Thursday May 21, 2020
1 Corinthians 12:14-26 New Living Translation (NLT)
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
Many people in our country are obsessed with status – they have to live in the “right” neighborhood, drive the “right” car, have their kids go to the “right” school, belong to the “right” clubs and organizations. You get the picture. In many peoples’ minds, there is a hierarchy of more and less “right” things to do.
Some people feel that way about church work – that there are some positions within the church that are more honorable or more admirable than others. For example, if a new person comes to one of our worship services and one of our members strikes up a conversation with them, one of the things that could be offered is – “Let me introduce you to our pastors” or “Let me introduce you to one of our council members.” These are important positions within the church, no question about it, but there is other, vital work being done by those whose names do not immediately come to mind in such a situation.
Some positions are looked at as being more special, more important, more honorable than others. But there is something else going on also. People are mostly reluctant to pat themselves on the back, to take credit when they have done something good. We experienced an example of this several years ago.
First, a little background: Our church in Baltimore began a significant fund-raising campaign for a figure that ran to thousands of dollars to put in an elevator. In a couple of years that goal was reached, and then our pastor challenged us with a second campaign – to match each dollar raised with an hour of volunteer work done either at the church or in the community. The only way to keep track of those hours was for people to fill out forms listing the number of hours they were contributing and turn them in to the church. It was exciting to see how those hours added up. It felt good to see that church members could contribute more than money – they could contribute their time as well.
Fast forward to here at First Church. I thought a similar campaign might work here to keep track of just how many hours our members volunteered both at church and within the community. We keep track of the many areas in which our members have contributed their time; we just didn’t know how many hours in total. I thought this would be encouraging to those already volunteering and act as an incentive to those who might be considering this option for service.
The idea did not go far. The reason given was that our members would be reluctant to fill out those forms because it could be seen as bragging about what they were accomplishing. And no one wanted to brag. Just to be clear – there are many, many jobs done around the church, there are many, many kind acts done by our members that only a few know about, there are contributions of time, talent, and treasure that are known only to the person doing such actions or only one or two others. Many people like to remain anonymous.
That doesn’t mean that those actions, those jobs, those kindnesses are less important than council meetings or sermon preparation. That doesn’t mean that keeping the floors shining or the bathrooms spotless or the office well-run or the children being led in music, or the choir singing or the First Fellowship goodies or the community dinners, or Sunday school or … the list could go on and on – are less important. So many people do so many tasks. It’s just that most people don’t want recognition for all they do.
This desire to serve in confidential ways is understandable and commendable. The motivation for volunteering to do anything or to go above and beyond the minimum should not be praise and admiration. Doing for others, giving more than the minimum are ways that we can bring honor to God, especially if someone notices and we can tell them why we volunteer.
However, there is one way of thinking that might be less than positive here. And that is to think that what is done is unimportant. To diminish the contribution each person makes. Thoughts like: “I only teach small children.” Or “I only count the offering.” Or “I only empty the trash.” It is important to remember that all of the work of the church needs to be done by all of the parts of the church – its members and staff.
Here’s just one example, when we are able to be back in our building, someone needs to turn on all the lights, unlock all the doors, gather any mail that came the previous day, check that all mechanicals are working properly, and turn on the fountain just to get the church ready for us. In their way all these are small things, but they need to be done. None of the work of the church, whether front and center or behind the scenes is optional. If some of the work is not done, then the church, like our bodies, cannot work at its highest and most efficient level.
We do need to keep in mind that all jobs are important, whether they are high-profile or otherwise. It is sometimes easy to overlook the importance of some of the lower profile jobs. This carries over to our current situation. I am thinking specifically now of all the attention focused on our hospitals, especially on the doctors and nurses and other therapy professionals. They deserve every bit of recognition we can give them and more. But I am also thinking of another part of the team, the cleaning staff, those who wipe down doorknobs, mop floors, dispose of used PPE. When it comes right down to it, the cleaning staff is vitally important for keeping COVID-19 contained. Doctors and nurses can diagnose, but it is the cleanliness of the surroundings that allow them to best care for patients. Each job is necessary and important. Each person doing each job is important. It is the working together for a common goal that makes for good teamwork, for the best outcomes.
This is true in our churches as well. No job is less important than any other. All jobs are important. Each person, whether paid staff or volunteer is important. As a church we are working together to spread the Gospel, deepen our faith, and serve our God, even in times like these when we are serving apart from one another. Let us give thanks today for all of the jobs that are being done by people who too seldom get praise and thanks.
-Pastor Joyce Donigian