Feb. 19th, 2017 | Series: This Is Us

Sermon Content

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

God’s divine sense of humor seems to have followed me, along with His goodness and love, every day of my life. Part of that humor was in giving me a job, after my freshman year of college, as a framer of houses. That’s humor if you’ve ever seen me swing a hammer, or be around a construction site, or do anything that requires some sort of knowledge of…redoing a home, building a home, anything like that. I’m ridiculous, friends. So I went to Home Depot the night before I started. I was poised for productivity. I bought a bag and put in on. I bought a brand new hammer, shiny waffle-head. It was awesome. I got out of my CJ7-Jeep ready to dominate the world. Knowing also, in the back of my mind, that I had no business stepping onto this site and no clue as to what I was doing. I went and introduced myself and said, “I’m here and ready to work.” They said, “Great. Would you take off those bags, put down that hammer, pick up this broom because what you’re going to be doing today is cleaning up our job site. What we want you to do is move that 3/4″ stack of plywood from one side of the house to the other.” This is how my time as a framer went on. I use that term very loosely; I’ve seen people frame and that’s not what I did….I helped. I noticed that what I mostly swept up and cleaned up on the job site was sawdust and nails. I started to notice that most of the nails….{You got a nail when you walked in. Will you grab it for me?}….that were on the ground were not after having been used, but having fallen out of a bag or having gotten discarded for one reason or another, but they were perfectly good nails that people didn’t want to pick up. I started to notice that the reason the nail was created, the reason that is was on the job site, the reason it was there in the first place was so that it could be driven into a piece of wood and attached to something greater than itself. But it was on the ground, discarded.

I started to think that our lives are a little bit like that. We have a design that’s over our lives. We know it on a very, central, core level of our humanity, that we were designed to be connected to other things, to other people, to movements. Yet, so many of us live lives disconnected and wrestle with the question, “God, what am I here on earth to do? What am I to be a part of?” We have this choice—every single one of us sitting in this room—of what we’re going to do with the nail of our life. Are we going to drive the nail of our life into something bigger than ourselves, or are we going to remain an individual nail? Before you answer that question, I need you to know that there’s some weight that goes along with the question. The way that I framed it, you might go, “Of course, I want to be a part of something bigger.” My question back to you is, “Are you sure?” Because when we decide we want to be part of something bigger and we drive the nail of our life into a house, or a family, or a body, there’s some things that we give up, aren’t there? There’s some individuality that we lose. There’s some freedom that we forfeit. There’s some things that we used to do that maybe we can’t do anymore. There’s a cost in saying, “I’m going to take the nail of my life and connect it to the community of faith, connect it to the movement of God, connect it to the family, the church.” There’s some things we give up, aren’t there?

In 1877, the French painter Gustave Caillebotte painted a now-famous painting called Paris Street, Rainy Day. Paris is often referred to as the first modern city. You can read that when people went to this city for the very first time, what struck them as different (Paris) from any other city that they had gone to (before this time) is that it was marked by a rugged individualism. Where things were readily accessible apart from community before, they weren’t accessible apart from community. It was a new dawn, a new day, in the late 19th century, when modernity started to flourish and individualism took root. What you may notice about this painting is that it is beautifully mathematic. The cobblestone street has every stone equidistant apart. It is a brilliant piece of art. A mathematician would look at it and say that the people are spaced out fairly perfectly by design. What you notice about the painting is that each person is sorting of doing their own thing. What Gustave wanted you to know about Paris is that this was a city now marked by modernity and marked by individuality and individualism, so much so that even the couples aren’t talking any longer. Everybody has their own method of keeping the rain off of them and they’re sort of protected by the bubble that we would call “the world around us” in a significant way. If Gustave Caillebotte would have done his painting today, I think you would see a couple in a café, sitting across from each other, and each of them would have their phone out texting somebody else.

Individualism is the air that we breathe. It’s the zeitgeist of our day. When we talk about leveraging the nail, the one nail of our life, for something bigger than ourselves, we’re talking about forfeiting something that is central to our humanity—our individuality. And our freedom. Mark Sayers, the author and pastor, writes it like this: “We fear committing, worrying that by doing so we will reduce our freedom, and cut ourselves off from the myriad of choices that constantly entice us.” And to that I say….AMEN! That is our world, is it not? I’m not sure I want to commit, because when I commit, I limit myself from the choices I could have made if I would have just held off a little bit longer.

We’re in this series that we’re calling “This is Us.” We’re exploring what it means to be human. We’ve said that what it means to be human is that you and I were created as individuals, unique creations, by God. There’s nobody else on the face of the planet like you. You were wired to work. You were formed for friendship. Those are all things that are part of the nature and character of God that’s placed inside of you. You bear His image. Over the last few weeks, we’ve started to zoom out, saying, “We’re not just individuals. And we’re designed uniquely by God to walk through life with each other.” We looked at “This is Us” in relationships, in families, in marriage. We zoomed out and said “This is Us” in family uniquely. We zoomed out and said “This is Us” as a church and as a church we’re not an organization, we’re not a business, we’re not a corporation, but we’re a family. Today, I want to give you the Scriptures’ second metaphor or analogy, picture of what it means to be the church. But here’s the question at the center of it all: What are you going to do with the nail of your life? Is it going to just be yours, or will you drive it in and attach it to something bigger than yourself?

1 Corinthians 12:12-13. This is where the Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, tells us a little bit more about what it means to be US, what it means to be human. He’s writing to the about their gathering together. Here’s what he says: 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 one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. Here’s what Paul’s saying….you just have to look at your body to get a picture of the way the church was designed to work and designed to function. You have different elements of your body. You have different body parts: head, shoulders, knees, and toes. Eyes and ears and mouth and nose. We have different parts, but it’s all part of one body. It’s the same truth that overrides and is the umbrella that we gather under as the church.

Here’s how we’ll say it this morning: Life beyond me…a life that’s bigger than me… We all know that if life is sort of like a nail that it was designed to be attached to something bigger and greater. Life beyond me is shaped by embracing the church as body. The pinnacle of my life cannot be me! You were designed, I was designed, we as people were designed to be a part of something that lasts longer than the 80 years we may get on the face of the earth. That is bigger than the accomplishments that we, ourselves, will achieve. The story that started before we were born and will go on for all of eternity….that’s what you were designed to be a part of. Friends, the story of your life will not be determined by the accomplishments that you make, the resumé that you have, or the bank account that you sit on. The story of your life will be determined by the things that you connect your life to. By the people that you connect your life to. What the Scriptures will invite us to do is to connect our lives to His body that he calls the church.

My invitation this morning is to move beyond viewing church as just an observer, but to step into it as a participant. To move beyond consumption to contribution. To move beyond criticism to construction. To move beyond mere association to connection. And. There. Is. A. Difference. Association says, “I go to church.” Connection says, “I’m a part of the church.” Association says, “We have shared interests and shared beliefs.” Connection says, “We have shared lives.” Association says, “I can be critical from the outside.” Connection says, “I’ll work towards contribution from the inside.” Association says, “I know.” Connection says, “I love and I’m committed.”

What connects us together as the Church? If you look, Paul writes and says listen, I know this is a huge step, I know, to decide what you’re going to do with your one life and what you’re going to connect it to. I get it, Paul says. It may seem crazy, on the outside, to connect your life to some people that are a little bit crazy. That don’t have it all together. Yeah, why in the world would we do that?? Here’s how Paul answers that, “For one thing, we all have the same Spirit inside of us.” The same Holy Spirit that cries out, “Abba, Father,” in YOU, is the same Spirit that cries out, “Abba, Father,” in the person sitting next to you. That connects us together uniquely. He says that we were all baptized into one body. We have had this experience whereby which we met Jesus, he redeemed us from our sin, he showered us with his grace, and we are new creations and new people in Him. Before I’m a pastor, before I’m a Paulson, before I’m a husband or a father, I’m a Christian, I’m a follower of the way of Jesus. Not only that, the Scriptures will say that we have Christ as our head. Notice the body imagery that weaves it’s way all throughout the Scriptures. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Col. 1:18) Especially in His body, the church. As an elder board, we take this very seriously. Not only is Christ the head theologically, but our desire, our longing, our ardent prayer is that Christ is the head practically. That He would lead us. That He would guide us. That He would speak to us collectively and show us what He wants us to do. We’ve had to give up the singular nail of our life and say that we’re attached to something way, way bigger than just our lives and ourselves. That’s the way the body works. You’ve seen this when a racer crosses the finish line at the Olympics and wins a gold medal. Somebody sticks a microphone in their face and here’s what you NEVER hear, “I’d like to thank my legs today, because my legs killed it. I’d like to thank my lungs, too. They were on point. My hands had a little bit of an off day, but…..” No, you never hear that. Why? Because they view themselves holistically. It’s the same way that the church is designed to function. One body, many parts.

Listen to the way the Apostle Paul continues, because if we say alright, God, I’m willing to, and I’m submitting to, and I’m surrendering the nail of my life to connect it to this story that you’re telling and the body that you’re building through your church…if we do that, there’s some things that start to come alive in us like they never have before. Look at the way the Apostle Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 — For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should 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 should 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 be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. If all of us were the same, how monotone and how boring would we be? If all of us had the same gifts, we would be unable to reach the world, to show the love, to care for the body, to do the things that God’s called us to do in the way that He’s called us to do them. Listen, I love the way that our worship team leads worship. They are wonderful! But I’m really glad not all of you are worship leaders. Right? I’m glad that not all of you are programmed and wired the exact same way. Why? Because God’s design is not uniformity. In fact, when we start to see the church as body, we move beyond forced uniformity to embrace unity. We’re different from each other, friends. We have different skills. We have different giftings. We have different passions. We have different things that we want to see, different hopes, and different dreams. We all need each other, because being different is actually God’s design.

Notice that when the Apostle Paul writes we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free….here’s what he’s not saying. What he’s not saying is that people lose their Jewishness or their Greekness when they become a part of the body of Christ. They keep that so that we can be a more full picture of the manifold glory of our great God. And that truth holds up, not just in the church as it is now. Whether it’s color of skin, language that we speak, culture that we come from…those differences are beautiful. Here’s how we know God appreciates, loves, and designed it that way: They don’t disappear in eternity! Revelation 7:9-10 paints this picture of the throne room of God. Listen to it: After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, {These are different people, different cultures, different colors of skin, different languages in redeemed glory worshipping God.} standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, {Here’s the thing that connects people who are different language, different culture, different people, and it connects them for all of eternity…} “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The same anthem rises up for all of eternity in different languages, in different tongues, from different people. HE is the thing that holds them together.

So, we can’t view church as uniformity. You don’t have to look like us, talk like us, think like us in order to be a part. We need your differences. Scot McKnight, pastor and theologian, says: “The church God wants is one brimming with difference.” Here’s the beautiful part of that. When we start to appreciate the different nature and character and gifting of people in the body, we actually become way more effective to accomplish the mission that God’s given us. We’d be horribly ineffective if we all had the same gifting and were designed in the same way with the same passions, yes? We would be like the Broncos this season—one dimensional. They only had a defense, no offense, and it hurt them. It was a really good defense but it couldn’t carry them. It actually allows us to be effective.

The second thing differentiation does is it KILLS comparison. If we expect that people will be different than us, we stop expecting them to be like us and we create space for them to be uniquely who God has created them to be and a part of the community of faith. When I expect that everyone’s going to be like me, I measure their effectiveness against me. But when I expect people to be different, I actually create room for embrace, and I create room to receive from people who are unlike me. Can I press that on you a little bit today? When was the last time you received from somebody who didn’t think like you? Who had different skills, different passions, different personality, different wiring? Where you expected differentiation, invited it, and were better because of it? I think many of us have a sort of “middle school” hold-over, where we were only friends with people who had the exact same interests as us, right? Like, if you like football, I like football, we’re in together, right? That’s the thing that unites us, but as we mature, the intention is that we would surround ourselves with people who aren’t exactly like us and we’ll grow from it and be better because of it. Same is true for us as a church.

Here’s the way the Apostle Paul continues (1 Cor. 12:21-24): 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.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it. There are two words in this passage that grate against our individualism. First word: NEED. I have no need for them. Paul pushes back on that and says well no, the body needs every part. The foot can’t say to the hand, “Well, because you’re not a foot, we don’t need you.” No, you do! That’s the only way you can give high fives! We all need each other. That’s his point. First word is NEED. Second word: Indispensable. We can’t do it without you. Every time we have a new members class, every time we have a “Meet the Staff” reception after one of our services, I’ll tell people, “If you sink your roots down here at South Fellowship and you call this church home, I’m asking you to figure out what your gifts are and to get involved in the life of the church.” If you aren’t who you are called uniquely to be by God, we will be a shadow of who God has designed US to be by God. If every person doesn’t do the part that they are wired and called to play, we will not be the church that God is calling us to be. When we say with the nail of our life….instead of “I’m going to embrace an individualistic idea of the world and outlook”….when we say, “I’m attaching it to the life of the body,” we move beyond just an acknowledged benefit to an admitted need. Which is a little bit scary, is it not? When people let us down, when people fail us, when people don’t live up to the high calling of living in a manner worthy of the calling that they’ve received by God, it effects us and it sometimes effects us very deeply. So a lot of us have said, “I’m not going to get hurt like that. I’m not driving my nail in like that. I’m not going to trust people like that.” In doing so we’ve missed out on the potential and the beauty of what it means to be a part of His church.

Some of the gifts are easy to see, aren’t they? This coming from a guy who has a microphone taped to his face. I get that. Some gifts are easy to see. Others aren’t quite as visible. That’s Paul’s point. Others aren’t quite as visible but they’re just as necessary. On October 2, 1996, a plane took off from Lima, Peru, flight 603. As it took off in the evening, a storm had set in. It went over the ocean and it started to have trouble. All the dials on the board of this plane just went absolutely crazy! The pilot had no clue where he was until he and his copilot decided to turn around. Because the dials were so messed up on his dashboard, as he turned around his wing clipped the Pacific Ocean and the plane went to the bottom! Seventy people lost their lives that day. A few days later, a group of divers went down and started to recover pieces from this plane. They found that the malfunction that happened was really a small oversight. They found a small piece of duct tape that was over an air-intake valve. It messed up every dial on the dashboard. I thought about that because that’s a small thing that had a huge impact, yes?

You may think that your “job” at South is small, but I want to rebuke that lie this morning and call it what it is. It’s a lie. You may think that the role that God’s called you to play here is insignificant. I want to tell you that NO role is insignificant, every role is needed and every role is indispensable, and if you don’t do it, we will never be the church that God has called us to be together. So, the small role in stopping gossip from spreading….it may seem small, but it changes the life of a church body. The couples that say, “I’m willing to mentor couples that are on the brink of divorce,” and will sit across the table from them and say, “We’ve been there too and God’s seen us through,” may seem small, it may seem insignificant at the time…it shapes the life of a church body. The texts that you send, the email that you send, the phone call that you make, the visit of just dropping by that you do, the time that you give to encourage somebody who’s in need, or to connect somebody who feels disconnected, may seem small. It may seem like a little tiny piece of duct tape, it changes everything. The person who invites people to come with them, who’s invited every single one of their neighbors and their family and their friends…..you are indispensable for us. The person that holds the baby that spits up on them in the nursery, rocks them and whispers in their ear that Jesus loves them…..you are indispensable. The people who gather every Wednesday night and pray….holding up this church….our Watchmen Prayer ministry—the unseen backbone of South….you are indispensable. The people who help write daily devotions every single Wednesday—it may seem small….you are indispensable for the life and the body of this church. People may never see you, but they will know if you don’t do what God’s called you to do. So what’s your part? Every part is needed, what’s your part? I want to tell you that we can’t do what God’s called us to do or become what God’s calling us to become without you.

Paul’s using this imagery all throughout of feet, of eyes, of ears, and they’re all metaphors for the spiritual gifts that we’ve been given. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have a gift, you have something to contribute. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, he says: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit {That’s a spiritual gift.} for the common good. For the building up of the body. 1 Peter 4:10 says it like this: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. The reason you’re given a gift is to use it to build up the body of Christ and to make it different for God’s kingdom around the world. That’s a joy to do, it really is, but it’s also a service that we offer and perform. An offering back to God. When we see that our lives are connected, that we move beyond association to actual connection with one another, we move beyond mutual enjoyment (as in this is fun to gather and it serves my needs) to shared mission. We are heading somewhere. We are doing something together that we could never do alone.

Here’s the thing with gifts and service….if you use your gifts often, here’s what you know: It is an absolute joy but it’s also a sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice. It’s a giving of time, energy, and focus that the rest of the body might be encouraged and might be built up. That’s number one. It’s birthed from a place of love. When you use your gifts in a way that God designed you to use them, you know it’s coming from a place of yes, it cost me, but I love these people and I want to see them grow in Christ. It’s birthed in love. And it’s the way that we connect our lives to God’s vision.

I was thinking about just a Sunday morning and what it takes to do a service on a Sunday morning. I tried to think through every single thing that needs to be done in order for us to gather here together on a Sunday morning. This week there were people who came into the church office and help print and stuff the bulletins. Somebody perforated the tear-off on the bulletin….her name is Liz Cooley and she comes in faithfully every single Thursday and perforates our bulletin to the glory of God. Someone comes in and cleans the fridge, cleans the sink, cleans the kitchens, every single week…thank you, Bea. Someone gets all the music slides ready and edits out Aaron and my mistakes, every single week, praise Jesus. Erich Schmitt, Carolyn Schmitt, James Hart, Sharon Motzner—every single week faithfully makes sure that the lights are on, that the slides are up, that the music sounds decent, and that God is worshipped and praised in the light not in the dark. We could not do what we do without them. They’re amazing and we only notice them when things go wrong. That’s the nature of lighting. You don’t notice it when it’s on, you only notice it when it’s not and it should be. They are amazing. There were parking lot attendants that greeted you in the parking lot. People who held the door and welcomed you. There was warm-ish coffee and a decent donut waiting for you, to the glory of God. There were people who handed out bulletins, gave you a nail today. People at the welcome desk ready to answer any questions that you have. There were people working at the desk that helped you checked your kids in when they were headed back to the kids ministry. There were people in classrooms rocking and burping babies. There were people sitting in circles with kids telling them about Jesus, holding them on their lap and telling them there is a good God that loves them and is for them. Right now there are people leading small groups of high schoolers and middle schoolers, teaching them what it looks like to walk with Jesus. There’s a team of security people that help keep us safe, especially our kids because that’s really important to us. There are people who teach classes about the Scriptures, about the Creeds, about leadership, because they want to help you and us grow in Christ. There were people here at 7:00 Thursday evening and didn’t leave until 9:30, worshipping and practicing so that they could lead us, collectively, to the throne of God. They listen to music and practice throughout the week so that they could do it well and lead you into His presence. There are people clicking through slides. There are people running sound. There are people keeping the lights on. There are people who are videoing the sermon so that you can see them online, share them with a friend, or catchup if you miss a week. There are people who parked in the back parking lot, because they wanted there to be a space up front for someone who’s a guest that was coming in. There are people who will help clean up afterwards. You know those little communion glasses that we use and you stick in the chair in front of you? Those don’t magically disappear; somebody actually comes through and cleans them up and throws them away. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of people who call South Fellowship Church home serve in some way, shape, or form. That’s awesome! And I didn’t design it this way, but we just happen to be having a volunteer appreciation thank you tonight. I want to tell you that it’s in our heart to say that. It’s in our heart to say thank you, because we recognize the unique and special thing that God is doing in our midst. It wouldn’t be possible without you. As we link arms and hearts together for the sake of the kingdom, it is a beautiful thing to see the way that God works through all of us. I was reminded standing in a circle of people praying this morning—people who work in the sound booth and people who help lead us in worship—that I was incapable of doing ANY of their jobs that they had this morning. And I love that. If you’re look for a way to serve, Family Promise is a great way. Jump in!

Paul’s continuing (verse 25): That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. {Notice, the way we combat division is through care.} If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Here’s the invitation: When you drive the nail of your life into Jesus’s body, the church and say I’m committed, I’m moving beyond just association to connection, we move beyond an insignificant acknowledgement of people to an intentional care for them. Paul says hey, that looks like mourning with people when they’re mourning. Here’s what that looks like, you guys, if you’re in mourning, you need to raise your hand and you need to let people know they can’t enter in if they don’t know. And that we rejoice with people who rejoice, and that takes us saying, “God, we want to see the people around us flourish. We want to see them grow. We want them blessed and when your hand of blessing is on them, our hand of rejoicing will be on their shoulder as well.” We move beyond just acknowledgement to care.

Friends, when you and I, when we start to embrace the reality that church is we and not me, we drive our nail into God’s design, what He’s created us for. We say, I want to serve, I want to care, I want to grow, I want to walk with people, I want people to know me, and I want to be known….when we do that we step into the joy that he designed us to walk in. {Slide reads: When we recognize church is we instead of me, we start to experience deeper joy.}

{Ryan closes the service praying for Josh and Jen Billings.}