Unique & Identical

[Read Matthew 5:13-16 & One Corinthians 12:12-31a]

Everyone is unique, yet everyone is identical.

Every person is unique:

God creates each person with a unique body, a unique mind, and a unique spirit.

yet every person is also identical:

I know, I know: the world has changed, people have changed:

the music no longer has musical instruments and the clothing no longer clothes,

but, heart of hearts, we are all the same: we all want to belong, we all want to feel secure, we all want to be loved, we all want our lives to have significance.

Every Christian is unique, yet every Christian is identical.

God gives each of us specific gifts and

assigns each of us specific tasks.

Billy Graham preached to the populace and Mother Teresa loved on the poorest.

Reverend Martin Luther called the church back to the Bible and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. called us to apply it.

Very different people with the exact same focus: using their God-given gifts for their God-appointed tasks.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).

If you don’t recognize your gifts or hear your call, you need to get your hands folded and your Bible opened. Complaining about a silent God while not praying or reading your Bible is like complaining that no one’s calling you when your phone is out of service.

[1,440 minutes/day]

Every Christian is unique, yet every Christian is identical.

You find this not only with individual Christians, but also with groups of them:

each church is unique, yet each church is identical.

Every Sunday morning a wave of worship services crashes across the globe, reflecting the diversity of the church.

It starts with Aboriginal Australians dancing to a didgeridoo while the missionary tells them about Jesus.

Then in the Ukraine our friend Christina and her family worships in a gilded Orthodox cathedral.

Then in the next time zone our friends at Blessman Ministries in South Africa lead worship with the children at the orphanages.

Next our sons and daughters stationed in the middle East gather to desperately pray for protection.

Then eventually our politicians in DC and stock brokers in New York head to their churches  — hopefully.

Then those poor schmucks in Wisconsin and Minnesota shovel heaps of snow off the sidewalks to welcome frigid worshippers.

Then the bells ring here calling people of different backgrounds and different lifestyles to different churches: large congregations and small groups, ones on Main Street and ones on County Roads, to praise joyfully or pray silently.

Eventually the Sunday of worship ends on the beaches of Hawaii where Christians sing praise along with a ukulele.

Every service is unique, yet every service is identical:

the faithful gather, the Word is read, prayers are said, and a church is sent out in mission together.

Every church is unique, yet every church is identical.

I find it comforting to know that there are some churches jumping up and down and others sitting in silence,

some churches reaching the unchurched and others deepening their own faith,

some churches producing new worship music and others singing without the words.

But there is a heretical understanding of the church that’s popular today.

It’s the notion that a church is when individual people come and listen to someone else talk.

That’s not a church.

That’s a body with a functioning mouth, but the rest of the body is paralyzed.

That’s not a church, that’s pathetic.

[VA hospital > Pity]

When we see a body that can speak, but the rest of its parts aren’t moving, we can only pity it.

The church is not an anonymous group of individuals sitting and listening to a speaker and song leader.

The church is not a body that can speak, but can’t do anything else.

The church is only healthy when all its parts are active, not only one.

And the church is much more than a mouth.

The church is a young couple standing up front with a newborn baby they have no idea what to do with, and so they pray like crazy that somehow everything turns out all right.

The church is a little child sitting on those little chairs in Sunday School hearing Bible stories for the first time with a look of wonder on their face.

The church is a young man hearing an old woman read an old reading, and responding along with the prophet, “Here I am.”

The church is someone who hasn’t been to a service for months finally, desperately calling the office, asking to be put on the prayer list, and — without judgement — hundreds of people spend part of their day pleading for God’s mercy on their behalf.

The church is a widow who feels nothing but alone, alone that is, until she’s surrounded by cards and flowers, phone calls and visits, food and…more food.

The church is a young woman feeling led to serve a ministry across the globe, and so the church takes up an offering with adults throwing in dollar bills or hundred dollar bills, and children noisily clanking in their allowance.

The church is the lone island in these wretched days where truth is still proclaimed even if it’s not what you want to hear, and at the end of they day we together still say, “Amen.”

The church is a body. Jesus is our head. You are a unique part of the body. Without you active the body is ill. With only a mouth the body is paralyzed, immobilized, freakish. These are not the days to sit around lazily, to look on the world with arrogant contempt and the church with sad pity, or to look down the pew at someone very different from you, turn up your nose, and say, “I have no need of you.”

These are the days for the foot to start a wiggling, for people to step out in faith and invite a loved one to church.

These are the days for the hands to start a moving, for people to give another a hand up in Jesus’ name.

These are the days for the ears to start a listening, to hear the concerns of those who are far from God who God has placed in your life to hear their pains and announce the good news.

At the end of your life, when you meet your Maker, I don’t want you to feel shame because you were a lame part of the body of Christ, because you left the body paralyzed, immobile, pathetic. We need you. We need you to: Show up. Sign up. Give your time. Give your money. Use your gifts. Respond to your call. Be what you were made to be.

These are the days for the body to rise up valiantly, to work together joyfully, to fiercely hew God’s unique, identical vision for this community together:

a place where all belong,

where all are eternally secure,

where all are loved by God and by us,

where our lives have significance,

for we are “a city on a hill,”

“the salt of the earth,”

“the light of the world.”