1 Corinthians 12:12-26
There is a great video online made by Temple Shalom in Cincinatti called, “The Little Table.”
It starts out very simply. Two people have flyers for a game night at the temple. They wish that they had a little table to display the flyers in the lobby. So, they bring the suggestion to a temple board meeting. Leaders discuss if they need a little table in the lobby. Then the question arises: if this community truly needs a little table, can’t they use one that they already have, rather than spending money on a new one? Already, things are getting heated: not everyone is using the right kind of tone while talking about the little table. Finally, a compromise is reached: they will try to find a donated table.
But it doesn’t end there. The person who agrees to seek out the donation of a little table feels overworked and refuses to follow through. A new volunteer with a business background is called in to help the board with a little table cost/benefit analysis. However, the board still cannot agree about the little table. Finally, an outside consultant is called in. He has a PhD in little table buying. He leads the board in a visualization exercise: do the game night flyers desire to be displayed on a little table? Just what kind of little table would be right?
At the end of the video, a new table finally arrives in the lobby, accompanied by tears of joy and feelings of accomplishment. The flyers for game night are lovingly arranged on top. Unfortunately, the game night happened eight months earlier. (you can watch the whole video here!)
Sometimes I wonder why people put up with the church. Churches, like temples and many other kinds of human communities, are terribly inefficient. We try to include lots of different people. Everyone brings their own backgrounds, skills, perspectives, and inclinations. Coming together on anything can be difficult: whether it’s big things like our worship style or major renovations, or small things, like little tables.
If you’ve ever thought that West Concord Union Church is unique in facing this challenge, let me assure you: we are not. That little table video struck such a chord that it has been viewed over 18 thousand times. Even the apostle Paul, addressing one of the earliest churches, long ago, and far away, has something to say about the struggle to find unity in community.
Don’t forget that we are one, Paul tells the church in Corinth. The church, in its diversity, is still one body. We have different gifts, but they come from the same spirit. We give different services, but all of them are activated by God. Therefore, we must find a way to work together. What’s more, we should unite not through any kind of hierarchy, but in a radical form of equality. He says: “the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 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… God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
This sounds great — but the struggle is real to come anywhere close to the vision Paul calls us towards. It is hard to share! It is hard to share decisions. It is hard to share money. It is hard to share a building, and staff time, and worship. It is hard to share with well-meaning people who somehow disagree with our own invaluable wisdom. It is hard to share, and it is hard to trust: trust that we ourselves, in our imperfections and particularities, are recognized, and valued, and even treasured, by God and this community.
Doing things together is hard. Sharing things together is hard. Trusting in one another is hard. So it is important that we take the time to recognize, and celebrate, what we manage to achieve despite all of these barriers. It is important to notice the startling beauty of what we do together, despite and because of our differences. What have we done this year?
- This year we have continued our great strength in music, thanks to Jim and Susan and so many committed musicians.
- This year we have continued our great strength in our ministry with children and youth, thanks to Jessica and Joyce and Melissa and Lisa and so many committed parents and other volunteers.
- This year we have continued to nurture adults in fellowship, worship, and enrichment, from Walden prayer walks to bible study, Parent discussions, and book group
- This year we have continued and grown in our Sunday Fellowship ministry, celebrating its 35th anniversary, deepening relationships with staff and families, and sharing our witness with the wider church.
- This year we have continued with vibrant Sunday morning worship, continuing to increase participation in the service, trying new sermon series, singing Mr. Rogers, adding a screen to the sanctuary (with a new version still in the making), expanding accommodations so that more folks might participate fully.
- This year Our community is growing in its generosity, both to and from the church: we got an incredible response to our Congregational Giving appeal, we gave 11% of our 2018 budget to supporting mission partners; we gathered items for Open Table, the Prison, Mitten Tree, Angel Gifts, and more.
- This year we have done more together, with each other and the wider community: the Minute Man March, apple picking, a vigil at Kerem Shalom, an Open House
Please join me in prayer. God, it can be so hard to recognize that we are one body: all, indispensable; all, treasured; all, a part of a beautiful whole. Bless us with love for one another, Gratitude for what we share, and courage for what lies ahead. Amen.