’s not in the budget!). But, people in the choir sing because they have been given the gift of music and it both gives them joy – and gives US joy as they enliven the worship and glorify God with their gift of song.
This year I’d like to invite you all to “zoom in” to take a look at what gifts God has given you to share… what gives you joy? How can you meet the need of another using your particular gifts? It’s not necessarily just one thing. Perhaps it includes knitting or crocheting…maybe it includes prayer? Maybe it involves offering a ride to church to someone who can’t drive? Or simply – but importantly -- being an encourager of another?
At the same time as we, individually “zoom in” to see what gifts God has given us to share… as a congregation we also need to “zoom out” to see ourselves as part of the whole people of God. We are a part of the group of local congregations called Wildfire. Together we can support – as we did on Friday – providing meals for school kids and their families on the weekend. Zooming out a little further, we are a part of the Minneapolis Area Synod… and further yet… part of the ELCA. The circle gets bigger when we zoom out to include the whole Christian church…and bigger yet when we include the ecumenical community which is part of the community of God in all of the nations of the world.
And I haven’t even started to connect us to the rest of God’s creation. Looking back at the book of Genesis… we are but a small part of God’s universe. And yet… God knows your name. God has called you to share the gifts that God has entrusted to you.
Paul writes, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Let us rejoice in the gifts that God has given us – sharing them joyfully. But let us also rejoice in the diversity of gifts that God has given – valuing the gifts of others and remembering that we are just one small part of Christ’s body.
Let us think more expansively not only about who is our neighbor… but also that Christ’s body is bigger than we may be accustomed to thinking. After all, our world is not divided up into places where God is – and God is not. As Paul writes, “we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” Paul notes the dividing lines of his day: “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.” Now we have many more categories. But regardless of how many distinctions that are made between people – heritage, country of origin, ethnicity, rich or poor, still…. We are “one body” in Christ. As Paul writes, “We were all baptized into one body.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, We live in an increasingly connected world. We are more connected to the mother in Somalia whose child just died of hunger and more connected to the Christian Guatemalan family that is fleeing their home because of armed militias than we like to think.
In Christ, we are all one body. May you zoom in to see and share the gifts God has entrusted to you. And may you – and I – and this whole creation – zoom out of our comfort zones into the world around us to see the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ so that we can be part of God’s work in caring for all of God’s creation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts.