Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 | Preacher: Rev.M. | Series: The Gospel According to Lego | This morning we are again continuing in our sermon series, “The Gospel According to Lego”, where we have been looking at our faith through the lens of this one of the most popular and long-lasting children’s toys.
LEGO building blocks have inspired generations of people, of all ages and genders, to new heights of creativity. Last week we talked about how it hurts to get stepped on. What I mean by that is that when we step on someone else, or sin against them, not only are they hurt by our sin but so are we and so is God. We connected this with the pain that you would experience when you step on a LEGO brick, which if you have never done before…well, I just hope you never do. Not as painful as childbirth from what I have been told, but still painful none the less.
Today we are going to talk about how each piece has a place. Now if you have ever put together a LEGO set you have probably noticed that there are always a few extra pieces left over. It’s pretty much always the smallest ones, the kind that are the most easily lost. Now as an adult I assume that they do this to help in case you lose a piece and/or it has to do with the production setup of everything.
But, as a child, I was always excited for these extra pieces. I saw them as special gifts, and I loved finding places for them that would add to the original design of the set. And then of course, I took the whole thing apart and built something completely different using every single piece. I guess in my thinking as a child, every piece had a place. I just had to take the time to figure out where it was, and I always saw it as a way to make the whole build that much better.
Now I will also say that as I have aged, I do not apply this same thought process to everything. When I have put together Ikea furniture and have one or two extra left over pieces, I do not try to cram them in somewhere or dismantle the whole thing and build something else. I will admit that the thought has crossed my mind a few times, but I have never acted on it.
And you know, the church is a lot like a LEGO set in a way. There are a lot of different pieces. Many churches have had to “rebuild” themselves over time to stay relevant and vital in their communities. There are a lot of different pieces, or rather, people in every church. And every church may look a little bit different based on the parts or people they have.
In our second reading for today, in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he writes to them about this idea of different gifts and purposes that each person has been blessed with. “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. 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.”
Paul goes on to point out that, “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 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. 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. 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?”
Paul’s argument here that he offers is that God is the one who has arranged the members of the body as God chooses and that each one plays an important role. He also says that each part is dependent on the whole to survive and function, “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.’” and “But God has so arranged the body, …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.”
Now of course Paul was not just talking about the human body, but also the body of the church. In verses twenty-seven through thirty-one he tells the members of Corinth that, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 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. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
But why was Paul telling this to the church in Corinth? What was going on there? Well, like many churches even still today, there is often unrest and challenges around everyone feeling like they are important to and matter to the church. Just like in almost every single church in the world, there are people who may feel like they are on the outside or that they are not being offered the opportunity to be a part of the larger whole.
You know for as much as I tend to harp on knowing and understanding the context of what was going on when specific passages of the Bible were written, Paul does seem to have a tendency to focus on topics that have transcended time and are still challenges for churches today as much as they were for the early churches.
People like to feel needed, that is a normal part of the human experience. People like to feel like they are able to contribute to something bigger than themselves. But it is not always easy to find the way to do that, or sometimes others do not always make room for everyone to be included. But as Paul points out, God has made everyone with a purpose and knows they have a place.
Every single piece has a place. Every single person has a place. Now sometimes it takes the observations of others to help us identify our gifts and talents. Sometimes it takes someone letting go a little bit to make room for another person to be a part of this bigger thing we call the church. But even with those challenges and roadblocks, God has created everyone with a place and purpose, even if it takes some time and work to ultimately get there.
And, just as the world changes, so do we. We may have found our place at one point and then, whether to make room for someone else or just because it is a part of God’s larger plan, we may need to move into a different place within the larger creation. Someone who is gifted in teaching may one day find that God is calling them to utilize their gifts for healing, something that person may have never thought about or ever realized was a possibility. But God knows.
In our first reading from the book of Ecclesiastes, the author, which is still under debate by biblical scholars, talks about the different times or seasons of life. “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up” and so on. And this is true for our lives and how we come together to be the church.
There may be a time or season where you serve in leadership on a committee for several years, and then a time follows where you serve God in a different way like helping in the kitchen or teaching Sunday school. And then that season is followed by a return to committee leadership, or maybe a whole new ministry completely.
We are entering that time of year when we go through all of our committees and positions of the church and look at who is scheduled to come off a committee or position, and who might fill those new openings. And all of that means change. And we don’t like change. We are human and change means that we are not in complete control of our lives and world.
But notice that the author of Ecclesiastes never talks about there being a time of no season. It is always some kind of season, it never stops. And Paul talks about EVERYONE having a role in the church. Every piece has a place. That place may change or shift over time, but there is ALWAYS a place and purpose for every person. Sometimes it is not always obvious or clear right away, but if we can work together and support each other, we can help one another identify those places and purposes.
That is one of the most amazing things about the church and about God in my mind. God created all of us in the image of God, but also differently enough that we compliment and support each other. We may look different or talk different or even sometimes think different, but we can all still fit together through God’s love and grace. I know that for me, that has always given me a sense of hope that even if I wasn’t sure exactly where I fit in, I knew that God did, and God would help get me there.
I hope that the number of times you have felt on the outside or without a place in the church has been few and far between. But if and when you ever do find yourself there, may I offer you a few suggestions that may help you.
First, pray. Prayer is incredibly powerful and God answers prayers. Maybe not always the way we want or in the time we want, but God does answer. Pray for guidance, clarity, direction, and that God would guide you to where you can best serve God with the gifts that God has given you.
Second, reach out. The unfortunate reality is that there are many of you and only one of me. And it will take time for me to get to know all of you. Thankfully the lay leadership, or nominations, committee works with me to help identify people and positions that might work well when paired. But there may be times when we forget something and if you can reach out directly to myself or someone else from that committee, we can sit down and work together to find where God is calling you and how we can help you get there.
Every piece has a place. Even when you might feel like there is no room left or you are not needed, I can promise you that more room can always be made, and that both God and the church very much need you. It may not always seem that way, it may not always be communicated that way, but every person is important. Every piece has its place. Let’s work together to help everyone find theirs. Amen.