Sunday, January 24, 2016
By the time the guy arrived at the football game, the first quarter was almost over. His friend asked him why he was so late. He said, I had to flip a coin to decide between going to church and coming to the game. How long could that have taken you? Well, he said, I had to flip it 12 times.
For football fans, we’re about half-way between the college National Championship game and the Super Bowl. Since football season is nearly over, nobody had to flip a coin about whether to attend church or watch a game today. We can be thankful for that.
One thing I’ve noticed through the years; sportswriters generally have a great sense of humor. When the inventor of Gatorade died, one commentator wrote: His remains will be cremated, and then the ashes dumped over some football coach’s head.
One particular college football game turned out to be a terrible mismatch. One team outweighed the other by thirty pounds per man, was more experienced, better coached, etc. The lighter, weaker team was being terribly beaten, not only on the scoreboard but also on their bodies. They were bruised and cut and bleeding and several first‑stringers already had left the game because of injuries.
In their huddle late in the final period, the quarterback noticed that they had twelve men on the field, one too many. If the referee discovered the extra man on the field he would throw a penalty flag, thereby adding to their already deep humiliation.
The quarterback said to his teammates. Look, we’ll try a quick running play that will take us past the bench. As we pass the bench, I want one of you to drop out. If we can do this fast enough, the referee may not notice and we can avoid a penalty. There was lots of confusion, but they succeeded in running the play right past their bench. When they returned to the huddle to decide on their next play, the quarterback discovered, to his amazement, that six players had dropped out.
Those football players were discouraged. Or, maybe, they were just smart. After all, they were severely overmatched. So they took themselves out of the game.
Unfortunately, that sometimes happens in church. People get discouraged and they drop out. Or they simply get lazy and drop out. Or, perhaps, they get upset with the pastor and drop out. Whatever the reason, whenever anyone drops out, we’re hurt in our ability to be all God means for us to be.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, it’s the same with Christ. Throughout the Bible, there are other word-pictures about what the church should be. In 1 Corinthians 3, the church is compared to a field and to a building. In Ephesians 5, the church is compared to a bride. In each of these comparisons, the church is “like” this, or “like” that. But in this passage, Paul says the church is the body of Christ. He doesn’t say it’s “like” the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ. We can’t afford to take any part of the body for granted.
We are the body of Christ and that means each of us has a vital role to play. Just as a body needs it eyes and its ears and its stomach, and, yes, its big toe, so the church needs all its different parts to be what God has called us to be.
A few years ago Snoopy, the loveable beagle in the Peanuts cartoon, had broken his left leg. Hundreds of people wrote letters to Snoopy or sent sympathy cards. Snoopy contemplated this while sitting on top of his doghouse and looking at the huge white cast on his leg.
My body blames my foot for not being able to go places, my foot says it was my head’s fault, and my head blames my eyes. My eyes say my feet are clumsy, and my right foot says not to blame him for what my left foot did. Snoopy looks out at his audience and confesses, I won’t say anything because I don’t want to get involved.
There are many people who don’t want to get involved. They want only a nominal relationship with the church. Spiritually, however, that’s not possible. Casual attendance at worship is not enough. Your church needs your service. We have a community to win or should I say a world to win and we need your involvement.
Paul writes, the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
The fact that you are a member of the church means that your gifts are needed; your abilities, your talents. And, it’s not enough to simply occupy a pew each week.
In March of 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., and was hospitalized for several weeks. Although Reagan was the nation’s chief executive, his hospitalization had little impact on the nation. Government continued on.
On the other hand, suppose the garbage collectors in this country went on strike, as they did in Philadelphia. That city was not only in a literal mess, the pile of decaying trash quickly became a health hazard. Suppose that happened throughout our land. A three-week nationwide strike would paralyze the country. Who is more important, the President or a garbage collector?
In the kingdom of God, all of us are equally important. If any of us fail to do our part, the church is poorer for it.
Or how the analogy of a Space Shuttle. Space Shuttles were used on a total of 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. Sadly we remember that two shuttles exploded, killing 14 astronauts. How did that happen?
A Space Shuttle has over a million working parts, and each one of those parts has to function flawlessly for a successful take‑off and landing. If a part the size of a card in a playing deck is damaged during lift‑off, you have a potential disaster on your hands!
On the human side, there are literally thousands of tech specialists, maintenance workers and engineers involved in each mission. All of these diverse parts‑‑human and otherwise‑‑have to work together seamlessly, everyone contributing their own particular expertise, in order to ensure the safety of each astronaut aboard those billion dollar, high tech machines.
It shouldn’t really be a surprise when a shuttle explodes during a launch or implodes on re‑entry; rather it’s absolutely miraculous when all of the parts work together for a safe, uneventful and successful mission! All that you and I see is a flawless, seemingly easy launch and landing. It’s complex, with many different special people and diverse mechanical parts coming together to make it look easy.
A church is like that. We have people serving in different roles, Sunday school teachers, greeters, members of the social committee, the organist, etc, as God has gifted each of us. Each of us is essential to the task of working with God in His kingdom. You’re important, regardless of the role you play.
General Eisenhower once criticized one of his Generals for referring to a soldier as “just a Private.” He reminded him that the Army could function better without its Generals than it could without its foot soldiers. If this war is won, he said, it will be won by Privates.
And that’s true of any army--especially that army which is the church of Jesus Christ. Each of you is precious to this group of people and we need each of you to offer your talents to making this church all that God means for it to be.
That is how God means to establish His Kingdom in this world, working through each of us, doing our part, giving our best. It’s not enough for us to simply sit in our pew each week and listen attentively, at least I hope you’re listening intently.
I could compare this to a community of ducks. Each Sunday these ducks would waddle off to duck church to hear the duck preacher. The duck preacher would speak eloquently and passionately about how God has given the ducks a special gift. The gift was wings with which to fly. With these wings, the duck preacher would assure them, there is nowhere ducks can’t go. With those wings there is no God‑given task the ducks can’t accomplish. With those wings they can soar into the very presence of God.
As the duck preacher encouraged his duck congregation, shouts of “Amen!” were quacked throughout the congregation. Wings were lifted in praise. And, then, at the conclusion of the service, the ducks left the gathering place, commenting on what a wonderful message they’d heard. And each of the ducks quietly waddled their way back home. They didn’t use their gift at all.
That happens sometimes, and what a tragedy that would be if that is as far as our discipleship got.
Mother Theresa put it this way: “Christ has no body now but yours . . . No hands, no feet on earth but yours . . . Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion on this world . . . Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good . . . Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world . . . Yours are the hands . . . Yours are the feet . . . Yours are the eyes . . . You are His body.” You are His body. You are the hope of the world. It’s time for us to lift up our wings and fly.