Friday, April 08, 2011
Essential or Non-essential?
My husband and I have been watching this week's budget standoff with interest. Craig is a government employee, and all week he has been reminding me that he might not be paid during a shutdown. He has cautioned me often to think about what we are spending, going a bit overboard with worry in my mind. We have watched the news stories. We have ached in sympathy with the thousands of tourists who have traveled to Washington for the ending of the Cherry Blossom Festival, a parade that is likely not to pass by. We have prayed for a solution and for the people who will be impacted the hardest by a shutdown. I have also thought a lot about the terms "essential" and "non-essential."
Who is it that is deemed essential on every other day but non-essential during a shutdown? How are these decisions made? How does one feel when they are told to stay home because they are non-essential?
As I have thought about our federal workers, I have also thought about how these views are used in the church. When it comes to a congregation, who is essential and who is non-essential?
Too often people are led to believe that the pastor is essential, the organist or pianist is essential, and the person who unlocks the doors is essential. We forget or fail to realize often how everyone is essential in the body of Christ.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, "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...Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would 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 would say, 'Because I am not an eye, I did not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body...But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them as God chose." Paul then says, "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
I am reminded every Sunday how each person in our congregation is essential. If a visitor arrives and one or two people are at the door ready to greet them, show them their way to the sanctuary, and give them a bulletin, then that person is more likely to come back. If someone sits down in the pews and the people next to them in the pews or behind them or in front of them say "hello" or show them where the right songbook is or invite them to coffee hour following worship, then that person is likely to come back. If someone makes coffee or volunteers to bring food for fellowship time, then a stronger sense of community will be evident. If someone volunteers to serve in the nursery, caring for our many children, then our children's ministry is likely to grow stronger and other families might be led to come. If a lot of people choose to take the Sunday off for whatever reason and there are a lot of gaps in the sanctuary, then one person may be led to believe that the church is not so vibrant after all - the absence of one family in a small congregation makes a huge difference. If we pray for someone who is sick on Sunday and then continue to pray for that person throughout the week, letting the person know they are being carried in prayer, then our prayers could make all the difference.
Everyone is essential outside of worship, too. When our committees met on Wednesday night, one person made all the difference in whether or not one group had a quorum. When it comes to our shower ministry, one person can be the decisive factor in whether or not a dozen people get to shower. When it comes to church life, it is the little things that can make a huge difference whether it is our prayers, presence, gifts, service or witness.
We are the body of Christ. Some of us are feet. Some of us are hands. Some of us are mouths. Some of us are ears. Some of us are eyes. Some of us are noses. Every part of the body is essential.
Thanks for being part of the body. See you on Sunday!