Come-unity: You have a place!

This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, August 24, 2014.

Reading: Romans 12:1-8

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

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It is the dumbest book you’ll ever read.  It will take you about two minutes.  I’ve read it several dozen times in the last six months.  It’s one of my daughter’s favorite books.  I absolutely despise it.  When its asked for, I read it with an eye roll.  In spite of my distaste for it, this book holds great sentimental value because when I think of my daughter laughing, I think of the first time I read her this book: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton.

Let me just say from the outset I’m a big Sandra Boynton fan.  We have many of her books, I like most of them—they’re simple with great linguistic beats—but this one annoys me.  It’s the story of a turkey who has a hard time understanding grasping where his clothes go.

Blue hat, green hat, red hat, oops.
Red shirt, blue shirt, yellow shirt, oops.[1]

At the end of the book, fully dressed in a “yellow hat, green shirt, blue pants, purple socks, [and] red shoes,” the turkey jumps into a pool.  Silly and stupid, I know.  But, my daughter laughs nearly every time.

She finds it quite humorous that that silly turkey would put his hat on his feet, his shirt on his butt, and his pants on his head.  She understands that coats don’t go on your nose, socks don’t go on your hands, and shoes don’t go on your head (sorry if I ruined the book for you).  She learned at a very early age that things have their place and when they’re not in their place—well, just ask her—that’s kind of humorous.

Everything has its place.

And when things are not in their place, well, that is both laughable and annoying.

Everything has its place and that place—no matter where it is—is important.  Life tends to run smoother when things are where they’re supposed to be.  Having a place for everything saves time and money, makes life smoother and less stressful, and it better prepares you for emergencies.[2]  And, if you’re having a hard time relating to what I’m trying to say, let me go hide your car keys or your eyeglasses.…

In our reading for today, Paul is trying to help the church in Rome understand that everything has its place.  Everyone, all—whether they be Jews like Jesus or some other faith or ethnicity or race—everyone has a place within the community, the Kingdom, God is creating.

Everyone has a place.

And when we misunderstand our place, there is trouble.  When we overvalue our place, there is strife.  When we diminish, ridicule, and look down upon others, that is evil.  Therefore, “don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think” (Romans 12:3b, Common English Bible).  Everyone has a place and that place is important.

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Everyone has a place, a purpose that is vital to the working of the entire community.

Sticking with the body metaphor, it doesn’t matter if you’re an eye or an ear, a hand or a foot, a mouth or a butt hole, every part of the body has an important role to play in making sure that the body functions properly.  Each part is unique and different.  Each part has a vital function to perform.  It’s a beautiful image of interdependence.

What a beautiful image for the church!  Each member is like a part of the body.  Each member has a function to perform.  No one should ever consider his/her ministry [his/her Godly work] more important than another’s ministry.  The function of each person’s ministry is not to highlight itself, but to give wholeness and cohesiveness to the whole body.

Each person’s ministry is important.  If some person is not ministering with his or her particular gifts, then it would be like the body trying to function without eyes.  It would be very difficult for a person to maneuver without eyes.  If some member is failing to perform his or her ministry then the church is rendered ineffective in that particular area.

Each person has some place where he or she can minister.  And every member needs to feel that what he or she does is important.[3]

Everyone has a place and that place is important if we’re to be the community God needs us to be.  Everyone has an important, vital role to play in building up the body of Christ.  Everyone has a place that deserves honor and respect.  Everyone has something to contribute that will make us, as a whole, better than we are alone.  Everyone—you, me, those who intended to be here and who never even gave it a thought to be here—everyone has a place and I hope the church will help people find it.

What if the church—this community of faith—became a place where everyone could find a place to belong, a place where everyone’s contribution would could be valued?  Dear friends, that’s the kind of church I want to be a part of, the kind of church I dream about, the kind of church I’m willing to invest my life in for that’s the kind of church I believe Christ died (or better stated rose) for, that’s the kind of church that makes disciples, and that’s the kind of church that will ultimately transform the world for Christ’s sake.

Let’s pray.
God, join us together once more that unity might come to this community.  Give us a common vision.  Help us find our place and to value the contributions of others.  With you at the center of our lives, may we live in peace.  It’s in Christ’s name, the Prince of Peace, we pray.  Amen.

 

 

[1] Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton (New York: Little Simon and Schuster, 1995).

[2] See “Heading Out on Your Own: Day 31 – A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” by Brett & Kate McKay (August 31, 2012), ArtofManliness.com <http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/08/31/a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place/> Accessed August 23, 2014.

[3] Every Member in Ministry: Involving Laity and Inactives by John Ed Mathison (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1996), 3.