Monday, August 29, 2011

Taking things for granted

Romans 12:1-8

Raise one eyebrow
Lick your elbow
Twitch your nose
Wiggle your ears
Touch your nose or chin with your tongue
Make a fist and put it in your mouth
Tickle yourself

Bend your middle finger and place the rest of your hand on a table or on a flat surface like a book, or even on the back of a chair. Then lift your thumb, and your index finger, and little finger. No problem, right? Now try the ring finger.

Lift your right foot a few inches from the floor and then begin to move it in a clockwise direction. While you’re doing this, use a finger your right index finger to draw a number 6 in the air... Your foot will turn in an anticlockwise direction and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Stare at the middle of the black and white picture, (if you can, look at the little cross or plus sign), for at least 30 seconds and then look at a wall near you, you... You should see a bright spot which twinkles a few times, and then do you see?

Most of the time the different parts of our bodies work so well together that we don’t notice what most of them are doing for us. We take it for granted.

St Paul said it’s a bit like that when we belong to a family, or to any community of people, including a church. It’s not until people stop doing the things they always do to help us, day by day or week by week, that we notice how much we have come to depend on them.

St Paul gives us two different examples. He reminds us, for instance, that different parts of our bodies have highly specialised functions - like the light sensors in our eyes, which are easily tricked when we stare for too long at the same black and white image; or the part of our brain which controls rhythm and movement - which is quickly upset if we try to draw in the air two completely different patterns at the same time, one with our hand and the other with our foot. We seldom notice these different parts of our body until something out of the ordinary happens, but then we realise just how much we depend upon them all of the time.

It’s a bit like having a grandmother who usually does all the cooking and a grandfather who usually does all the gardening when we go to visit them, or it could be a grandfather who does the cooking and a grandmother who does the gardening. But anyway, what if one of them was suddenly taken poorly - with a bad headache - and the other one had to take over the cooking, while trying to dig up the potatoes and pick the runner beans all at the same time, or vice versa?

And in a church it’s a bit like having some people who provide the music, and others who count the collection, and others who give people a welcome at the door. If one of those people didn’t turn up on the day they were expected we would very soon notice, although most of the time we might take them for granted.

The other example that St Paul gives is the way that some people have extraordinary abilities that no one else - or very few other people - share. Some people, for instance, can wiggle their ears, or lift their ring finger when their middle finger is bent, but most of us can’t! St Paul says that we need to make use of the special gifts that people have. Now wiggling your ears might not have much value, except for making other people laugh, but being able to teach people, or give them a lead in a difficult situation, or use special skills to make something beautiful, or even simply to be patient and kind to awkward or unhappy people - these are very special gifts which we ought to value very highly, because many people can’t do these things, no matter how hard they might try.

All of this leads St Paul to say that we ought to treasure the whole of our bodies and treat every part of them with love and respect, even the parts which we normally don’t notice very much. And the same is true of our families, or of the other groups we belong to, including the Church. We ought to treasure every member because each person has a unique part to play and we would miss them if they were no longer there.

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