It is amazing how rapidly our perspective can change; how quickly we can go from thinking, acting, and believing one thing, one way, to a complete one hundred eighty degree turn. Well, maybe not that radical. Let me explain…
In Seminary, professors often spoke of how we view the world as being “through a particular lens.” At this point, they would inevitably wave their glasses to illustrate their point, and the class, as a whole would go, “oh, now I get it!”
I’ve known this to be true for a long time, though it wasn’t until Seminary that I found the words to articulate it; we all experience the world in our own, unique way. We view the events of history through those lenses and make determinations of value on whether those events were positive or negative.
The Communist Revolution in Russia or China, for example: to an avid Marxist, those events are seen as a radical challenge to capitalism and greed, while to a red-blooded American, it was seen as a shadow cast across half the world, threatening the freedom and independence of the individual.
Or the Protestant Reformation: to Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and their followers, it meant freedom from the shackles of an oppressive church and the ability to freely interact with God on an individual level; for the Catholic Church, it meant a loss of power, and the fear that the people of God were being led astray.
When our paradigms shift in such a way, we can find ourselves shaken and unsure, fearful of what is coming, and afraid to move forward. We can also find ourselves liberated and freed to try new things and explore new territory.
Back in November, my entire world was turned upside down in the most amazing, wondrous way. The night E showed me the positive pregnancy test and I learned I was going to be a Father, I began to see the world in a brand new way.
First of all, I was seeing babies everywhere! Everywhere! In restaurants, on the train, in the checkout line at the grocery store: my world was overrun by tiny humans!
Second, I began seeing all the dangerous things a baby can get into: exposed electric outlets, hanging cords for the window blinds, toxic chemicals under the sink! Our apartment is not baby-proofed yet, and it keeps me awake at night in a cold sweat!
Third, I have found myself dreaming about who this little one will be: what will their smile look like? Will he or she have E’s curls in their hair? Will they laugh at my incredibly dumb jokes? Will he or she look like E and not me (crossing fingers!)? Will they desire to serve their neighbor?
Many of you know how a child changes your life. We are still six months away from the little one’s arrival, and I cannot believe how irrevocably my life has changed. I am seeing the world through new lenses.
This wasn’t so clear to me as it was when I sat down and read this morning’s lectionary reading from Jeremiah: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’” (4-5). For so long I have read that passage as God speaking directly to me, reminding me that no matter where I go or what I do, it is God who made me and God who loves me.
But now I cannot help but read this through a new lens, the lens of a father anxiously expecting the birth of his first child. I read this passage and I can all but see this child being knit together, muscle and tendons, fiber and bone, becoming this child who is E’s and mine… yet at the same time, not. This is God’s child.
On my walk to work the other day, I found myself dreaming of what this little boy or little girl will be like, picturing him or her with their cousin, playing and laughing, learning about the world. My hopes and dreams for him or her are probably pretty typical: to be kind, generous, loving, with a serving spirit, loving God and all God’s people.
One of the things that strikes me when I read this passage from Jeremiah set next to our passage from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, is how God forms us, develops us, and gifts us for different tasks in His kingdom.
Paul’s use of the body as an image for the congregation of Christ is really quite striking. Think about how often we speak about someone having a “sharp eye” or being a “helping hand.” This metaphor has far reaching connotations, and really becomes magnified when read alongside Jeremiah, where God speaks directly about the body being formed in the womb.
Years ago, I recall a mentor speaking about the benefit of using the image of the body as opposed to a machine. Many businesses and companies use the language of a machine to describe how they expect things to run. “This company will be a well-oiled machine!” “All the cogs in the machine will run smoothly and efficiently!” The problem is, when one piece of a machine breaks, what happens to the whole? It becomes useless. If each piece is not carefully maintained and cared for, then the whole becomes broken.
However, when we look at the body, a very different process takes place. Most of us have, at some point in our life, had some type of injury or illness that limited the functioning of our body. When I was 24, I injured my hand, cutting my thumb on a piece of glass, which required surgery to repair the damaged tendons. For about three months I had to have my hand bound in a splint, unable to use it. Because I am right handed, that meant I could not write for three months. During that time, I was working for the summer at Camp Fowler, which meant I could not play my guitar while leading worship. I even had to change how I brushed my teeth, which if you have ever tried to brush with the other hand is more challenging than you would expect! Go ahead, try it! You’ll be shocked!
But none of these things became impossible. If I was not able to train other parts to take over, I had to learn to rely on other people. The beautiful thing about the body is, if one part is hurt or broken, the rest of the body compensates so that it can heal. If a foot is broken, the rest of the body compensates to help the person get around. If a wrist is sprained, the body does not shut down for two to four weeks while it heals! The body is constantly moving, bearing up its weaker members: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
This morning, I would like to challenge each of us to consider a couple of things. First, where do you fit in the body? Are you a hand? A foot? The heart? The tongue? An exercise I love doing with young people is to have a sketch of a body laid out on the floor and have each person stand on the part of the body they believe they are most like. We do not have a large sketch of the body for us to stand on this morning, but if we did, where would you stand? Why would you stand there? Consider how you offer something that is unique to the body of Christ as a whole; something that is complemented by, yet also completely different from everyone else.
Second, remember that where you fit in to the body of Christ is where God intended you to be from the beginning. Before you were formed in your mother’s womb, God meant for you to be an ear, or a shoulder, or a hip! Rejoice with me in this; let all of us rejoice together, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made! Amen.