Last year my church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, held a service project working with Stop Hunger Now, a ministry based in Charlotte. Through this project we assembled 10,000 meals that were sent to Haiti.
It’s an amazing process and takes many people with different skills and abilities. There were those who unloaded 50-pound bags of rice and protein supplements. There were those who assembled the food bags, measuring the right amount of each ingredient. There were those who ran between tables, making sure everyone had what they need. There were those who weighed each bag to make sure there was just enough, but not too much. There were those who sealed the bags. There were so many different jobs and so many different abilities needed. Without any one of those volunteers, we couldn’t accomplish God’s work.
All were needed.
In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:1-9), Paul teaches the Christians in Corinth what it means to be the Church of Jesus Christ. He is frustrated with these Christians because they are immature in their faith. They are taking sides, forming divisions. They are thinking their side is right and the other side is wrong. Both Paul and Apollos, another disciple of Jesus, have been to Corinth teaching about Jesus. Now some are saying that Paul is better and some are claiming Apollos. But Paul reminds them that the good news is not about Paul or Apollos. Instead it is about God. Both Paul and Apollos have different and valuable ministries – one plants, another waters – but both are needed. But the growth, the life, comes from God.
Being the body of Christ in our world means all of us working together to accomplish God’s work. But this doesn’t mean that we are all the same. We can’t be. God takes our differences and uses them. God needs all of us. Then the work of God is accomplished, not because of our individual abilities but because as we work together the life of God is able to work through us. As Paul says, God gives the growth.
As I look around I see the many different ways that God works though our different abilities. I see those who care for others – who listen to those who are grieving, who support those who are sick, who encourage those who are lonely. I see those who share their faith with others – telling how God is present in everyday ways. I see those who act – working to help those in need. I see God working through the volunteers at the Fort Mill Care Center who help to provide food and utilities to those in need. I see God working through S.O.N. ministries, helping those who are homeless in Fort Mill. I see God working through the Community Café, a free lunch ministry provided each week in Fort Mill. Our ministries are different, as diverse as we are. But they are all needed.
As we join together, we are sharing God’s love. We are accomplishing God’s work in our world.
Unfortunately though, sometimes differences bring division. It did in Corinth. One group thought their set of skills was better than another’s. This is something that we must guard against. If diversity leads to division it can cause quarreling and jealousy. It can cause animosity, bitterness, and anger. If we allow division into our midst, we will not be able to accomplish God’s work.
We cannot be the body of Christ and be divided. Christ cannot be divided against himself. Christ invites us to share his life. When we accept his invitation we are joined to him. And because we are joined to him, we are joined to each other – in all our diversity. His love makes us one.
And when we come together in our diversity, we will show God’s life in the world. We will have an opportunity to show forth God’s love in a few weeks. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will again host Stop Hunger Now from 9to 11:30 a.m. March 8. We are located at 501 Pine St. in Fort Mill. We invite the community join us in this opportunity to serve God.
Together we will prepare 10,000 meals. Together we will be doing God’s work in our world.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, at 501 Pine St. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.