SERMON from 1-13-13: “A Fresh Start: Fitting In”

1 Corinthians 12.12.31

Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted. If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? But as it is, there are many parts but one body. So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. In the church, God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues. All aren’t apostles, are they? All aren’t prophets, are they? All aren’t teachers, are they? All don’t perform miracles, do they? All don’t have gifts of healing, do they? All don’t speak in different tongues, do they? All don’t interpret, do they? Use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts. And I’m going to show you an even better way.

 

A Fresh Start: Fitting In

When was the last time you had to “fit in” somewhere? For some of you, it could have been a while ago. First day at a new job? First time meeting your spouse's family? First day at a new school? Each of us have those memories of trying to find our place.

Some people have no trouble at all, do they? They look at a group of people and can instantly know who to talk to or what to do. They slide right into a conversation about how badly Purdue football is stinking things up. Their demeanor says to others, “Hey, I can talk to them!” They always have the right thing to say in the right moment. Extraverts. Life of the party. People person…s.

Then, there's the rest of us. For us, we play it more low-key. Scout the situation. Whereas the extraverts can just slide into a new social situation, we prefer the opportunity to ease ourselves in. Take our time. We don't think we can take the stress of diving right into the icy waters of a new place, so we inch our way in–ensuring we feel everything on the way in.

To be sure, what we are talking about is just a difference of style, not that one of these is necessarily better than the other. Extraverts may get so comfortable as to take unnecessary risks – and get hurt. Introverts may take it too easy, and end up missing out on so much.

Not only isn't one better than the other, we need both of these people for society to function properly. Extraverts need introverts just as much as introverts need extraverts. Without extraverts, introverts might never take risks or experience new things. Without introverts, extraverts might risk too much and forget how to stop and smell the roses.

Each has their place. Each is needed. Each helps the other to function better.

That's who we are. It's how we were created. Humanity is built to exist as a community.

God said that it's not right for man to be alone, so he made woman. Woman hasn't let us forget it. We have existed in our tribes since nearly the beginning of time. As the west expanded in this country – and people who settled the frontier claimed their plots of land so far from each other – eventually they find someway to go into to town and be with people. Even as we think of new ways for technology to make us less reliant upon others, websites like Facebook grow to become the largest sites on the web – because we still have a need to be in a community.

Left to it's own devices, communities might very well begin to work correctly. People find their niche and begin to work in harmony with the community – and not exclusively for their personal edification. Leaders begin to lead. Teachers begin to teach. Caretakers take care. It becomes a living organism. Everyone might just find their place and stay there, because it feels just so darn natural.

In some ways, this is foreign to us, right? We like the idea of “rugged individualism,” which tells us that if we can do it, we probably should – because we can. Within reason, of course. Especially in America, we have identified the people who personify this rugged individualism. The Rockefellers. Thomas Edison. Andrew Carnegie. We liked these people so much, that we began to try and emulate them. In the late 19th century, Horatio Alger began writing books that glorified this spirit. His books were always about a hero that began with nothing and turned himself into a success – with only his hard work and sticktoitiveness.

Pretty soon, we are all trying to achieve the same thing as these guys – and we forget that “I” isn't really “I,” but “we.” We all go after the same thing, and soon the things we were created for begin to become neglected. Those parts of our lives begin to suffer, and a severe imbalance begins to warp the world around us.

That's our culture, though. We've bucked the importance of community for the chance that we might become the next big thing. Do you have trouble finding contentment? Do you feel as if you don't belong? Do you feel disappointed by the path you've chosen? Maybe the correct next big thing in our lives is to discover how we fit into God's community? How about that for a fresh start?

Paul goes to great lengths to ensure that his audience understands the importance of fitting in – according to God's community.

It's a countercultural expression – this community. It goes beyond “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” That is certainly counter to our culture. Fitting in to God's community means there is something for everyone to do, no one job is more important than the others and you are encouraged to be the best at whatever it is you do. The only caveat to that is to say the only way other jobs become more important is if they are less honorable, as Paul puts it.

Think about one of those movies where the quirky, quiet, bespectacled “quiet one” is turned into the prom queen – usually just by removing her glasses and putting her in a dress. That works for everyone, right. The quarterback digs the new girl, and everyone who wasn't popular in high school appreciates that the geek gets something. Nothing really changed – all she did was take off her glasses – but she became what we all think is what we have to aspire to.

God says that the girl in the glasses and ponytail is fine the way she is. In fact, she's in a better place than all y'all. Her glasses and ponytail – and probably bib overalls – are to be desired over the dress and date with the quarterback. Well, God says a bit more than that, but you get my drift. The last shall be first. The least honorable shall be the most.

Hopefully, this isn't the first time you are hearing this in the context of a sermon. However, I do understand it is still a difficult thing around which to wrap your head.

The good news, though, is that we don't have to wrap our heads around it – we just gotta be willing to fit in. Whether you are teaching Sunday School, playing piano or proclaiming the word, no single person is more important or honorable than the other – and each is equally as important. God's economy works so much differently than our own. We may not like it, but should we try and fight it?

Aesop tells us the story of a lion and a mouse. A Lion asleep in his lair was waked up by a Mouse running over his face. Losing his temper he seized it with his paw and was about to kill it. The Mouse, terrified, piteously entreated him to spare its life. “Please let me go,” it cried, “and one day I will repay you for your kindness.” The idea of so insignificant a creature ever being able to do anything for him amused the Lion so much that he laughed aloud, and good-humouredly let it go. But the Mouse's chance came, after all. One day the Lion got entangled in a net which had been spread for game by some hunters, and the Mouse heard and recognised his roars of anger and ran to the spot. Without more ado it set to work to gnaw the ropes with its teeth, and succeeded before long in setting the Lion free. “There!” said the Mouse, “you laughed at me when I promised I would repay you: but now you see, even a Mouse can help a Lion.”

If you're a lion, be a lion. If you are a mouse, be the best mouse you can. If God calls you to something, be the best at it that you can. You don't have to change what you are doing to fit in, just fit in. You just have to be willing to be part of God's community. For a fresh start, you can't do much better than just being willing to be your part of God's community.

And thanks be to him for that.

AMEN.

 

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