As a point of reference, today’s sermon is based off of the 1 Corinthians reading we heard right before the Gospel. If you love someone, it doesn’t matter the relationship (it can be a spouse, a child, your best friend, whatever)…at some point in time you either think or say “I wish you could just see yourself through my eyes.” This is usually said at a time when our loved one may be going through a period of self doubt or maybe they just need a bit of encouragement. Often, the people outside of us are best at lifting up our gifts, our talents, and our beauty. There are so many things in society that work against us. It is said that we are exposed (in one way or another) to over 2000 advertisements a day. A day! Those advertisements tell us that we’re not rich enough, we’re not thin enough, we’re not skinny enough, we’re not good parents or partners, our house isn’t clean enough, and that apparently, we need more vacations.
So, when it comes time to share our time or our talent, we often all sing the same refrain “I don’t have anything I can do that’s special.” Or “I’m really not that special….perhaps you should ask so and so, they’re really good at whatever you’re asking me to do.” It is in those moments that I want to say “but if you saw you the way I see you, you might think differently.” Often I think that we fall into two camps or ways of thinking. Either we think 1) I don’t have any gifts or talents to share or 2) what I do isn’t a talent or gift. It’s just what I do. But, we have many members gathered here today. And just as we have many members, we have many gifts and talents.
Listen to the first 2 verses again: “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.” Much like Acre is going to be baptized today, we were all baptized at some point in time (or will be). And we were baptized into one body: the body of Christ. So often we use our differences to divide rather than to make us stronger. Or we use our differences to chastise, to single out, and to shame. But, at the root of who we are, we are actually the same in many ways. Because God created all of us in God’s image. So, in one way or another, we all reflect God. And when we reflect God, we do it in many glorious and beautiful ways.
But again, it’s easy to either downplay our own skills and gifts or to be jealous of the gifts possessed by those around us. My sister and brother are both amazing human beings. I am so proud to be their sister. But, they both have gifts that I don’t. My sister is a runner. She completed a race a month last year and when she gets stressed out, you can usually find her on a long run. My brother is a master negotiator. I think this is why he’s in the car business. I always envied my sister’s love of running (because I obviously don’t have that) and my brother’s ability to get two sides to agree on anything (because I fall too easily into being a people pleaser). At the same time, I am sure I possess a gift or talent that they wish they had. My dearest friend Kristin is great with kids. My college roommate, Sarah, has a fantastic eye for detail and has strong administration skills. My friend Kristi has a love for animals and has opened her home to many foster dogs and cats. My seminary classmate, Ted, is really good at computers and what makes them run. These are all just things I lack.
As you reflect on your own skills, what pops into your mind first? I know it can be weird, because we try to be humble, especially in church. But if I were to ask you “what are you good at?” how would you answer? And would you be quick to then discount yourself? As I talk to many of you about volunteering or serving the church in some capacity, or as I thank you for volunteering or serving the church in the ways that you do, the same sentiment I hear over and over and over again is “it’s just what I do.” So as of today, I am demanding a stop to that. I don’t demand things very often, so you know I’m serious. All of you possess individual skills and gifts that make you unique and that make us as the body of Christ so special. If I have thanked you for something you have done it’s because I don’t have those skills and I am so grateful to know someone who does!
See, when we discount ourselves or when we think we have nothing to contribute, that’s just evil working its way into our lives. When God created you, God made you special. I love watching Veggie Tales with Ellen. Each episode ends with the line “God made you special and he loves you very much.” That’s some fantastic gospel right there! We have a lot of people, noise, things in our life that tell us we’re not good enough. We have forces in our lives that tell us thanks to age, gender, ability, even monetary status in life that we have nothing to contribute. There are churches in this country, even churches in this county that I wouldn’t be welcomed to preach at because I’m female. Something, by the way, I am choosing to do nothing about. I hear people say “I can’t do that, I’m way too old now”. Or, on the flip side, “so and so can’t do that, they’re just 6.” Brothers and sisters, when God commanded us to go and make disciples, there wasn’t a list of “must haves” for those disciples.
As you can see around the sanctuary, I have posted words all around. I sat down with the directory and thought of each and every one of you by name. And then, I made a list of some of the skills, talents, and gifts, that we, as the body of Christ, possess. So, as you look around, maybe you recognize yourself. Or, maybe you are like me and you are grateful to know someone who has a gift that you don’t. I wanted to put it in writing because I think it is so amazing the number of gifts that we have as the body. We’re not all the same, thanks be to God.
We have enough forces in this world telling us that we’re not good enough, that we’re not enough, that we’ll never be enough. And that noise only goes away one way: it needs to be drowned in the waters of baptism. When we are splashed with those waters, the old sinful self dies, we are risen to new life in Christ. We are washed clean and welcomed into a body of believers where we’re not all the same and all gifts are welcomed and appreciated. You have something to give, brothers and sisters, all of you. All of you are important parts of the body of Christ. I think that’s part of what makes death so difficult. When we lose parts of our body, we mourn that person and the gifts that he or she had and brought to our family. We are all, first and foremost, created in the image of God: beautifully and wonderfully made. God doesn’t love you despite our differences, God loves us because of our differences. How boring would this world be if we were all the same. Remember “this little light of mine?” Let it shine!