Using our difference in God’s service 

1Cor 12:12-27 & Mt 10:5-15

We continue with our monthly sermon series which is based on finding our SHAPE for God’s service – how we all need to find & play our part in church.
A couple of months ago we looked at how we are all gifted & called to serve. Last month we looked at using our experience in God’s service. Today we will look at using our difference in God’s service.
And we are all different aren’t we? It doesn’t take long to realise that! And that’s a good thing – not something to be embarrassed about. We are all different & God calls us together in our differences to be one church. And if we were all the same, the church would be all the worse for that.
We are all different & different in many ways, but all welcomed by God into His church.
I was talking to a curate this week who on welcoming one person into the church building found the person was shocked & said, ‘oh I thought you had to be posh to come here!’
A church is made up of rich & poor, young & old, male & female along with so many differences, including personality differences. Maybe some of you have done one of those personality tests which recognise that some of us are introverts, some extroverts; some are quiet, some are loud; some are thinkers, others doers; some theorists, some activists: and we need all of them don’t we?
If we were all thinkers & not doers, then nothing would get done. If we were all doers & not thinkers, then we would all probably be doing the wrong thing!
And the Bible uses the image of the human body to show that the church is not a group of isolated individual Christians but a body of believers who need each other.
That is why the church is often referred to in the Bible & throughout church history as the Body of Christ.
And just as Christ come in bodily form 2000 years ago, for a purpose; so too the church as the body of Christ today, is here for a purpose. Christ’s purpose was to bring in the kingdom of God, bringing good news of forgiveness for people, healing for people, a better way of life for this world. When Christ returned to heaven and was no longer on earth in bodily form, he gave that charge, that mandate to the church: who are now His body on earth. And Christ gives us the strength for that by His Spirit.
So we are in every sense, the body of Christ here on earth, and we are here to bring that good news of the kingdom - the good news of forgiveness, healing & a better way of life for our world.
And we all need to play our part in that body!  
Sadly some of us in church life have a different view of church and I’m speaking in general terms here. Some people will seek out a church just to receive:
Somewhere for good teaching
Somewhere for good youth work
Somewhere to make good business connections
Somewhere ‘I can grow & be self fulfilled’Part of my role is to look after curates in the diocese & as I visit them it’s interesting to hear about the challenges faced by different churches:
In the larger churches there is the challenge that Christians can simply fade into the crowd & just watch & listen & not take part
In the smaller churches there is the challenge that they feel neglected by not having a parish priest there every week & so feel incapable of growthThe idea of the body is that each one of us plays a crucial role in achieving the purpose of that body.
We are a body not an audience.
We are a body not just a large mouth or a large ear.
We are not here to sit & watch one or two people who have particular roles – the Biblical picture is that we all have a role.
We are not here to just receive and take on a passive role relying on one or two paid staff to provide for us – the Biblical picture is that we all have a role.
Paul the writer of our first reading today, goes on to emphasise the fact that we all need each other, in this passage.
He says there is no way anyone within church can say, ‘I don’t belong’ (v15)
He says there is no way anyone in the church can say, ‘I don’t need you’ to someone else (v21)
And he goes on to say how stupid those comments are in relation to the human body.
He says if the whole human body were just an eye how could it hear & so on.
He says we cannot do without what might on 1st sight seem the weaker part of the body – how would we cope without a thumb, a little toe, our bottom?
I heard of one church who did not want to be inclusive to children & young people – they did not want their worship to be spoilt. Some suggested that the children & young people went to a different church where there was better provision for the youth & children’s work - maybe a minibus could be provided.
I’ve heard that there are no children & young people at that church now – they’ve got their wishes but they have now realised what a loss this has proved to be for them, as a church, both now & for the future.
And of course that illustration can be applied to lots of scenarios in church life as we deal with difference together. The old need the young. The young need the old. The extroverts need the introverts etc.
And it’s also worth remembering who it is that puts us together in the 1st place!
If we have a problem with whom we have to serve alongside in a church…
If we have a problem with whom we have to worship alongside in a church…
Then maybe we should address our complaints to God!
3 times in this chapter from 1Corinthians, Paul emphasise that is God who has put us together as a church body, as a church family!
V18: ‘as it is, however, God put every different part of the body just as he wanted it to be’
V24: ‘God himself has put the body together in such a way as to give greater honour to those parts that need it’
V28: ‘In the church God has put all in place’
God has put us together for a purpose. He might have a good sense of humour in putting us together this was but nevertheless we are here together because of His choosing.
Just as Jesus put the original disciples together for a specific purpose, we have been put together for a purpose.
Those original disciples were a real mixture with very real differences, but they needed each other. A variety of disciples was needed to speak to a variety of people in that community. And Jesus would later say to that group of disciples who would normally be enemies of each other – by your love for one another, others will see that you are my disciples,. The very fact of them operating as a body, would be a witness to Jesus in itself.
And the same applies to us.
So what does this mean for us here today?
Don’t let’s think of our differences as a barrier to be overcome – let’s celebrate our differences as a gift!
Don’t let any of us say, ‘I don’t belong’ for whatever reason:
Don’t let’s say, ‘I’ve reached a certain age, I’ve done my bit, now it’s time for others to do theirs’. I can’t find a theology of retirement in the Bible! I can’t find a theology that devalues old age in the Bible! In fact just the opposite – Moses was 80 when he started his ministry & Aaron 83.
Yes I accept that ill health & being a carer for others will make a difference, in what type of ministry we can offer, but it doesn’t preclude us from ministry.
Don’t let’s say, ‘I’m too busy at work or at home to play my part.
Maybe your ministry is in the work place.
Maybe your ministry is in the home.
Ministry doesn’t have to be a churchy job!
Let’s be prayerful before God and offer to minister in different places.
Similarly don’t let any of us say, ‘I don’t need you’ or ‘you don’t need me’:
There should be no hierarchy in church life.
There is no such thing as the ‘ideal personality’ or the ‘ideal Christian’.
Who is more important: Billy Graham who preaches at football stadiums or the unknown person who drives him & looks after his itinerary?
Who is more important Mother Teresa who tended the poor in India or the unknown person who takes a meal round to a neighbour who is sick?
Who is more important the bubbly personality who is the life & soul of the party or the person who simply listens to others quietly?
Who is more important the faithful vicar who has served the same parish for 30 years or the faithful factory boss who has served her staff & customers fairly for 30 years?
Who is more important: the treasurer, the youth worker, the tea-maker, the homemaker, the intercessor - I could go on?
Don’t let’s say we are not needed because we are not someone else or because we do not have someone else’ qualifications or experience or personality.
We all have something to offer because of what we have been given by God and how we are made by God.
Our response is to find out our calling & gifting from God, rather than think we have nothing to offer & withdraw.
This is all particularly relevant as we go through times of change. As you know we are seeking a new way forward with our youth & children’s work. Last week at our Prayer Meeting we prayed particularly for a way forward with our home groups.
This can be unsettling but God does bring about change and His change is always for the good. We just need to be open & obedient to His direction & His provision each step of the way.
As I’ve said before some activities will need to stop & some activities will need to start as we try to ensure that with limited resources we are doing what God wants.
Just because we’ve always done something, doesn’t mean we have to do so for the future.
Just because something went well once, doesn’t mean we have to do it for the future.
But what it does mean is that we prayerfully consider our purpose as a church body & the activities we need to be about & the roles each one of us need to take up.
And this is a perfectly healthy way forward.
Let me summarise:
The Bible describes the church as a body – a body with a purpose, a body there to give as well as receive
This picture helps us to see that we all need each other in fulfilling that purpose
In these times of change:
let’s celebrate our differences as a gift in God’s service
let’s avoid saying ‘I don’t belong’ for whatever reason, because it’s not true
let’s avoid saying, ‘I don’t need you’ or ‘you don’t need me’ because we need each other
let’s embrace change as an opportunity to prayerfully consider God’s purpose for us and the roles we are to play in it.Amen

Tim Fletcher, 10/09/2017